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Espumilla & Puerto Egas, Santiago Island

Jul 31, 2013 - National Geographic Endeavour

Explorers on the beach.
Galapagos hawk.

As we approached Espumilla Beach at Santiago Island we could see a small bird perching on a tree. It got bigger and bigger as we got closer: a Galapagos hawk was waiting for us, motionless. It looked at us with curiosity. The hawk was probably waiting for some young turtles to emerge from the nearby nests, as this beach is also the place where Pacific green turtles lay their eggs. The evidence was there: several tracks of recent incursions on the beach were the testimony of their activity during the last hours.

After everyone photographed the hawk, it was time to begin our excursion to the island, hiking between mangroves and a thick forest, then uphill where we had a great view of the bay and the islands nearby and then back to the beach. Instead of spotting one hawk where we left it, we found 4 hawks perching close to our backpacks. One had decided to land at the same place where a radio was hanging, so we had to wait until it decided to fly to the next branch and then pick up the radio. We had news from another group that they saw a little turtle emerging from its nest and crawling to the ocean, but a Galapagos hawk caught it and later ate it. Explorers could see the struggle of life and death, right in front of them.

After we returned from the walk it was time have breakfast and get more energy for the next activity, snorkeling in the pristine waters of the Galapagos Islands. After dropping in the water several divers saw two white tip reef sharks and several king angelfish. The seas were calm and the water clear, so it was a very relaxing time for everyone.

During the afternoon we visited Puerto Egas. Landing on a beautiful black ash beach, we were received by several sea lions that looked very relaxed on the beach. Some were nursing, others playing in a small tide pool. A short and easy hike took us to the Fur Seals Grotto, where several of these animals were resting on small rocks. One decided it was time to jump in the water and get a little bit of swimming.

On the way back to the beach we hiked along the coastline where several marine iguanas were laying almost on top of each other sneezing every now and then. Others were just arriving from feeding on the algae present on the nearby rocks and slowly crawled and joined the bigger group.

An oystercatcher moved along the rocks looking for some small invertebrates to eat, while a yellow warbler slowly moved toward us as it fed on insects next to a tide pool.

The day finished with the sun setting between two of the volcanos to the west on the northern part of Isabela Island. Several pelicans flew by as the sun set, an impressive finale for a day with memories that will last a lifetime.


About the Author

Xavier Romero·Naturalist

Xavier began his “love affair with the ocean”, as he describes it, when he was five years old, while spending summers with his family near the ocean. He learned how to SCUBA dive at 17 and trained as a commercial diver at 20, working for a while as an off-shore oilfield diver. In the early 1980s he began to study biology and finished his degree in biology from the Universidad de Guayaquil in 1990, the same year he decided to take the Galápagos Naturalist Guide course. After that, Xavier worked as a naturalist and divemaster in the Galápagos Archipelago for several years. An avid SCUBA diver, he trained to become a certified SCUBA diving instructor in 1993, to help impart his passion for the seas.

About the Videographer

Steve Ewing·Video Chronicler

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Steve fell in love with the beauty of the natural world at an early age. In addition to nature, his other main passion was telling stories though the medium of television and radio. Steve studied broadcast journalism at the University of Oregon. There, he learned how to shoot, edit, and report compelling stories using digital video.