Isabela Island

Dec 12, 2017 - National Geographic Endeavour II

The morning started with a cappuccino on the observation deck. I spotted a dolphin’s fin next to the ship, which woke me up more than the caffeine. After some lovely stretching with Hilda, I worked up my appetite for breakfast. While the natural wonders of the Galapagos were my motivation for this trip, the gourmet food has been an unexpected bonus.

Our first walk of the morning started with a decomposing pilot whale carcass--a fascinating look at a marine mammal I never expected to see. Our hike led us through a landscape of poison apple trees, Galapagos cotton in bloom with beautiful yellow flowers, thorn bush, several land iguanas, and our first sighting of a Galapagos tortoise nestled into a hollow in the vegetation!

Our guide Celso identified everything we encountered, from the psychedelic Galapagos painted locust to goat skulls—evidence of the campaign to rid Isabela of the highly destructive introduced species. In addition to sharing his expertise about the natural world, he also shared with us his personal stories of growing up on the islands, giving us context for the human history of these islands. A swim at the beach cooled us off and provided me with my highlight of the morning—swimming with a flightless cormorant who darted around us with grace and speed.

The trend of amazing food continued at lunch with a feast of Ecuadorian delights. Well-fed, we returned to the sea to paddle board along the cliffs of Tagus cove where I observed at least a dozen Pacific green turtles, including a pair mating.

Tired from all of the fun, I returned to the ship to update my field guide, authored by our guide, and enjoyed the fresh fruit juice provided after each adventure. I ended my day with deep water snorkeling in the company of Galapagos penguins, schools of brightly colored fish, and the seemingly ubiquitous turtles.

In lieu of the final hike of the day, I enjoyed a beer and nap. At our pre-dinner recap we saw footage of our snorkeling with a sea lion the previous day.  I cannot wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

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About the Author

Adam Britton

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Adam is a British-born zoologist who has lived and worked in northern Australia since 1997. Before arriving in Darwin, Adam gained a Ph.D. on the flight performance and echolocation of insectivorous bats, but his passion has always been large predators and the relationship that different cultures have toward them.

About the Photographer

Celso Montalvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Celso was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At the age of nine he arrived in the Galápagos for the first time and he was profoundly touched by nature, observation, and isolation.  When he saw the sharks, rays and turtles swimming in the bay, he was triggered by a sense of wonder that he did not feel before.  Celso believes education is key to preservation. After graduating from the Naval Academy at the age of 17 he moved to New York to continue his education.

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