Photograph of Marine Iguana

Marine Iguana by Chris Townend.

GALAPAGOS

Best Wildlife in Galapagos

Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin, California Sealion (usual pupping season is Aug-Nov), Galapagos Fur Seal. Also a chance of Killer, Humpback (mostly June), Fin, Sperm, Bryde's, Melon-headed, Cuvier's Beaked and Short-finned Pilot Whales (all whales mostly May-Nov), and Common and Striped Dolphins.

Birds
American Flamingo, Waved Albatross (mostly Apr-Sep), Red-billed Tropicbird, Blue-footed, Red-footed and Nazca Boobies, Magnificent and Great (mostly Apr-Sep) Frigatebirds, Swallow-tailed Gull, 24 or so endemics including a penguin, Flightless Cormorant, a heron, a hawk, a rail, a dove, a martin, Lava Gull, and several mockingbirds and finches, as well as White-cheeked Pintail, Galapagos (Dark-rumped) Petrel, Galapagos (Audubon's) Shearwater, Elliot's, Band-rumped (Madeiran) and Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels, Brown Pelican, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Wandering Tattler, Brown Noddy, Smooth-billed Ani, (Galapagos) Barn and (Galapagos) Short-eared Owls, (Galapagos) Vermilion Flycatcher and (Mangrove) Yellow Warbler. Also a chance of Paint-billed Crake and Dark-billed Cuckoo.

Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
Giant Tortoise, Marine and Land Iguanas, (Pacific) Green Turtle (adults mostly Jan-Mar, hatchlings mostly Apr-May), and Whale (mostly May-Aug), (Scalloped) Hammerhead (mostly July) and White-tipped Reef Sharks. Also a chance of Manta Ray, and Golden and Spotted Eagle Rays.

Best Sites for Wildlife in Galapagos

Photograph of Waved Albatross

Waved Albatross, above, and Swallow-tailed Gull, below, both by Lee Dingain.

Photograph of Swallow-tailed Gull

Best Times for Wildlife in Galapagos

Two bird species, Waved Albatross and Great Frigatebird, usually nest only from April to September, and the best time to see these, as well as Blue-footed Booby, displaying at their colonies is usually May to August, especially May-June, but the peak time for turtles laying their eggs on the beaches is January to March, especially January, with the hatchlings usually appearing in April-May. The driest, coolest and least humid time of the year is usually June to November but it can be misty at this time and the sea cooler, murkier and choppier than between December and May when the waters are warmer, clearer and calmer, and the weather hotter and more humid, with the chance of showers.

Recommended Books etc. for Galapagos

Bradt Wildlife Guide: Galapagos Wildlife by D Horwell and P Oxford. Bradt, 2011 (Third Edition).

Traveller's Wildlife Guide: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands by L Beletsky and D Pearson. Arris Books, 2010 (Second Edition).

Collins Traveller's Guide: Wildlife of Galapagos by J and D Fitter. Collins, 2007 (Second Edition).

Watching Wildlife: Galapagos Islands by D Andrew. Lonely Planet, 2005.

Birds, Mammals and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands by A Swash and R Still. Helm, 2005 (Second Edition).

Where to watch birds in South America by N Wheatley. Helm, 1994.

Don’t know which country/countries to visit in South America? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them on the continent, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

Trip Reports for Galapagos

Many trip reports, some for Galapagos, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Galapagos. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Galapagos' below.

Local Guides and Tours in Galapagos

The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

Accommodation in Galapagos

Some Organized Tours to Galapagos

There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Galapagos include the following.