Santa Cruz and Daphne Islands

Dec 19, 2018 - National Geographic Endeavour II


Leaving behind the town of Puerto Ayora, we motored to the north side of Santa Cruz, where conditions are very different from the lush environment we just visited. This is due to the rain shadow effect. The landscape is dry and gray because the humid air stays at the south of the island, trapped by a tall volcano with an elevation of 900 meters above sea level.

We started our morning at Dragon Hill, looking for Galapagos land iguanas. This restored area is now home to a healthy population of them. We also enjoyed the company of migratory birds such as pintail ducks, sandpipers, seagulls, and whimbrels. They gathered close to our trail, feeding on the nutritious ooze of the brackish water lagoon.>

In the afternoon, it was time to change into our bathing suits for snorkeling from Guy Fawkes Islets and beach time on Dragon Hill, both rewarding experiences. Afterward, we moved to a small islet known as Eden, where we explored the shores by Zodiac or kayak, navigating through mangrove forests that were home of nesting shorebirds. We also came across sea turtles and sea lions. The area is also a shark nursery for hammerheads and black-tipped sharks.

For the evening’s activity, we circumnavigated Daphne Island, a notable scientific site, where scientist Peter Grant and his partner have followed the steps of Charles Darwin, studying several generations of finches for decades. We learned about these fascinating studies while enjoying a sunset cocktail on the sundeck surrounded by a magical sky of oranges and reds.

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About the Author

Christian Saa

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Christian was born on the island of Isabela in the Galápagos archipelago. He grew up on a farm and had a magical childhood devoid of cars, electricity, telephones—just pure nature and playful sea lions along the beach. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to Santa Cruz Island, the economic hub of the Galápagos Islands. His father began to work in tourism and took Christian around the islands during school vacations. It was during this time that Christian learned to love and understand the real value of this unique archipelago, and he decided to devote his life to its stewardship. A lifelong passion for nature and its creatures took root in his heart, and he eventually decided to become a naturalist, which he has now been doing for 18 years now.

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