Travel Destinations: The Galapagos Islands

The whole concept of a “bucket list” has become popular since the movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Ironically, I first encountered the movie on a plan en route to the Kona Coast in Hawaii. This had been a place I had wanted to go for years. Without realizing it, I’d created a bucket list and had just crossed off something. But that doesn’t mean my bucket list of destinations was now empty. Costa Rica sounded nice. So did the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands is a place that to me embodies primeval wonder. This is where Darwin made his discovery of prehistoric proportions, where the most modern technology of the time led him to envision the world when civilization was the dust of creation. The Galapagos are islands in a remote place, far removed from the normal tracks of humanity, very similar to the fate of Hawaii in that respect. These remote natural outposts fascinate me, looking out on the wide ocean, knowing that it will be thousands of miles before the next land is encountered.

In planning this future dream vacation, I looked into when it is the best time to go to this wondrous place. I’ve heard that there is never a bad time to go, but not to expect tropical temperatures just because it is near the equator. Despite the cooler temperatures, it seems the seasons are of the tropical kind, based on dry and wet periods rather than the temperate zone’s version of four seasons. Unlike many of its tropical colleagues, it seems that the wet season is better than the dry one. Coming from visiting the dry season of Hawaii, I found that point of information fascinating. I imagined myself in Hawaii sitting in puddles of mud, rain, and mosquitoes, and wondered how the unique geography of the Galapagos would yield more favorable conditions in the time of higher precipitation. This is what I found out:

The wet season isn’t a deluge, which sounds good to me. Running from December to May, this is when the Galapagos are warmer. Strange as it may seem, this time in the rainy season is when it is actually sunnier. When it isn’t raining, blue skies pervade. The dry season is drier, but it is more overcast. Temperature variance is colder in the dry season, from June to December. However, to add to the confusion, I found another source that said it was less cloudy during the dry season and more overcast in the rainy season. In the dry season, it rains during the day on occasion. So, go figure. I get the impression that it’s good to bring a waterproof windbreaker, no matter when I decide to cross this place off the bucket list.

The wet season is the warmer one, both in air and ocean temperatures. This would be the better time if I want to go swimming or snorkeling. The idea of snorkeling sounds heavenly, reminding me of the time I did it of the coast of Grenada in a cove with the green mountain secluding me. Nature has a way of making me fantasize of the sensuous. This snorkeling is experience is something I would like to replicate in my Galapagos fantasy. Also, the ocean temperature is warmer for swimming and snorkeling. Sea lions mate and give birth in the wet season as well. Sounds pretty cool to me.

But colder water brings more plankton, hence more fish, and thus more seabirds. In October, waved Albatross is at peak courtship. That’s when the penguins and the blue-footed boobies show up as well. Sea lions or penguins: which do I want to witness? Tough decisions abound.

Here’s what I found out about high season and low season. The Galapagos are the busiest during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, basically from June until all of the kids are in school in the middle of September. Also apropos to the Northen Hemisphere’s school year, the month between mid December through mid January are busy. Completing the holiday theme, Easter runs, dates dependant on the lunar calendar. I don’t want to deal with a crowd I can see any day in New York, London, or Tokyo in a place associated with the primeval, so I think I’ll head there in the off-season. This is a national park of Ecuador, so they limit visitors. It isn’t like I can just show up there like it is Yosemite any old time in my RV. Reservations are a must, and I think that I will make my reservations far in advance. For the low season, of course.

So, for now, Galapagos remains on the bucket list, uncrossed. One day, this will change. I’ll keep you posted.


Howard Hillman: