May 30, 2019 - National Geographic Islander
We start our day anchored before Santiago’s Espumilla Beach. As usual there were multiple activities to chose from. A number of guests went for a hike at the beach, while some others for a photo expedition, and more still a pre-breakfast stretch session and kayaking along the coast of Buccaneer’s Cove. This is in fact a very peaceful experience with more proximity with nature, and where we had the chance to see some flying birds like frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies, common noddies, among others.
This island in particular has a lot of human history, the earliest of which began with the presence of pirates, buccaneers that brought the extinction of giant tortoises through over hunting and the introduction of invasive, pestersome species like pigs and goats that once established began to out-compete native species for resources.
After lunch some went deep-water snorkeling and some opted for a boat ride. In the water we saw a large variety of fish, including yellow-bellied trigger fish, schools of damselfish, white-eye salema, surgeon fish, cardinal fish, and all in concert with cup corals, sea stars, and many see urchins.
We repositioned National Geographic Islander to a black beach at Puerto Egas, a space inhabited between 1920 and 1972, and where several successful salt mining enterprises.
With snorkeling finished, we embarked on a hike from the same beach, and along the way we encountered our first land Iguana in this area. Land iguanas were extinct only until very recently. Under the initiative of the national park’s repatriation program, this species is once again settled back within the habitat it once occupied.
We saw also many things like lava lizards, ground finches, a yellow warbler, an American oystercatcher, a great blue heron, a semipalmated plover, and to top it off there was a Galapagos hawk perched atop a lava rock. These hawks show a very interesting mating behavior. Being a polyandria species, the female mates with several males, who will in turn provide for both her and their shared young.
On the way back we enjoyed an amazing sunset, but just before we step onboard we saw a very large Galapagos shark circling our ship. So much life to experience here in the Galapagos.
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