Santiago Island

Apr 19, 2018 - National Geographic Islander


This morning started out with calm seas, but large swells, along the western coastline of Santiago Island. The beach at Espumilla had disappeared for the moment, and I only hoped that not too many marine turtle nests would be swept away by the spring tides and large waves coming up the sand, beyond the roots of the mangrove trees and into the forest.

The kayakers had a wonderful time following the cliffs to the north, listening to Galapagos fur seals, and catching glimpses of hammerhead shark dorsal fins every now and then.

In Buccaneer Bay we took long Zodiac rides and discovered islets with Nazca boobies and brown noddy terns. Fur seals resting in the rocks, and the pinnacle known as “The Bishop” stood out in the morning light.

Buccaneer Bay is where the pirates first learned of the riches to be had in these islands back in the 1600s. A beautiful island, with a source of fresh water close by, and delicious giant tortoises easily collected near shore. In later years, when tortoises became scarce, goats and pigs were introduced in their stead. Now, many years on, and after decades of hard work and investment, the Galapagos National Park can claim success in the eradication of these serious predators and competitors, and the island is on the road to recuperation and restoration. The population of giant tortoises is now well on the way to sustainable levels. Lindblad Expeditions adopted this island when we first arrived with Polaris in 1997, and I feel proud that we played an important role in the recuperation and the success of many, many conservation initiatives here.

On return to the ship, Captain Montalvo and I agreed that some swimming from the ship was in order as the day was warming up…so the leaping began – from the boarding steps, the diving board, and even the bow, outside the bridge!

The afternoon was spent on shore in Puerto Egas, the southernmost point of James Bay on the west coast of Santiago Island. Here, the late afternoon light and rolling waves created a dramatic walk along the coast. Marine iguanas, fur seals, sea lions, American oystercatchers, sally lightfoot crabs, yellow-crowned night herons, great blue herons – all were sitting above the high tide line in the warm, moist breeze, catching the last of the light.

What a day! What drama of ocean conditions and sunlight!

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About the Author

Cindy Manning

Expedition Leader

Born in Lima, Peru, of North American parents, Cindy and her family subsequently lived in several South American and European countries with a couple stops in Peoria, Illinois. Cindy received a degree in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Afterwards, Cindy spent a year and a half teaching science in the Western Province of Kenya, East Africa. 

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