Espanola Island

Sep 22, 2019 - National Geographic Endeavour II


First day! Amazing start! The morning started with the typical cool season weather for Galapagos—inversion layer hanging over us, muted sunrise, dry-looking island to starboard, even dryer-looking islet to our port side.

But my-oh-my...after breakfast we set out first towards the little islet known as Gardner Islet off Espanola (because there's another next door, off Floreana). Deep-water snorkelers had already heard about how the logistics work here on National Geographic Endeavour II, so when we arrived a few minutes later, our experienced snorkelers got ready in no-time, and into the 68-degree ocean water we went! The first comment I received was "There's nothing here," to which I shouted, "Get closer to the rocks!" And sure enough, there it all was. If you are accustomed to snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef – then yes, Galapagos is different. Rocky reefs instead of coral reefs. But there were the coral hawkfish, giant hawkfish, damselfish, creolefish, groupers, angelfish, and the variety of sea stars and urchins – fabulous!

On the beach later, everyone was captivated by the sea lions. They were resting, sleeping, fidgeting, waving off flies, sneezing. Doing all that mammals do on a regular basis, yet here we were two meters away, as interesting as a rock to them. Accepted, ignored...it was strangely wonderful to be in their world.

The afternoon was another world entirely. Punta Suarez is renowned for the sea bird colonies that inhabit the area: waved albatross, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, as well as land birds to include Darwin finches of the small-beaked ground, warbler finches, and Espanola ground-type. All seen, accordingly documented on our list.

Espanola marine iguanas, Espanola mockingbirds, Espanola ground finch; it tells you something...that this island is special. Isolated, unique, hard-to-colonize, founder effect: genetic drift. All has had significant impact on the resident wildlife here; all exhibit the results in their unique genetic makeup and morphological differences.

What a place!

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About the Author

Cindy Manning

Expedition Leader

Born in Lima, Peru, of North American parents, Cindy and her family subsequently lived in several South American and European countries with a couple stops in Peoria, Illinois. Cindy received a degree in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Afterwards, Cindy spent a year and a half teaching science in the Western Province of Kenya, East Africa. 

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