I love this time of year. May and June often tend to be my favorite months of the year. After all, we’ve been living under a merciless sun, with scorching heat, high humidity, and this time of year always brings good news – a gentle breeze, a change of winds, and heavenly clouds. In certain ways, it almost feels as if everybody wakes up from a lethargic state, and thus the fun begins!
The First Hints of Changing Seasons in Galapagos
It all started at Punta Vicente Roca over on Isabela Island during our Western Galapagos Islands itinerary. I first heard it from my fellow guides: apparently there had been very high, yet unrecorded, sightings of sunfish. I simply couldn’t believe it. Their stories told of dozens of them leaping out of the water.
And then, one fine day, I finally got to witness it. What a moment! I was sitting down at the bow of our ship with a warm cup of coffee in my hands, enjoying the early morning light of this time of the year, when all of the sudden, these odd-looking fish started jumping out of the water in tandem. They were remarkably excited, almost is if they were celebrating the arrival of the cooler waters. In just a matter of two weeks, the surface water temperature dropped by 5 °F (around 3 °C); and for this type of fish, it can only mean one thing – food. When it comes to the natural world of animals, there is probably nothing more important to rejoice about than the sudden availability of food. Food means movement, food means opportunity, food means offspring…
The Turning of the Seasons
Seasons in the Galapagos are quite easy to predict. “The Enchanted Islands” is what early seafarers used to call them, often times describing them as islands that “appear and disappear…” And this is all because of the presence of the inversion layer. Warm, tropical equatorial air meets evaporating, cooler sub-Antarctic waters that reach the Galapagos Islands by means of the Humboldt Current. When you start seeing foggy mornings, it means that the change will happen at any moment. From December to May, the southeast trade winds weaken, letting the warmer northerly winds come in. These bring the rain, the heat, and the humidity, and things often “heat up” on land in terms of animal activity. From May all the way until December, a different Galapagos opens up with cooler air, cool waters, and lots of underwater nutrients. Marine life flourishes. Humpback whales begin popping up with their babies in tow, blue whales cruise through, and albatrosses begin to fly back out to sea.
The Colors of the Rainbow
Colors, both above land and underwater, end up being one of the most beautiful features during this time of changing seasons in Galapagos. Myriads of colorful fish will swarm around you when snorkeling. And we won’t deny that the water can be quite “invigorating” when you first jump in (which is why we recommend wearing a wetsuit, which you can rent aboard the Santa Cruz II if need be). After a few seconds of being the water, however, you simply and rather suddenly forget about the water temperature, especially when you start bumping into mindless sea turtles, free-diving through schools of blue-striped snappers or trying to catch up with penguins. On land, plants let their carotenoid pigments take over, and here and there it looks as if there were a red cushiony carpet all over the place. Towards the end of the day, Palo Santo trees that recently dropped their leaves are beginning to expose their greyish-white bark, turning into kaleidoscopes as they reflect the rays of sunlight that pour in at the end of the day; all of it in rainbow shades of pink, purple, and orange…