Cerro Dragon & Eden
We started the day with a very early walk around Cerro Dragon, the home of tons of yellowish land iguanas. The first highlight was a hungry great blue heron that got two fishes on the shore, after being so patient to obtain breakfast; it may be the only meal of the day. The brackish water lagoon found behind the disembarkation spot held plenty of white-cheeked pintail ducks; one of them had four tiny chicks that were swimming with, just learning every single detail of life in the lagoon. We also saw whimbrels and other migratory birds.
It was a very bright day, the sun was shining and few clouds were in the sky; it wasn’t hot, the site looked very dry, and we can tell that the rainy season is going to end very soon, Then inland we started to see several big colorful land iguanas coming out of their burrows; as we approached to watch they ignored to us, they were more focused in warming up than our presence – what a neat encounter! The beautiful colors they displayed were amazing and our photographers were happy, taking as many pictures they wished. As we walked along the loop trail we found more and more iguanas, it seemed a tiny Jurassic Park, yes indeed! Because theses reptiles have been here a few millions years, they are witnesses of the evolution of many unique species that inhabit the Galápagos Archipelago.
Once we came back on board we cleaned our snorkeling gear, to later jump into the very clear waters to enjoy our marine ecosystem which has plenty of wildlife, like the ten Galápagos sharks that circumnavigated the National Geographic Endeavour this morning, as proof of the richness of our waters, and a reminder that sharks are not as dangerous as is often thought. We were now at Guy Fawkes Islets; first we did first a Zodiac ride, and the area was full of boobies, sea lions and sharks; then we got into the water and snorkelers enjoyed the company of several white-tipped reef sharks swimming below them. We also saw sea turtles feeding, eagle rays cruising by and all the magic colors of the tropical fish and the invertebrates along the wall. Zodiac riders patrolled the nearby formations created by the ancient lava flow patterns.
Lunch was Ecuadorian buffet; yumm, our food is so delicious, and we deserved it after having a great morning.
In the afternoon we dropped anchor at El Eden, a small islet in the middle of the ocean hiding a golden beach, once an active caldera. Kayakers paddled along the shore while the rest of us took a Zodiac ride along the coast of Santa Cruz. In the water, sea turtles showed their heads and white-tipped sharks swam along the shallows; a flock of noisy red-billed tropicbirds were building their nests along the cliff, and some blue-footed boobies were dancing to mate.
Late afternoon, the National Geographic Endeavour headed to Daphne Islets, the tuff cone formations very well known by researchers around the globe for the studies of finches; in fact the famous book “The Beak of the Finch” was conceived here, where for the past 35 years, Peter and Rosemary Grant have spent about three months per year finding more clues to Darwin’s ideas. We circumnavigated around this cone while the sun was setting at the horizon.