The Galapagos Islands—It’s All About Currents & Climate

Posted by Peter Davis Krahenbuhl in Galapagos Travel 23 Mar 2017

The Galapagos Islands archipelago may easily be considered one of the most interesting and unique places to visit on earth. The question is, why? Or rather, how did that come to be the case? Aren’t the islands just another set of equatorial, tropical paradises, surrounded by endless beaches and coral reefs? Well, actually, no.

The Galapagos Islands possess a set of environmental conditions that set them apart from all other island groups in the world. Straddling the equator at the intersection of four ocean currents—both cool and warm—allows the islands to have both tropical and temperate climates. This diversity is reflected in the collection of unique plants and animals.

In fact, one could argue that the ocean currents are what made the Galapagos such a unique, iconic destination. These four ocean currents that converge along the archipelago—the Equatorial, Cromwell, Humboldt, and Panama currents—create variable water temperatures and unpredictable tides in the area resulting in a unique marine ecology. As a result, weather in the Galapagos is also quite different from that of higher latitudes. Its location on the equator imparts a stabilizing influence on the climate, but the ocean currents bring a unique seasonality.

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Although the Galapagos are located directly on the equator their exposure to these various cooling natural forces results in a pleasant year-round temperature. In fact, only two seasons are evident: the warm, sunny (and rainy) season and the cool season which often enshrouds the islands in fog and low clouds. In fact, the latter fact is in large part why early sailors dubbed them the Enchanted Isles, as they often seemed to disappear into thin air.

From June through December, the cold Humboldt Current from Antarctica and the warm equatorial current from the north meet on the islands’ shores to create a cool and misty season known as la garua. During this time clouds condense over the islands and fall as mist in the highlands. The roughest, coolest, and foggiest months to travel begin in July through October (though July and August are the busiest two months of the year as well). By January, the Humboldt current weakens and trade winds from the southeast prevail, allowing a return of the warmer waters from the equatorial current and a more “tropical” climate. Cloudy and rainy weather, particularly afternoon downpours, can occur from January through March, although the climate remains hot. Underwater viewing is also at its best during this time. February is typically the hottest time here and it becomes progressively milder as May approaches.

So when is the best time to visit the Galapagos? Well, because Galapagos wildlife has evolved to take advantage of every little climatic and geographic niche available across the islands, the short answer is, it depends on what you would like to experience! Natural Habitat Adventures offers Galapagos vacations year-round.  For more information on when to go based on weather, wildlife, etc., inquire with a Nat Hab Adventure Specialist at 1-800-543-8917.

Travel to the Galapagos!
Natural Habitat Adventures offers the most diverse portfolio of small-group itineraries in the Galapagos, including classic Galapagos cruises, kayaking and hiking tours, photography trips, and family adventures.

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