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Galapagos is the most outstanding destination for diving, snorkeling, birding, and wildlife watching on our planet. The uninhabited islands were declared a National Park in 1959 and as the first Wo

In general, Galapagos is a world-class destination at any time of the year. For divers, the best time is from June until November, when also Whale Sharks can be spotted. For snorkelers, warmer ocean temps from January to April may suit better. The sea is less rough, but rain can occur. 

Climate Galapagos and Seasons

The islands have a cool microclimate although located in the tropics. The annual rainfall is on average around 500 mm depending on the elevation. The weather is influenced by the Humboldt current, different ocean currents, El Nino in the rainy season and La Nina in the dry season. El Nino occurs every 5 to 7 years and causes a high amount of precipitation, a warmer ocean temp around 30°C / 86°F and even higher. Many marine mammals, reptiles, and birds die when the real El Nino occurs. The last El Nino happened in 2016. La Nina has a strong effect on the temperature; the air and ocean temps are much colder, it causes a drought. Usually, most precipitation during March.

  • Rainy Season - Snorkel Season 
    December through May is the rainy season, however, often sunny and warm expect afternoon showers. The sea is calm with a good visibility and the sea temperature is between 21°C and 26°C / 70°F and 79°F. Sea lions mate in the rainy season and you might see the newborn seal pups around March and April. Due to the higher amount of precipitation the islands are in full bloom from February to April.
     
  • Dry Season - Diving Season 
    The Humboldt current brings cold water to the islands from June to November. The sea is nutrient rich which attracts a huge variety of fish, therefore sharks as well, seabirds like the albatross, and also penguins. It's mostly cloudy with a higher surf. During August and September, the sea is very rough. The sea temperature varies between 18°C and 24°C / 64°F until 75°CF. From September to November the Galapagos Islands are an outstanding place to enjoy ocean-life. You are able to find schools of hammerhead at Darwin & Wolf Island. Hammerhead sharks occur throughout the year Leon Dormido. Leon Dormido is easy to get to by boat trip from San Christobal.
Peak Season 

The number of visitors is limited to the Galapagos Islands. The islands are very busy around Easter, from June to early September, and Christmas holiday from mid-December until mid-January. Booking far in advance is advisable. Tours are fully booked and accommodation prices are on a high level. 

Low Season

Although, it is always said you have to book far in advance for Galapagos it's not true! There is a low season where you get last-minute prices for different tours offered. These months are November and mid-January and February. You don't need to book in advance. Fly to one of the main islands; Santa Cruz (airport on Isla Baltra) or San Christobal. The local people are attentive and appreciate having tourists on their island. Stay in one of the many guest houses and book your trips just one or two days before. We did this in 2018 and we plan to do more in 2019.

You like to know how to travel low budget on Galapagos Islands?! The team of When to be Where is updating this breathtaking place continuously now. If you can't find what you are looking for; get in contact with us.

Underwater
EC Ecuador
5

The Maldives are roughly 1.200 islands with 26 Atolls. The islands are one of the best places to see whale sharks and manta rays a well as massive amount of sea life.

The Maldives is a spectacular destination for sightings of manta rays and whale sharks. However, you need to know where and when to spot them. In general, from November until April a higher number of manta rays can be spotted on the western side of the Maldive atolls. From May to October on the eastern side of the atolls, due to the high plankton concentration. Want to know more? Read our specific atoll tips below (Addu, South Ari, Baa/Hanifaru), where sightings are almost guaranteed. If you'd like to jump directly to our must-know tips (TIP: In case you're not interested in diving or snorkeling these sections are super helpful for every traveler: Weather Details - Island Transfer Tips - Resort and Guest Houses Explained):

  1. Top 3 Atolls for Manta Rays & Whale Sharks
  2. Climate and Weather in the Maldives
  3. Island Transfer Tips (General Tips)  
  4. Where to Stay for Whale Sharks & Mantas 
  5. Resorts & Guest Houses Explained (General Tips) 


Please note that #2, #3 and #5 (Weather + Island Transfer + Resorts & Guest Houses Explained) are also extremely helpful for any non-diving visitor as we provide awesome general information and tips! But first, a teaser video (please note that no video or photo do this real life experience justice! On a mobile phone, turn your screen to watch it in landscape mode):

Excursion Types (Diving and Snorkeling)

Usually, you can spot manta rays and whale sharks on diving excursions as well as on a snorkeling / swimming tour. Diving operators in the resorts and guest houses offer both types and take you to the sites with their boats. While the snorkeling tours are often popular and better suited for swimming with whale sharks and seeing them up close, diving is perfect for being close to both sea creatures (an excecption is Hanifura Bay - see below). Of course, you will not only see whale sharks and manta rays, also dolphins, sea turtles, schools of tropical fish and other fascinating ocean life.

 

Manta Rays   Addu Atoll
  • Manta Rays: Excellent (year-round)
  • Whale Sharks: Not really
  • Diving or Snorkeling: Both. However, you need to dive to spot the manta rays (snorkeling only for other fish, turtles, coral reefs)


Manta Ray (Maldives) by Ian Griffiths, CC BY
The Addu Atoll (also Addu City) is the southernmost atoll in the Maldives and shaped like a heart. It's an exceptional scuba diving destination. Here, you can spot manta rays year round. In fact, it's manta heaven and not long ago in 2015/16 it was still kind of a hidden gem for seeing manta rays! The Addu Atoll is the only location in the Maldives where mantas rays with over 5 meter of wingspan are known to exist. You can also dive at the Maldives biggest wreck 'British Loyalty'. Besides manta rays, you will encounter eagle rays, sharks, turtles and generally big fish all year around. Please keep in mind that mantas are perfect to spot for divers here, but not if you're snorkeling. Certain aspects like the currents make it difficult. It's possible to spot a manta here while snorkeling, but it's not very likely. 
 

Whale Sharks South Ari Atoll
  • Whale Sharks: Excellent (year-round)
  • Manta Rays: Good (October - May)
  • Diving or Snorkeling: Both


Whale Shark (Maldives) by Tchami, CC BY-SA
South Ari (also Alifu Dhaalu Atoll) is one of the best places for spotting whale sharks. The sightings are excellent year-round with a peak time from August to November. Also, encounters with big pelagic fish are guaranteed most of the time in South Ari Atoll. In terms of water conditions, the best time is from December to May, even better from January - April (see below: Diving). You may also spot manta rays in South Ari during the northeast monsoon from September/October to May (the peak viewing time is February - April). In other months it's really hard to find manta rays here. 
 

Whale Sharks & Manta Rays Baa Atoll – Hanifaru Bay
  • Manta Rays: Excellent (May/June - October/November)
  • Whale Sharks: Good (May/June - October/November)
  • Diving or Snorkeling: No diving in Hanifaru Bay! Only snorkeling allowed.


Manta Ray and Whale Shark in the Maldives
Another outstanding place to spot whale sharks and up to 200 manta rays feeding is the Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll. The best time for sightings here is between May and November (some divers even recommend late July to early October): During these months the South West Monsoon causes a massive build-up of plankton, drawing in hundreds of whale sharks and manta rays. Hanifaru is an uninhabited island, and the bay is smaller than a football field. But still, it's the largest known manta feeding station on our planet! In 2009 the area became a marine protected area where fishing and boating is restricted. Diving is not permitted in Hanifaru Bay anymore! And there is a strict control for snorkeling with a limit of 5 boats and 80 visitors which are allowed to spend a maximum of 45 minutes in the Hanifaru Bay.

 

Climate/Weather

Weather in the Maldives is determined by a tropical climate. That means it's warm and humid. However, the high humidity is bearable because of the gentle and steady sea breeze. Regardless of the two monsoon seasons and the distance between north and south (about 800 km), the temperatures are quite stable. Throughout the year and the whole region, the highs reach 31°C (89°F), and the lows hover around 25°C (77°F). That means, temperatures can vary slightly depending on the season, but it's safe to say that they remain consistent year-round between 26°C (79°F) and 29°C (84°F).  More interesting is the rainfall:

Of course, in the wet season it looks like there might be a lot of rain. However, rain showers are often brief and rain for a full week or so is unlikely. Usually your trip won't be spoiled in the wet season! Read our season overview below for more details about the rain during the monsoons. Rainy days are also slightly different in terms of the region: In the dry season, the southern part (Addu Atoll) receives as twice as much rain than the northern and central part (Malé). For example 10 rainy days instead of 5 in February. But this only applies to the months between January and March/April. In other months it's pretty much the same for most regions. Also keep in mind, that these are usually brief rain showers. Another important aspect is the water temperature: It remains stable between 28°C and 30°C (82 - 86°F) during the whole year. Although water temperature, as well as the general temperature, don't vary a lot, the two monsoons bring different weather conditions in terms of rain and wind:

  • Dry Season (North East Monsoon / Winter): The dry season starts in November/December and lasts until April. It is influenced by the winter monsoon. At the beginning and at the end of the dry season expect a little more rain. The driest months are January, February, and March, but brief showers can occur. The northern and the central region experience the 'full dry season' while the southern part of the Maldives gets a little more rain during these months. The dry season also brings calm seas and either clear skies slightly clouded with beautiful formations. There is also significantly less wind, and the sea is often extremely flat.
  • Wet Season (South West Monsoon / Summer): The rainy season usually starts in May (sometimes in late April) and lasts until September/October. It's influenced by the summer monsoon. In October it's getting slightly better, and November is often more or less safe. Weather can change quickly in the wet season and without the slightest signs of warning. Darker, rainy and very windy periods can be very short, but heavy rain, storm and a rough sea for a couple of days in a row are possible. However, even with more cloudy days and more rainfall in the wet season, the sun shines on average for 7 hours each day. The wet season is the best time for surfing and really impressive sunsets.

Sea Conditions for Diving/Snorkeling

The best months for diving and snorkeling are in the dry season from December/January to April/May during the Northeast Monsoon: The sea is calm, and the visibility is good. During the wet season, you could experience a rough sea, rain and less visibility due to the plankton. However, some divers visit in the wet season because: a) It's less busy and there is also more underwater life going on. b) Rain can be heavy sometimes but is often brief. On some days the visibility is as good as in dry season. c) In certain areas (see above: Hanifaru Bay) the best time to spot whale sharks and manta rays is during the wet season. In the end, it's a matter of personal preference. Many would only go in the dry season, and others prefer the rainy season with lower rates and less traffic. There are some interesting reports and opinions in this TripAdvisor topic:  Maldives Diving - Low Season vs High Season


Tourists/Seasons

Peak Season (= dry season):
Mid-December to March and in August (school holiday) the prices are at their highest.

Shoulder Season:
April except for Easter and the first half of December after the low season. In December the rates also start to climb.

Low Season (= wet season):
May until July and September until November with lower prices and attractive offers. Several resorts are closed from May to September.

Underwater
MV Maldives
5

We spent 5 days in Exmouth to succeed in swimming with a whale shark on a sunny day. It is also worthwhile to spend a few days in the Cape Range National Park for snorkeling and hiking.

Ningaloo Reef is famous for swimming with whale sharks, manta rays and humpback whales. Therefore, it's a great destination from late March until October. April and July are the busiest months because of Australian holidays. April to July are the best months for snorkeling with whale sharks. Continue reading to figure out your best time for Exmouth.

  • Whale Sharks arrive around mid-March depending on the full moon and stay for feeding until July and some until August. The highest chance for an interaction and swimming with them is from April to July. The whale sharks are annually close to the reef at this time of the year. A week after the full moon in March millions of corals release eggs and sperm. Masses of krill are swarming to feed on the spawn that provides a feast for the whale sharks.
  • Manta Rays are always present at the reef but abundant from May to September.
  • Humpback Whales tours are being offered from August to October. One of the largest population migrates along the coast each year. Safety is always first, but if it is possible, you may experience a truly unique interaction with the whales.  
Snorkeling with a young whale shark at Ningaloo

Avoiding Crowds

It's quiet in March and again in May and June. Try to avoid April, especially if you don't like masses of tourists everywhere. It gets busy again in July and becomes quieter at the end of July. If you plan to visit in April or July book well in advance. Weekends are more crowded.

Weather

The region has a tropical-hot-desert climate. In autumn and winter from April to September with pleasant temperatures around 25° C which cause an average water temp of about 22°C. It's hot during summer with an average daily temp of 35°C and water temperature around 26°C. It doesn't rain much here; less than 30 days of precipitation with the highest chance for thunderstorms from January to April. Fewer clouds from August to December. Cyclones can occur and are more likely to happen from January to March. In March 2015 Exmouth was hit by one and at the end of April 2014, record-breaking heavy rainfall caused flash floods.

Ocean Life
AU Australia