Urbina Bay & Tagus Cove, Isabela Island

Apr 04, 2018 - National Geographic Islander


Urbina Bay is a visitors’ site of great geological interest. A fantastic event took place there as recent as in 1954. The adjacent coastal area was drastically uplifted, little by little, in a two-week period prior to volcanic activity on Isabela Island. An earthquake of 6.5 on the Richter scale happened there on June 4th, 1954.  Various square kilometers of intertidal zone were thrust up in certain cases more than 4 meters (16 feet) out of the ocean trapping invertebrates and leaving various species high and dry. This morning was our opportunity to explore the geological and oceanic past of the uplift and the terrestrial present with species that have little by little arrived in the area since this famous event took place. It is still possible to see, as relics of this event, remains of brain coral inland!

During the walk we were surrounded by salt resistant vegetation with Galapagos mocking birds and Darwin finches appearing on the top branches to sing. As we venture farther inland we come upon a hearty population of Galapagos Land Iguanas. We saw many of them along the trails. Many native and endemic flowers were found everywhere, including the beautiful Galapagos cotton and yellow cordia flowers. We saw several Galapagos giant tortoises as well. The latter sighting was a grateful surprise. At the end of the walk, we had the chance to cool off in the black lava-landing beach with the company of many juvenile brown pelicans who let us share their space with them.

In the afternoon, a short navigation brings us to Tagus Cove, which has been a protected cove for sailors for hundreds of years including the H.M.S. Beagle with Captain Fitzroy and the then young naturalist Charles Darwin.  After lunch, we had an early kayaking outing followed by a deep-water snorkeling.  In the late afternoon after the snorkelers and kayakers came back we had two options. Some guests went on a long hike to the top of a nearby tuff cone. Some others opted to go for a Zodiac ride. Both choices were very successful. Hikers enjoyed the magnificent volcanic landscapes. The stratification of the tuff cinder formations is impressive as well showing the past explosive geological history of the area. Zodiac riders went along the outer coast brings us close to flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins. many blue footed boobies, brown pelicans, Galapagos sea lions with an occasional Pacific green sea turtle coming up to the surface.

At the end of the day the coast lighted up with a warm glow and we return to our ship gratified that life has shown its splendor in this paradise to us today. We can hardly wait what our expedition in this enchanted archipelago will bring to our lives tomorrow.

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About the Author

Carlos Romero

Expedition Leader

Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Venezuela, where he lived for many years near the ocean and later the rainforest. He returned to Quito to study biology and specialized in the fauna of Ecuador. His main field of study was zoology with an emphasis on vertebrates. He has a doctorate in biology and a master’s in ecotourism and natural protected areas management. He designed a new curriculum for the largest university in Ecuador, the Central University— a masters in environmental management and administration of natural protected areas. Carlos has also taken part in various scientific projects and expeditions with the Biological Sciences Department of Quito’s Polytechnic University. He has published several scientific papers, including one about the bats of Galápagos and one about the vampire bat of mainland Ecuador.

About the Photographer

José Guerrero

Naturalist

José Guerrero Vela is an Ecuadorian permanent resident of the Galápagos. His mother was born in the Galápagos and his grandfather was one of the first generation of teachers there, which has always inspired him to promote education as the main path to protect the islands.  

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