September falls within the Galapagos’ cool & dry season. Air temperatures are cooler, with reduced humidity, as are sea temperatures, with reduced underwater visibility. Skies tend to be misty and while there is less sunshine, there is also less rain.
This is a good time for those who are less tolerant of the heat. Although it is never too cold, it can get a little chilly in the evenings and you might need a warm jumper or fleece.
At this time of year, the chilly, nutrient-rich Humboldt Current is blown up the coast of South America from the Antarctic, before circling west to the Galapagos Islands. Running in the opposite direction, the Pacific Equatorial Undercurrent (or Cromwell Current) runs from west to east along the equator. When it reaches the Galapagos Islands, its cold waters are deflected to the surface, carrying nutrients from the ocean floor (a process called ‘upwelling’). These nutrients sustain the phytoplankton on the surface and the increase in plankton attracts an abundance of fish and seabirds.
As a result, this is an excellent time to visit the islands if you are an avid diver or birdwatcher.
It’s worth noting that the open seas can get quite choppy during this time. If you suffer from sea sickness, it may not be the best time to take a cruise for example. At Galapagos Safari Camp, we can arrange short boat trips to neighbouring islands, as well as numerous tours and activities on Santa Cruz Island itself, including hiking, biking, kayaking, surfing, snorkeling, visits to tortoise reserves etc.
September also marks a waning of the number of people who visit the islands. Children are back in school after the summer break and it is a good time to visit if you are seeking peace and tranquility.
Charles Darwin first visited the Galapagos Islands in September, exploring the islands and discovering the creatures that remain here today. He was amazed that the different islands, while having similar landscapes, contained such a diverse variety of flora and fauna.
True to form, the islands in September are alive with creatures great and small in the midst of transition. Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz make the journey back from the coast to the lush highlands of the island. Fur seals are beginning to breed, and female sea lions are giving birth- with males fiercely protecting their harems from other bulls.
September is one of the best months to see, swim, and snorkel with Galapagos Penguins, just off Bartolome Island. The cooler waters find them in force; having migrated from Isabela Island after the wet season, when warmer temperatures kept them at bay from the rest of the archipelago. It’s a busy month around Pinnacle Rock- where the penguins dive from the cliffs in search of food, swiftly darting back and forth between snorkelers and sea lions before returning to the surface. Our safaris can visit the island, giving you a chance to explore on land and its surrounding waters on guided day trips.
At the onset of autumn, these three uninhabited islands are full of fighting sea lions, protecting their mates and young pups from competing males. Pups are beginning to take to the water, and are often curious of, and playful with snorkelers.
On land, sea birds are nesting and young fledglings are finding their wings. Blue-footed boobies and great and magnificent frigate birds are raising their young and mating. The height of their mating season has come and gone in the previous months, but the season lasts year round. Both boobies and frigate birds mating rituals are still in swing, observed along the inland paths on each island.
Our safaris include a visit to one or many of these uninhabited islands, returning to dry land, and camp at sunset.
The giant Galapagos tortoises of Santa Cruz are returning to their homes in the highlands of the island, after migrating to the lowlands of the coast during the previous months to nest and lay their eggs. The short trek of less than four miles takes two to three weeks, slowly moving at a snail’s pace uphill.
Darwin was amused with the slow-moving creatures, recording in his journals that he taunted the animals again and again when he encountered them. Today, times have changed, and our safari holidays visit the local private reserve of El Chato to see the lumbering giants in the wild. The sprawling lands of the reserve are home to hundreds of tortoises, seen at rest along the trails, and at watering holes drinking and swimming.
For those that want to follow in Darwin’s footsteps between September 15 and December 15, Galapagos Safari Camp is offering an autumn promotion to help you on your journey. For groups of six or more, a free night is included at the camp when booking our classic safari. For couples who visit during the same period, we include a free night at our partner hotels in Quito or Guayaquil before or after your trip.