Santa Cruz: Dragon Hill, Gay Fawkes, Eden and Daphne Major Islet

Jan 31, 2018 - National Geographic Endeavour II


Today we visited the northwestern region of Santa Cruz Island, Dragon Hill, one of the few locations where it is still possible to see land iguanas in the wild. The lands iguanas from this part of the archipelago were decimated in the past due to the introduction of feral dogs back in the 1970s. However, thanks to the restoration efforts of the Galapagos National Park, this population of land iguanas is thriving and currently it is estimated to be around 700 individuals.

The brackish water lagoon at the beginning of our outing harbors few species of coastal and migratory birds. Today we observed one flamingo, a few black-necked stilts, a solitary whimbler, and great blue herons as well as few Galapagos land iguanas and marine iguanas.

Later in the morning, the Zodiacs took us to Gay Fawkes Islets. There we went deep-water snorkeling and observed yellow-tailed surgeonfish, scorpion fish, king angelfish, and parrotfish, among many other species of colorful fish. The vertical walls were covered with bright marine sessile invertebrates including sponges, ascidians, soft corals, hydroids, barnacles, anemones and bryozoans.

In the afternoon, we drove the Zodiacs around Eden Islet and the mangrove communities. We observed blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, juveniles hammer head sharks and white-tipped reef sharks. Later in the afternoon, the National Geographic Endeavour II sailed around Daphne Major, and our guests learned about the research that Peter and Rosemary Grant have been conducting on the Darwin finches for more than forty years. Their work has helped us to better understand the ecological and evolutionary processes that drive the dynamics of the iconic Darwin finches.

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About the Author

Luis Vinueza

Naturalist

Luis arrived in the Galápagos Islands for the first time when he was 11 years old in 1983, and from that time on he knew that Galápagos would one day be his home. He returned to the islands in 1995 and spent 14 months camping in a tent. Seven of those months were spent on Española Island, studying the relationship of reproductive success and mate retention of Nazca boobies. In 1997, he started working for the marine lab at the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) on different fields including diving surveys to assess the patterns of marine biodiversity around the Galápagos Marine Reserve. His research included counting lobsters and sea cucumbers and participating as an advisor for CDRS during the negotiation process that led to the 1998 creation of the Galápagos Marine Reserve. 

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