From the National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos

May 09, 2012 - National Geographic Endeavour

Lava heron
Fur sea lion
Marine iguanas

Santiago Island

Santiago is also known as San Salvador, named after the first island discovered by Columbus in the Caribbean Sea. Santiago offers many places to visit, has highlands but not inhabitants, and was the island that Charles Darwin visited the most.

Our first outing began early in the morning, landing on the greenish beach of Espumilla. It was high tide and the lagoon behind was full of water, but this was not an impediment to observing many sea turtle nests and shells spread everywhere; there was probably a hatching during the night, and the hatchlings have now abandoned the island, heading to a new and dangerous underwater world.

We headed along the inland trail, walking among dense vegetation which formed natural tunnels made from branches of trees such as muyuyu and mangroves. We climbed up to the top of the hill where we observed gigantic palo santo trees and behind them the landscape looked majestic with another lagoon surrounded by mangroves with the blue ocean as background.

After breakfast, the National Geographic Endeavour repositioned at Buccaneer’s Cove, a place well known by pirates, and where they probably hid treasures a long time ago. With a sunny day, our guests enjoyed different activities in the ocean: kayaking, glass-bottom boating and deep-water snorkeling. We observed colorful fish, sea turtles, sea lions and white-tipped reef sharks; on the rocks, blue-footed boobies, herons and terns were the delight of our guests.

In the afternoon we dropped anchor just in front of Puerto Egas, or James Bay, on the west side of Santiago. In the distance we observed colorful lava, the highlands, and tuff formations everywhere. We landed on the black beach and walked along the lava shoreline where eroded rock formations house an excellent variety of wildlife. We observed marine iguanas basking in the sun while the tidepools contained many Sally Lightfoot crabs, which attract other types of hunters such as lava herons and oystercatchers.

At the end of the trail, we finally arrived to the grottos, natural tidepools where fur seal lions rested peacefully with no fear, while our guests enjoyed taking pictures of this place, probably the last refuge of these innocent creatures.

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About the Author

Paul Vergara


Paul grew up on the island of Floreana, one of the earliest islands of the Galápagos to have been inhabited, and one of Charles Darwin's centers of research. But just because Floreana has a long history of human settlements, does not mean that growing up there was a very modern experience. In the 1970s, there was neither electricity nor cars on the island. Not only that, but Paul and the rest of the inhabitants had to use donkeys for transportation, preserving their fish and meat using salt from the sea.

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