Urbina Bay & Tagus Cove, Isabela Island

Jul 10, 2019 - National Geographic Islander

Urbina Bay is our first visitors site today, and is of great interest. A remarkable geological event took place in this location in 1954. Over two months, the adjacent coastal area of the landing beach was violently uplifted prior to volcanic activity on Isabela Island. In certain areas, the intertidal zone was thrust up more than 4 meters (16 feet) out of the ocean, trapping invertebrates and leaving various species exposed high and dry. This morning was our opportunity to explore the geological and oceanic past of the uplift, and the terrestrial present with species that have little by little arrived in the area since this famous event took place. During the walk, we were surrounded by salt resistant vegetation with Galapagos mockingbirds and Darwin finches appearing on branches to sing.

As we ventured farther inland, we came upon a hearty population of Galapagos land iguanas. We saw several along the trails. Many native and endemic flowers were found everywhere as well as the beautiful Galapagos cotton and yellow Cordia flowers. The icing on the cake was finding of a giant tortoise resting under a bush along the trail. At the end of the walk, we had the chance to cool off on the black lava landing beach with the company of a couple of Galapagos penguins and flightless cormorants who let us share their space with them. 

In the afternoon a short navigation brought us to Tagus Cove, which has been a protected area for sailors, including those onboard the H.M.S. Beagle with Captain Fitzroy and the then young naturalist Charles Darwin.  After lunch, we had an early kayak and paddleboard outing followed by deep-water snorkeling. In the late afternoon, we had several options. Some guests opted to go for an invigorating hike to the summit of a nearby hill, and some went on a Zodiac ride. Both choices were very successful. The Zodiac ride along the outer coast let us see flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, Galapagos sea lions, and an occasional Pacific green sea turtle coming up to the surface. The stratification of the tuff cinder formations is impressive, reflecting the explosive geological history of the area.

At the end of the day, the coast lit up with a golden glow, and we returned to our ship content that life has shown its magnificence in this paradise today.

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About the Author

Carlos Romero

Expedition Leader

Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Venezuela, where he lived for many years near the ocean and later the rainforest. He returned to Quito to study biology and specialized in the fauna of Ecuador. His main field of study was zoology with an emphasis on vertebrates. He has a doctorate in biology and a master’s in ecotourism and natural protected areas management. He designed a new curriculum for the largest university in Ecuador, the Central University— a masters in environmental management and administration of natural protected areas. Carlos has also taken part in various scientific projects and expeditions with the Biological Sciences Department of Quito’s Polytechnic University. He has published several scientific papers, including one about the bats of Galápagos and one about the vampire bat of mainland Ecuador.

About the Videographer

Adriana Diaz


The oldest of three sisters, Adriana was born in Alajuela, Costa Rica and still lives in this same province. Her interest in biology started at a very young age when she was immediately attracted to the beauty of nature and the secrecy within the forest elements. After taking part in several volunteer programs related to biology subjects, she was later inspired to study biology with an emphasis on tropical ecology and sustainable development. By 2010, Adriana obtained a bachelor’s degree at Universidad Latina de Costa Rica.

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