December is a great time to visit Galapagos as it is the month that most notable seasonal changes occur with the start of the high season for tourism thanks to brighter skies and warmer sea temperatures. Beginning in December and stretching for five to six months through to May, the water temperature averages 25°C and air temperature averages 22°C, slightly warmer than previous months. Rainfall is common for short periods of time each day with an average of 1.3cm in the highlands, though the remainder of the day tends to be very sunny, resulting in high humidity. Fresh rains and warmer weather means many flowers come into bloom and the forests begin to bud making the vegetation incredibly vibrant and green.
The giant tortoise hatchlings are beginning to hatch, so there may be some babies in the undergrowth in the highlands. California sea lions and fur seals begin mating, as well as marine and land iguanas. Male marine and land iguanas become very territorial and male iguanas can be very aggressive when it comes to defending their territory. This territory will often include several females, who will lay between 2 and 20 eggs. Their skin also becomes the brightest colours of the year, in order to attract a mate.
December is the beginning of the warmer months with the Humboldt Current losing strength. This creates warmer seas and greater visibility for both snorkelers and divers and the seas become calmer. A marine highlight is that green sea turtles begin mating, congregating in the shallower waters in the Archipelago to compete for a mate as well as nesting across the beaches of Galapagos. High numbers are often seen by snorkelers, and land visitors may see them nesting on the beaches.
Red-footed, blue-footed and Nazca boobies are all nesting and breeding. The waved albatrosses are also nesting, The first young waved albatrosses fledge at this time of year, which is a fantastic sight for everyone visiting Hood Island. Great and Magnificent Frigate birds are also mating, therefore frequently displaying their enlarged red chest sacs.
The sun is at its strongest in the month of December (and often January) therefore it is recommended that all visitors to the Islands wear sun block SPF 30 or higher every day.
Written by Jenny Vidler – Communications and Membership Assistant