Española

Dec 16, 2018 - National Geographic Endeavour II


As we landed today on Española island, it was amazing to see how many baby sea lions had been born in the last few days. Babies were just everywhere, some were with their mothers and some had been left behind while their mothers went into the ocean to find fish. It is important to understand that these babies are very demanding when it comes to nursing, so the females normally leave the babies on the beaches while they go out to look for fish.

Española, or Hood Island, is the oldest in Galapagos, at approximately 4 million years of age. The age of this island has given species more time to evolve in isolation, but even though it’s an old island, if you compare its age to the age of the planet itself, which is around 6.4 billion years, we could still see Española as a young formation. As we started to walk along the dark terrain, we could see that erosion had converted the lava flows into boulders. The strenuous walk took us to the nesting ground of the waved albatross, one of the part-time inhabitants of this place. We were lucky enough to see the first pair of males circling the landing area and eventually landing—what an incredible sighting this was and how worthwhile if made the walk for us.

The albatross is an oceanic bird that only comes to land to reproduce. They have chosen this particular island because here they find the cliffs from where they can take off—being oceanic, they are big and need the help of the wind to make it up into the air. The mockingbird of Española is one of the four present on the island, so far we have had a chance to see two of the four species found in the Galapagos.  They are one of the species that got Darwin’s attention back in 1835, he collected three out of the four noticing how they have some physical differences and he quoted: “there is a difference between the inhabitants of the different islands”…

As we continued to hike along the trail, we had a chance to see the entire breeding cycle of the Nazca boobies: couples courting, couples making a nest, couples preening each other, parents feeding chicks and independent chicks defying hawks. These chicks already know that they are too big for the hawks to prey upon, so they won’t be eaten anymore.

As we returned to the ship at sunset time, we understood how these fragile places need to be conserved in time, not only for us to see but also for the animal species that belong here, the true owners of these islands.
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About the Author

Ximena Cordova

Naturalist

Ximena was born in Cuenca, the third largest city of Ecuador. Located in the Andes Mountains, Cuenca is known as the cultural capital of Ecuador and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site because of its many historical buildings. Ximena gained experience with American culture as an exchange student in Santa Barbara, CA, and later, while living and working at the United Nations in New York City for four and a half years.

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