by Jon Jared
January in the Galapagos Islands brings a vibrant change to the archipelago, and signals the end of the garúa season. The Panama current arrives from the
north to warm the waters, and tropical rain showers revive the flora and fauna in the highlands and lowlands of the extraordinary islands we visit.
Staying at Galapagos Safari Camp during the warm season is a celebration of new beginnings for the creatures of the islands. Many species of birds, land
and marine iguanas, green turtles, and giant tortoises are starting to breed. A year ago at the start of this season, baby tortoises were discovered
on a small island for the first time in 100 years.
As luck would have it, the daily rains come and go quickly, leaving sunny skies and tropical temperatures in their wake. Our safari tours take advantage
of the annual change of climate, and visit uninhabited islands and enchanting visitor sites daily that will astonish you.
There is fresh hustle and activity with the wildlife everywhere you look during a Galapagos holiday; new discoveries wait around every bend and outcrop.
Snorkeling is at its best, as the warm waters are clear; bringing sea lion pups, rays, turtles and sharks closer to shore.
Keep reading for some of our favorite sights and natural events taking place on the islands that we consider worthwhile, adventurous, and inspiring.
Known as a tourist hub for the Galapagos; Santa Cruz’s diversity, beaches, research centers and national park make it a great enclave to call home while discovering the archipelago.
The Galapagos Safari Camp is in the highlands, where lush vegetation and frequent animal sightings put you a stone’s throw from the national park. Sites
to explore include the El Chato Tortoise Reserve, for finding giant tortoises starting their annual trek to the lowlands, and the nearby Lava Tunnels,
where a short hike reveals the origins of the island.
Elsewhere is Las Bachas beach, one of the protected areas that green sea turtles use to lay their eggs. The females travel from as far away as Costa Rica
to lay their eggs in the sand, and each morning there are tracks to and from the sea, signaling a rite of passage that has taken place for centuries.
Our Family Safari packages include a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where giant tortoises are raised in captivity before being returned
to the wild. Tours guide you through the cycle of life, from hatching to release; and are a great way to see tortoises up close and without fear.
For snorkeling, Tortuga Bay puts you in the center of the action, swimming with sea lions, rays, and schools of rainbow-colored fish. Onshore, be on the
lookout for iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs, scampering between sea lions at rest. The beach is another site in the islands where sea turtles lay
their eggs, and tracks are often spotted towards the far end of the sand in the mornings.
Las Grietas is one of our favorite spots on the island for a relaxing couple of hours at an out-of-the-way swimming hole. Fissures in the volcanic rock
cause saline and freshwater pools, and jumping from the surrounding cliffs into the deep water is an adventure that almost always ends in smiles.
Isabela is the largest and youngest of the Galapagos Islands, and its shores and waters are home to an astounding array of animals. During January, land iguanas are nesting, marine iguanas are changing color, and sea turtles lay their eggs on the island’s beaches. The diversity of the island puts it on our list as a great way to spend the day.
The western island is also home to large colonies of Galapagos penguins and sea lions, both of whom mate year-round. Frequent sightings of pups and fledglings
are common, as are whales and dolphins breaching in the channel off the western shore of Isabela.
Snorkeling at Concha de Perla or Las Tintoreras puts you up close and personal with the neighbors, making friends with sea lions and swiftly moving penguins.
Elsewhere on the island are volcanoes to summit on foot, and inlets to explore by boat.
Isabela is home to the endemic pink iguana, only found on the slopes of Wolf volcano. The iguana was first discovered in 1986, and is a source of inspiration
for naturalists, including Sir David Attenborough, who announced it to the world on the BBC.
For bird watchers, Isabela is one of the two islands where you can find the flightless cormorant. The fledglings of the flock are just reaching their initial
plumage in January, before leaving the islands for the coming months.
Nearby to Santa Cruz and the camp, Santa Fé is home to the Santa Fé land iguana; endemic to the island. The small island is on our tours for this brightly-colored creature, the views at the end of a short hike to a picturesque visa overlooking the sea, and the terrific snorkeling in Barrington Bay.
In 2015, the Galapagos National Park released more than 200 giant tortoises on the island, hoping to revive a similar subspecies that became extinct. The
event marked an exciting change, and today the transplanted population is showing promise. Scientists are currently studying the changes in the eco-system,
while observing the interactions between the gentle giants and the 6,500 land iguanas that live on the island.
The bay of Bartolome is far and above one of the most photographed sites in the archipelago. After a short hike to an overlook, one can imagine pirates and Darwin sailing into drop anchor while taking in the horizon.
Pinnacle Rock and the surrounding beach are the places to take a break amongst the sea lions on the sand, or dive in with a snorkel mask to swim with penguins,
rays, and the occasional shark under the calm waters.
A hike through the mangroves lands you at another beach that is closed to swimmers. It’s a nesting ground for green turtles; and rays are often spotted
in the waters close to shore. The island is also home to the Galapagos Hawk, one of the only predators in the islands.
During our daily safari boat tours, we visit Seymour Island, 45 minutes from Santa Cruz. The island is home to over 2000 land iguanas; the result of an effort by the Hancock Expedition in the 1930s to save the Iguana population on the nearby Balta Island from extinction.
The Channel between Seymour and Balta has one of the largest sea lion populations of the islands; easily seen at play from the shores, beaches, and outcrops
along the sea. The island is also home to the red-footed booby, one of the three booby species found in the Galapagos.
A trip to Seymour on our safari tours is combined with a stop at Bachas Beach, on the north shore of Santa Cruz, before heading back to the camp.
South Plazas Island
Located 45-minutes east of Santa Cruz, South Plazas is one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos. Despite its size, its home to both land and marine iguanas, and many species of birds seldom seen elsewhere. These include swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds, which are very active during the warm season.
Using our camp as a base during your Galapagos holiday puts you at the center of the action, giving you an intimate view of the creatures and incredible
scenery that is found at each stop on the journey. For more information about our Classic, Family, Dive safari tours and Isabela extensions, contact