Floreana, also known as Charles or Santa Maria, is a peaceful island with numerous extinct volcanic cones and fantastic landscapes. It was the first island officially colonized by Ecuadorians and a favourite one for pirates and whalers. It’s colourful and bizarre human history goes back almost two centuries: from marooned whalers to prisoners and colonists, and from a toothless dentist to a self-proclaimed following.
Our Christmas morning started with an optional early morning wet landing at a site named Punta Cormorant. The first thing our visitors noticed was the green colour of the sand, due to the presence of olivine crystals (commercially known as “peridot”) and the peculiar vegetation, with some endemic and native plants, such as the incense tree (Palo Santo). The trail went along a large salt pond where we were looking for flamingos and other shore birds before arriving at a second beautiful beach. This one had incredibly fine, white, coralline sand where we were surprised by the presence of few female Pacific green sea turtles out of the water, one of which was probably a young and inexpert female working hard to find its way back to the ocean.
After hundreds of pictures of the turtle reaching the ocean and some sting rays in the water, we went back aboard for breakfast, and the ship repositioned to a small offshore volcanic cone named Champion Islet. Here we went for a Zodiac ride in the search of the remnant population of the Floreana mockingbird (driven to near extinction by cats, rats and other introduced predators on the main island), among many other birds, such as Galápagos shearwaters, brown noody terns, swallowed tailed gulls, blue and Nazca boobies and the always beautiful red billed tropic bird. The islet’s rocky shores are home to many Galápagos sea lions, and today we saw many young pups in the shore. Later on, it was time to explore the underwater world, full of colourful fish species, sea stars, invertebrates and, of course, the always playful sea lions that were the stars of the morning.
Following lunch, the ship was repositioned once again, this time to Post Office Bay, were we spent the afternoon enjoying the beach and kayaking along the bay before visiting the famous Post Office barrel, the first Post office of the entire South Pacific. Going back to whaling days, this barrel was first mentioned in 1793 by British captain James Colnett and since then it has been used as an old mail swap tradition. Following this tradition, our guests collected some letters with the aim of hand delivering them and left their own letters with the hope that somebody, one day, will also hand deliver it as future visitors!
To end this very special day, we went for Zodiac ride along the bay of Post Office, where we were delighted to see our first Galápagos penguins and one of the most beautiful sunsets!