Isabela and Fernandina Islands

Dec 10, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


We cruised on smooth seas during the night and at daybreak were north of Isabela Island, having crossed the equator in the wee hours. For 45 minutes we search the tranquil seas for birds and marine mammals until finally naturalist Christian spotted a huge pod of common dolphins feeding west of us. First mate Patricio maneuvered the ship slowly alongside them and we watched as they leapt and dove; there were 300-400 hundred of them!

One of our guests spied the black backs of small whales beyond the dolphins, and I quickly identified them as short-finned pilot whales. We followed the pod of at least 20 pilots as they calmly surfaced and dove first in front and them just beside the ship. The mate turned off our engines and as we floated with the whales. We were delighted to hear them blow and to get many striking photos!

After breakfast we crossed the equator line and received shellback pins, then Captain Carlos anchored off Punta Vicente Roca, northern Isabela. Here we took Zodiac cruises along the dramatic coast and found sea turtles, sea lions and fur seals, diving blue-footed boobies and many other sea birds. We had an amazing snorkel outing in the bay full of plankton and turtles, schools of colorful fish and some of us even saw penguins and flightless cormorants!

Our afternoon hike on the youngest island in the archipelago – Fernandina – was spectacular. We walked on pahoehoe lava among hundreds of resting marine iguanas, and admired and photographed the ubiquitous and charming sea lions. We saw oystercatchers, an adult, chocolate colored hawk, a great blue heron, mating crabs and flightless cormorants. We have had another absolutely incredible day in the magical Islas Galapagos!

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About the Author

Lynn Fowler

Expedition Leader

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of seven children, Lynn grew up in various university towns where her father was a professor of physics. Lynn obtained her B.A. in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, followed by a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Florida, which encompassed a study of marine turtles in Costa Rica. She arrived in Galápagos in 1978 and became one of the first female naturalist guides working for the Galápagos National Park.

About the Photographer

Christian Saa

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Christian was born on the island of Isabela in the Galápagos archipelago. He grew up on a farm and had a magical childhood devoid of cars, electricity, telephones—just pure nature and playful sea lions along the beach. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to Santa Cruz Island, the economic hub of the Galápagos Islands. His father began to work in tourism and took Christian around the islands during school vacations. It was during this time that Christian learned to love and understand the real value of this unique archipelago, and he decided to devote his life to its stewardship. A lifelong passion for nature and its creatures took root in his heart, and he eventually decided to become a naturalist, which he has now been doing for 18 years now.

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