Early this morning we arrived at Floreana Island, or Charles Island, one of the four inhabited islands in the archipelago. At 6:00 am our expedition leader Carlos woke up us and at 6:30 am we were ready for our pre-breakfast outing at Punta Cormorant, a visitor site name after a ship wreck, located at the north side of the island. We landed on a green beach, after the high concentration of olivine crystals on the sand which are of course green in color.
We started the walk following an island trail that goes along a brackish lagoon when sometimes flamingos, white checked pintails ducks, stilts and whimbrels are commonly found. This brackish lagoon is surrounded by native plants such as the white and black mangroves, salt bush and the predominant tree of the lowlands, the incense tree (Palo Santo tree). Several endemic plants are also found here, such us the unique Scalesia villosa, and the Lecocarpus pinnatifidus, species only found in Floreana.
As we moved into the trail we spotted many lava lizards and a few Darwin finches, and visitors understood better the concepts of natural selection and adaptive radiation as some of the key mechanisms of evolution that usually take place on isolated islands.
At the end of the trail we reach La Picona, a white coral sand beach, an important nesting beach for the Pacific green sea turtle that, at this time of the year, start their breeding season. Some female turtles were out of the water while some males and females where copulating on the water, while many turtles tracks were spotted on the sand.
Back aboard for breakfast, the ship repositioned to a small offshore volcanic cone named Champion Islet. This is the only island where a small population of the Floreana mockingbird—which was driven to extinction by cats, rats and other introduced predators on the main island—still exists. We went around the islet in the search of these elusive birds and were lucky enough to find few, as well as other birds such as blue footed and Nazca boobies, Galápagos’ shearwaters, brown noddy terns, sallow tailed gulls and the always magnificent red billed tropic birds.
Later on, we explored the ocean around the islet either by snorkeling or by glass bottom excursions, to see the incredible variety of marine life we have around the Islands.
At midday, we lifted anchor once more to spend the afternoon visiting the famous Post Office Bay, where a barrel is still used for an old mail swap tradition going back to whaling days, and where Charles Darwin went ashore during his five week visit to the Galapagos in 1835. We spent the afternoon visiting this famous landmark and going through the mail left here by previous visitors, to see if we could, following the tradition, hand deliver some mail picked up here. The afternoon outing was coupled by an exploration of the bay and neighboring sea lion colony with our Zodiacs and a by two kayak outings.
As we returned the sun was setting behind one of the numerous volcanic cones, a perfect ending for a day to be remembered for a long time.