For many people, a visit to the Galapagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Because of this, some may have felt a little bit panicked when they heard that a climate cycle called “El Nino” might be coming to the area this year. However, you don’t have to start rebooking your dream vacation. Here’s all the information you need to know about El Nino while planning your Galapagos Experience Program!
What is El Nino?
El Nino is a climate cycle specific to the Pacific Ocean. Usually, trade winds push the water in this area from south to north, which helps the cold water under the surface emerge and spread its nutrients to phytoplanktons. Phytoplanktons are important because they serve as food for a variety of marine animals.
But during El Nino, the water on the west coast of South America becomes unusually warm as the trade winds start to weaken. Without these strong winds to prevent it, warm water from the west Pacific is able to slowly make its way over to the coast of South America. Depending on its magnitude, this phenomenon can disrupt the weather in many parts of the world and usually happens around the end of the year. El Nino occurs sporadically in 2-7 year intervals; however, it is not a climate cycle that is easily predictable. Its effects can be felt around the world for approximately one year, but each location is impacted differently.
What are the effects of El Nino?
Because there is a lack of nutrients in the water during this time, El Nino can be devastating to the fishing economies of nearby countries, such as that of Ecuador. Many animals endemic to the Galapagos Islands, specifically the blue-footed booby, also depend on these fish to survive.
“Species that are on the border of survival or extinction might actually be tipped over the edge,” Dr. Stuart Banks, a member the Charles Darwin Foundation, told Galapagos Digital. “We’ve already seen several possible extinctions.”
The changing winds can also affect the underwater ecosystem of the Galapagos
Islands; many of the islands’ coral reefs were demolished in the 1982-1983 El Nino.
However, El Nino can also bring heavy rains and thunderstorms. In the past, there have been instances of flooding and harsh winds in South America while other parts of the world experienced droughts.
Is it safe to visit the Galapagos Islands during El Nino?
Many people have visited the Galapagos Islands during El Nino! Most of what you see will likely have to do with the impact on the animals rather than the safety of your trip; you’ll be able to see many large changes in nature first-hand. The last El Nino occurred in 2009-2010, and it was relatively moderate. Ecuador experienced a severe drought that led to occasional blackouts in Quito and other cities. However, on this Part of the planet is imposible to have a huricane or a great monsoon.
But for the 2015 upcoming El Nino event, you should prepare for heavy rains, warm weather, and a slight increase in insects. Because of this, make sure to bring sturdy raincoats, plenty of insect repellent, and light clothing.
Also, keep in mind that The Galapagos Islands always experience a wet season from about December to May each year. During El Nino the rain may just be a little heavier than normal. While you’re there, you will likely see the plants on land flourish and bloom due to the increase in rainfall while the marine life near the islands struggle. However, due to the heavy rains, there is a chance that ferries may be delayed and access to certain islands might be limited.
But if you’re still worried, members of Lead Adventures will be there 24/7 to ensure your safety and ease any concerns that you may have!