San Cristobal Island

Jul 27, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


After navigating from Santa Cruz, the youngest island of the archipelago, we headed east to visit San Cristobal, the political capital of the Galapagos province.

Early in the morning National Geographic Islander dropped anchor in front of Punta Pitt; the volcanic scenery was spectacular, with gigantic elevations and seabirds such as red-footed boobies and frigates gliding in the air. After breakfast we headed to a landing beach where the black bodies of sea lions laying peacefully contrasted with the turquois water. Walking further inland the trail was wet with the morning’s soft mist, but this weather was perfect to start a hike. In the distance, we observed many frigate birds nesting in trees along the cliffs and others chasing incoming boobies to steal their food. The unmistakable desperate noise from birds trying to escape the well-known “pirates of the air” was clearly heard.

We continued our trail and observed many new endemic species of plants such as the Galapagos clubleaf, muyuyu trees, and grey matplants. Approaching the cliffs, the best attraction was waiting for us. Nesting red-footed boobies were found perched on bushes and trees, caring for their chicks or eggs. Their brown or white plumage, and their blue bills and fluffy chicks were a point of delight for many guests. At a distance near the ocean, Nazca boobies nested on the ground or flat rocks leaving their white guano everywhere. Once we arrived at the top of the hill, the view was spectacular! The vertical cliffs and the lack of beaches was the pattern along the east face of Punta Pitt. The lack of sandy terrain is the reason that marine iguanas had to go inland to nest, where the soft soil is used instead. Here we saw many empty burrows, and marine iguanas with their dusty bodies digging new holes to lay their eggs.

In the afternoon we sailed west to Cerro Brujo and rode our Zodiacs along the tall cliffs. We arrived on a landing beach to observe sea lions resting on the soft sand and spotted the endemic San Cristobal mockingbird in nearby bushes. We close our day with a beautiful sunset, 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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