Waved Albatross

Galapagos Islands: What Happens in May

Indeed, it is the merry month of May in the Galapagos Islands. The beginning of the garúa season spells an end to the sweltering temperatures of the previous months, yet the skies are clear. It is also the low tourism season.


On Land

  • Most of the land iguana eggs are hatched on Santa Cruz Island.
  • Also on Santa Cruz, it is hatching season for marine iguanas.
  • In the wild, giant tortoises are laying eggs.

At Sea

  • The green sea turtle nesting season is coming to an end. Baby turtles are still emerging from the egg and heading to sea at Puerto Egas (Santiago Island), Punta Cormorant (Floreana), and Gardner Bay (Española Island).

In the Air

  • Waved albatross are laying their eggs on Española Island.
  • Up on North Seymour, blue-footed boobies begin their courtship dances.
  • Band-rumped storm petrels begin the first of their two nesting seasons.
  • During May, great flocks of Galapagos shearwaters can be sighted during daytime navigation.
  • Great frigatebirds are mating and nesting on Genovesa Island.


  • Outside of the three-day holiday weekends of 1 May (International Workers Day) and 24 May (Battle of Pichincha), the Galapagos Islands see few tourists, whether national or international. Keep an eye out for special deals on cruises and tours.

May is one of the most pleasant months to visit the Galapagos Islands. Cooler, dryer weather begins now, and will last until December.

  • Land temperatures are cooler than in previous months, with highs reaching 28°C (82°F) during the day, and dipping to a pleasant 22°C (72°F) at night.
  • The fine, drizzling garúa mist, is common in the morning and evening.
  • The sea is still comfortably warm (23-25ºC / 74-76ºF).

Have you visited the Galapagos Islands in May? Tell us about it in the comments below.


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Photo Credit: Waved Albatross Pair by Steven Bedard

Galapagos yacht

Booking a last-minute Galapagos cruise

If your time in Ecuador isn’t limited, and you’re willing to be flexible about what you see and when you go to the Galapagos, booking a last-minute cruise could be a good option for those on a budget.

Make sure you have time to spare

  • First, do your research. Know what types of cruises are on offer, so that you have an idea of what you want in terms of price, itinerary, and vessel. Bear in mind, however, that if you really want to get a good last-minute deal, you’ll need to have flexibility in terms of your itinerary – you won’t find all types of itinerary on offer with last-minute deals.
  • If you can only spend a certain amount of time in Ecuador but you’re able to book with only two or three weeks’ notice, book online. Remember that if you’re booking your flights to Ecuador and/or to the Galapagos with only a few weeks’ notice, they are likely to be more expensive than if you book in advance.
  • If you really have a lot of flexibility, consider flying to the islands without booking a tour first. Fly to Baltra Island, then head to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Here, you’ll find a number of tour operators. Bear in mind that you may need to wait a few days or more before you can get on a tour, so prepare for this in terms of your flight dates and hotel/food budget while you’re waiting.
  • Going in low-season (April-June and September-November) can help in finding last-minute deals.

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Galapagos tortoise

Galapagos Tortoises prefer diet of foreign plants

Scientists have found that invasive species make up approximately half of a Galapagos Tortoise’s diet – with the tortoises going out of the way to forage for foreign plants.

Giant tortoises thrive on tastier invasive plant species

Stephen Blake from the Washington University in St Louis and Fredy Cabrera from the Charles Darwin Foundation published the results of their research in the March edition of journal Biotropica. By studying the eating patterns of giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island, they found that the tortoises migrate from arid lowlands to the island’s humid highlands in search of food, spending prolonged periods of time in the agricultural highlands where invasive species are widespread. The reason? Foreign plants are tastier and more nutritious: Blake explains that an endemic guava plant “produces small fruits, containing large seeds and a small amount of relatively bitter pulp in a thick exocarp. By contrast, the introduced guava, Psidium guajava, is large, containing abundant sweet pulp in a thin pliable exocarp.” The study also found that the consumption of invasive plants had no negative effect on the tortoises and could even improve their health.

The findings are unusual, given that the effects of invasive species on Galapagos wildlife are largely negative. Though the number of tortoises is not great enough for this feeding pattern to have a significant impact on the spread of invasive plant species, Blake explains that it is fortunate that “tortoise conservation seems to be compatible with the presence of some introduced species”.

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Photo Credit: Flickr – Amaury Laporte

Galapagos cruise

Galapagos Islands for older travelers

Age isn’t and shouldn’t be a factor in deciding whether to visit the Galapagos Islands or not – the islands are for everyone! If you are an older traveler however, consider the following to make your trip that little bit easier:

  • If you’re thinking of taking a cruise, large-capacity ships (which carry between 32-100 passengers) are generally better at accommodating older travelers
  • Larger boats tend to be more spacious, more comfortable, and have better facilities. Some also offer different “difficulty levels” for excursions, so you can choose the one that’s right for you
  • Consider using companies that organize cruises solely for older passengers. These companies usually hire out a whole boat to cater just for seniors. That way, you won’t feel like you’re holding more sprightly travelers back!
  • If you want a more active trip, go with a catamaran – these 16-passenger boats cater for travelers of all ages
  • If you’re prone to sea-sickness, a larger ship will be more stable. Alternatively, consider taking a land-based tour, where nights are spend in hotels on one of the three main populated islands
  • Avoid December to April if you don’t like very hot weather, and July-September if you don’t want cloudy skies

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A typical day in the life of a Galapagos cruise

If you’re planning a cruise to the Galapagos Islands, you’ll probably be curious about how your days are going to be filled. While no two days will be the same – thanks to the sheer variety of wildlife, landscapes and islands – a cruise will generally look like the following:

  • On your first day, you will arrive at the islands and be taken to your cruise vessel. Passengers are assigned cabins, have lunch, and receive a briefing from guides. You will then go ashore for your first visit
  • Each following day will typically include visits to two sites (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). Passengers will be taken from their vessel to land on a panga, a flat-bottomed boat designed to land on beaches
  • Passengers will generally have lunch on board while the vessel navigates between the two visitor sites
  • Each visit generally lasts between 3-4 hours. Schedules generally mean passengers must awake early, to fit in as much as possible
  • There are usually daily opportunities to snorkel, or even paddle around on a sit-on-top kayak (provided by some vessels)
  • In the evenings, passengers dine on board and receive a briefing on activities for the following day
  • By night, the vessel travels to its next destination as passengers sleep
  • On the final day there is generally only time for a short visit in the morning, before transferring to the airport in time to check in for the flight back to the mainland

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