Isabela and Fernandina Islands

Nov 13, 2018 - National Geographic Islander


This morning dawned windy and clear and we were already all shellbacks by the time we came out on deck, having crossed the Equator from south to north in the wee hours of the morning. We navigated along the northern shores of Isabela Island with the dramatic silhouettes of shield volcanoes in the clouds and spied a few leaping mobula rays and storm petrels, shearwaters, and several of the once very rare dark-rumped petrels. These endemic seabirds have been brought back from near extinction via protection of their nests in the breeding season during the last decade.

We crossed back into the southern hemisphere – all crowded together in the bridge to watch the GPS countdown – and then went on a fabulous Zodiac cruise along the base of the thousand foot high cliffs at Punta Vicente Roca. We found and photographed penguins, sea turtles, huge marine iguanas in territorial battles, fur seal and sea lions. Back to the ship we went, where we wiggled into our wetsuits and then headed out to snorkel with all these marine creatures plus many colorful fish. The water was amazingly – surprisingly – clear and calm, and the conditions were fantastic. We swam for over an hour and saw dozens of sea turtles, fast-moving penguins, and curious sea lions.

Our afternoon hike at Punta Espinoza was other-worldly. Reptiles rule in the Galapagos because they can get to oceanic islands on vegetation rafts that float far out to sea. Fernandina is one of the most active volcanic islands in the world and from a distance appears to be a huge, black mass of barren lava. But her shores are home to a myriad of wildlife species! Thousands of marine iguanas, which feed on algae from the sea were basking on the lava rocks and this afternoon we also saw Galapagos hawks, many Sally lightfoot crabs, flightless cormorants, and sea lions, several with tiny nursing babies.

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About the Author

Lynn Fowler

Expedition Leader

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of seven children, Lynn grew up in various university towns where her father was a professor of physics. Lynn obtained her B.A. in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, followed by a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Florida, which encompassed a study of marine turtles in Costa Rica. She arrived in Galápagos in 1978 and became one of the first female naturalist guides working for the Galápagos National Park.

About the Videographer

Julio Rodriguez

Video Chronicler

Born and raised in Ecuador, the son of Spanish and American parents, Julio developed a passion for storytelling and conservation at an early age. After majoring in history at Carleton College in Minnesota, and completing a thesis on the Basque anti-Franco movement, he taught English in Spain and made short promotional films for an energy efficiency company in India and two environmental conservation NGOs in Greece and Galápagos. These experiences gave him some amazing travel opportunities and strengthened his resolve to support environmental protection.

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