San Cristobal Island

Feb 08, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II


We left behind the western part of the archipelago, heading east to San Cristobal, one of the oldest islands, with highlands and inhabitants and where the political capital of the province of Galapagos is located.

Early in the morning National Geographic Endeavour II dropped anchor in front of Punta Pitt; the volcanic scenery was spectacular, with gigantic elevations and many red footed boobies and frigate birds gliding in the air. After breakfast we headed to the landing beach, its golden color contrasted with the turquoise water and the black bodies of the sea lions laid on it peacefully. Walking inland, the trail was wet due to the last rainfalls, which had formed waterfalls and small rivers a few days ago.

Uphill, the narrow trail climbed an eroded tuff cliff around to the far side of the large eroded tuff cone that forms the point of this place. At the distance, we observed many frigate birds nesting on the trees along the cliffs and others chasing incoming boobies, trying to steal their food – we heard the unmistakable, desperate noises as they tried to escape from those well known as the pirates of the air.

Finally we arrived to the top of the hill; the view from there was spectacular. The flat terrain made for an easy hike observing many new endemic species of plants such as the Galapagos clubleaf and Galapagos matplant. The vertical cliffs and the lack of beaches was the pattern along the east face of Punta Pitt. This lack of sandy areas was the reason that marine iguanas had to enter inland to nest; there the soft soil is used instead of the beach like on other islands. We observed many empty burrows and many marine iguanas with their dusty bodies digging new ones to lay their eggs.

Approaching the cliffs, the best attraction was waiting for us. Perched on bushes and trees, many red footed boobies nested as they cared their chicks or eggs. Their brown or white plumage, their blue bill and their fluffy chicks were the delightful of our guests. At the distance, close to the ocean, Nazca boobies nested on the ground or on flat rocks, leaving their white guano everywhere. In the air, frigate and blue footed boobies were gliding like kites as they looked for fish along the immense ocean.

In the afternoon we sailed west to visit Cerro Brujo, a spectacular white sandy beach and crystalline water where sea lions, crabs and some seashore birds are found along the trail. On the top of the dunes, we observed fresh sea turtles’ tracks, while in the air blue footed boobies and frigate birds flew by looking for some fish. Our guests had the chance to relax and enjoy the last outing on the island, swimming with playful sea lions or discovering the secrets of this beautiful island. We came back aboard to circumnavigate the gigantic rock, observing a great number of sea birds nesting on it, with a beautiful sunset at the west, remembering this magical week with new friends and good memories that will be part of our lives forever.

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About the Author

Paul Vergara

Naturalist

Paul grew up on the island of Floreana, one of the earliest islands of the Galápagos to have been inhabited, and one of Charles Darwin's centers of research. But just because Floreana has a long history of human settlements, does not mean that growing up there was a very modern experience. In the 1970s, there was neither electricity nor cars on the island. Not only that, but Paul and the rest of the inhabitants had to use donkeys for transportation, preserving their fish and meat using salt from the sea.

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