Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove

Jun 27, 2018 - National Geographic Islander


At dawn, the lavas of Sierra Negra Volcano were still marching down the hill to join the sea, but we had to continue our way to a nearby area at the foot of Alcedo Volcano. After breakfast, our first activity of the day started with a wet landing on Urbina’s black beach where sea turtles nest.

A trail goes inland here, through dense green vegetation typical of the shores and arid zones of Galapagos. Some are lined with fruit but we can only look at it, not touch—the poison apples contain an irritant latex, which the giant tortoises and land iguanas seem to enjoy.

Not too far along the trail we encountered both species in the same area. The giant tortoises of Alcedo Volcano find this area suitable for nesting and the large iguanas call it home. Both species are vegetarians, and quite large.

On our way back we ran into a very big tortoise alongside a large male land iguana. Seeing both of them in the same frame, side by side? Wow.

The black beach was teaming with active wildlife. On one end was a school of young black-tipped reef sharks swimming in the shallow, and on the other end, young, playful, and friendly sea lions. Nesting pelicans of all ages were very busy nesting or catching fish and blue-footed boobies were dive bombing for fish. All of this was happening in the same area, with water so nice and warm—what else can we ask for? Maybe some drinks and snacks, but we’ll have to wait until we’re back on board, as we can’t take food to visitor sites.

Meanwhile the kids had something great to do: Zodiac driving lessons. They all graduated as Zodiacs pilots with honours!

In the afternoon we moved to Tagus Cove. Here we went snorkelling to see the wonders of the seas, spotting turtles, sea lions, sea stars, penguins, marine invertebrates, and of course many species of fish.

Later we divided in two groups for different choices. Some chose an invigorating fast paced hike up the hill of the cove to see the magical volcanic landscape and a saltwater lake Darwin visited in 1835. The other group went for a more leisurely Zodiac ride to see wildlife in the cliffs and surrounding waters.

Back on board we all have a new story to tell and to share with the world outside.

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About the Author

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.

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