Isabela and Fernandina Island

Apr 02, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


We navigated in calm waters along the coast of Isabela early in the morning to reach our morning destination of Punta Vicente Roca. Finding cetaceans today was a priority.

The channel just south of Punta Vicente Roca lies between Fernandina and Isabela Island and is known for its vibrant marine ecosystem. Excitement began when the first officer called in a spotting of dolphins: this before the daily waking call could be sounded. Guests got dressed and hurried out on deck. All around us, these dolphins gracefully surfaced and dove using the waves generated from our vessel’s bow.

We celebrate the passing of the equator over a ceremonial round of limbo in which each guest “crosses” beneath the Ecuadorian flag.

Just off the Isabela coast, we deployed Zodiacs for a cruise along the cliff comprised of the remnants of an eroded volcano. This land is home for many species found in Galapagos such as penguins, flightless cormorants, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, terns, and many marine turtles and sun fish. Punta Vincente Roca offers some of the best snorkeling terrain in the Galapagos, and some within our group went as far as to say it was their best snorkeling experience yet!

The snorkelers swam in chilly but clear water, and they were rewarded handsomely in the form of penguins, cormorants, iguanas, and many sea turtles, all set against a backdrop of shimmering fish.

Sights like these readily remind just how precious our marine ecosystems are.

Back on board we towled down and changed for some quick R&R before lunch, then headed to the lounge for Venessa Gallo’s presentation on Charles Darwin and his time surveying the Galapagos in 1835.

Later in the afternoon, reached Fernandina Island, the youngest one from the 17 islands forming Galapagos, home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes of the world. La Cumbre is a shield volcano (the largest of all classes) and has erupted as many as 15 times in the last 40 years. Punta Espinoza is a famous visitor site covered by pahoehoe black lava (“rope lava”) in all directions and tons of marine iguanas basking beneath the intense sun. Along the shoreline are tidal pools, where sea lions, crabs, finches, sea birds are found feeding. We even saw a great blue heron as it looked persistently for its next fish dinner.

The sunset was as superb as could be, and there were many a great comments and recounting of the immersive experiences we had between these two islands. It only takes an afternoon to realize this is one of those rare spaces on earth where communion between nature and humans is alive and well. To celebrate at the end of the day our hotel manager announced wine testing at the sundeck to enjoy and cheer another day in this paradise.

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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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