Lindblad Expeditions - From the National Geographic Endeavour in the Galapagos - Jason Heilmann, naturalist; photos by Xavier Romer
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From the National Geographic Endeavour in the Galapagos

Dec 2, 2012 - National Geographic Endeavour

Sea lion
Lava lizard

North Seymour & Rabida Islands

Our first full day here in the archipelago surprises all, as we come to the conclusion that Galapagos is unique in the fact that it accepts us without conditions. North Seymour is our destination as we disembark onto an island that appears to be baked brown in the equatorial sun. A large land iguana slowly walks along the black volcanic coast. We land and as we gain altitude above the blue sea, we are greeted by frigate birds that glide upon the updrafts of wind as they search for their daily subsistence. Almost immediately there is calm from the breeze as we head inland among the Palo Santo incense trees.

Magnificent frigate birds are nesting in the low-lying bushes with some nests only containing the slowly growing chicks with their down just starting to give way to their primary feathers. There are various frigate bird males with their inflated bright red gular sacs trying to find a mate for the season. A “chirt chirt chirt” call resounds through the air as females fly overhead looking at the selection of possible mates. A small snake crosses the path, disappearing quickly among the like colored grasses. Dry season is evident, as most vegetation appears to be dead or dormant. Young blue-footed boobies await their parents to feed them and they show their curiosity at the passing humans.

As we arrive to the outer coast we regain our cool oceanic breeze and we are bordered by blood red carpetweed that blankets the sandy shoreline. Young sea lion pups await their mothers as they casually play with the other pups along the shoreline. Close proximity of these species astonishes all as they are not flying, running, or scurrying away as we walk among them.

Our afternoon visit to Rabida Island brings us more wonder as we get in depth – literally as we snorkel in the cool waters. Galapagos sea lions blow bubbles at us and swim circles around us. Large schools of razor surgeonfish overtake the shallow reef area as they feed with small damselfish trying to tend to their algae “gardens.” A white tipped reef shark passes and a small diamond stingray hovers nearby.

Our group of kayakers paddles along the coast and they obtain a view of two Galapagos penguins, which make up the total population at this relatively small island. Late afternoon and a wet landing bring us to a dark red beach. The overall oxidation of the iron in the volcanic formations is an incredible contrast to our morning outing. After a short hike inland to a brilliant view of our anchorage and Santiago Island in the distance, we return to the beach. Sea lions have taken to resting on the beach out of the splash zone while young pups nurse and rest after another day in this unique life.

About the Author

Jason Heilmann·Expedition Leader

Growing up in northern California, Jason was surrounded by the incomparable nature of the Pacific Northwest. While attending university there, Jason met and eventually married an Ecuadorian woman who happened to be from a small group of islands off the coast of western South America. It was thus that Jason’s path led him to Ecuador and, in time, to one of the most revered natural environments on earth, the Galápagos Islands.