Floreana Island

Sep 24, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


Floreana is full of interesting history. It was regularly visited by pirates and buccaneers, and was a main destination for whalers from many countries around the world. In 1792 James Colnett, a whaler, set a barrel on the island most likely to use as a mailing system. Apparently, this was the very first postal system in the all the Americas! Floreana was the first island ever colonized in the Galapagos Archipelago. According to David Porter from the famous USS Essex (the same vessel from Melville’s Moby Dick), in 1807 Patrick Watkins was marooned by his crew and left on Floreana with some domestic animals for several years. Floreana was also infamous for the occurrence of mysterious murders and tragedies, especially during the 1930s. The most well-known story of an Austrian Baroness, Eloise Von Wagner, who came to live on Floreana with three men from Europe and was found dead a few years later.

By 6:30 a.m. we were already headed onto dry land for a short hike through a greenish-brown sandy beach. The sand here contains olivine crystals and are considered semi-precious stones. We visited a brackish water lagoon with greater flamingos and saw pintail ducks and others migratory birds usually in their company. The trail ended at a white coralline sandy beach where green sea turtles nest through the year and diamond stingrays are concentrate by the dozens along the shore under the breaking waves. We also saw Sally Lightfoot crabs contrasting with the dark lava.

Breakfast started at 8:00 a.m. and while enjoying it, we started our navigation toward the small Island of Champion.

We rode our Zodiac in search of interesting wildlife. We encountered sea lions, bobbies, swallow-tailed gulls, brown noddies, red-billed tropic birds and even the elusive Chatham mockingbird, which became extinct on the main island due to predation. We then had an amazing snorkeling session. We observed parrot fish, king angel fish, surgeons, sharks, sea stars and others. What we enjoyed the most, however, was swimming with sea lions throughout our snorkeling session.

In the afternoon, we visited Post Office Bay. In the tradition of visitors past, we wrote postcards and placed them in the barrel, then took postcards to hand deliver, as was done during the whaling era. This activity was followed by a kayaking and paddelboarding session around the area. As we explored the shoreline, we found sea lions, birds, turtles, rays, fish and an amazing landscape.

As the sky started to turn orange and red, indicating the coming sunset, we returned to National Geographic Islander and enjoyed our view from the sky deck.

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About the Author

Lenin Villacis

Naturalist

Lenin was born in the capital city of Quito, where he grew up surrounded by the mountains and volcanoes of the Andean region of Ecuador. At age 17, he received a scholarship to study in Mexico, and a few years later traveled to the U.S. and finished college with a degree in Earth sciences. In 1994 he returned to Ecuador to undergo a training course to become a naturalist guide for his incredibly rich and biodiverse home country, and started working in the Amazon rain forest of Ecuador. 

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