Isabela and Fernandina Islands

May 16, 2017 - National Geographic Islander

We left our calm anchorage off Rabida last night and navigated north and then west towards the younger islands of the archipelago. I woke the guests soon after sunrise and we gathered on the ship’s decks with binoculars and coffee to search for wildlife and to admire the view of the huge shield volcanoes silhouetted in the distance. Before most of us were barely even awake, Salvador spotted a pod of “not so common,” Common dolphins to the north of us and our Chief Mate, Christian, took the ship up to investigate. I made a ship wide announcement to make sure everyone was on deck to see these beautiful marine creatures.

We were delighted watching the sleek, smallish gray dolphins leaping and splashing all around us and we tried to take photos, but that is not easy! We estimated that there were between 80 and 100 dolphins in the group. We also observed a half dozen of the rare dark-rumped petrels and many of the more common shearwaters and storm petrels. And to our surprise, we saw an albatross! The Galapagos waved albatross nest far to the south east in the islands and this large fellow was way out of his normal range.

Following a hearty breakfast, we gathered in the bridge to watch the count down on the ship’s GPS and radar as we passed this time from the northern hemisphere back into the southern hemisphere (although by this time we were all shellbacks, having crossed the equator from south to north in the wee hours of the morning). After we anchored below the dramatic cliffs of Punta Vicente Roca, we boarded the Zodiac and explored along the shore. There were marine iguanas, sea turtles, a couple of Mola sunfish, and a very delightful group of crazy, playful fur seal pups.

We took out three Zodiacs of eager snorkelers and WOW! The water was quite cool, but the visibility was good and the wildlife was fantastic! We swam among dozens of placid, completely unafraid sea turtles and we had to get out of their way when they surfaced for air! A sea lion swirled and twirled among us and a cheeky juvenile flightless cormorant tugged on the loose straps of someone’s life vest. An adult cormorant with a bill full of seaweed to build his nest walked right across the back of an unsuspecting snorkeler.

Following lunch and a welcome siesta, Salvador gave an interesting presentation about Charles Darwin. In the cooler late afternoon we disembarked on the lava flows of Punta Espinoza, Fernandina. Here we walked carefully to avoid treading on the oh-so-numerous marine iguanas and much smaller lava lizards. We watched baby sea lions and they investigated us.  A large male sea lion chased those who got too close. Sea turtles were popping up to breathe all around us and we were amazed at how many we had seen today. We also saw a beautiful golden juvenile hawk.

As the sun set in a splendor of color, first with a golden glow and then with puffy pink clouds, we returned contentedly to the ship. No matter how much you read and research this trip to Galapagos, it is always amazing to see for yourself the stark beauty of the landscapes and the incredible fearlessness of the creatures found here. We had yet another very busy, but entirely enjoyable day in the Enchanted Isles of Galapagos!

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About the Author

Lynn Fowler

Expedition Leader

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of seven children, Lynn grew up in various university towns where her father was a professor of physics. Lynn obtained her B.A. in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, followed by a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Florida, which encompassed a study of marine turtles in Costa Rica. She arrived in Galápagos in 1978 and became one of the first female naturalist guides working for the Galápagos National Park.

About the Photographer

Patricio Maldonado

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Patricio, better known as Pato amongst his friends, was born in the Galápagos Island. His family moved to the islands from the mainland and settled on the island of Santa Cruz over thirty-five years ago. Pato had an enchanted childhood in the islands, where his keen interest in the wildlife of the Galápagos was born initially through catching lizards and observing how they lost their tails. His experiences in the islands have led him to teach visitors about the need to protect this rare and unique environment.

About the Videographer

Ashley Karitis

Video Chronicler

Ashley was raised in the foothills of the Cascade Range in Central Oregon. After childhood careers in ski racing, equestrian sports, classical piano, and summer jobs on a dude ranch, she emerged as a unique hybrid of adventuress, hobby farmer, and storyteller. 

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