Isabela and Fernandina Island

Dec 24, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


This is our second full day exploring through the Galapagos. We motored up to nine hours to navigate to the archipelago’s western zone, where the youngest islands and the most active volcanos stand atop the Nazca tectonic plate. These islands are less than a million years old, and the last eruptions have occurred here. Some of the richest waters of Galapagos are found here, where the largest amount of planktonic organisms congregate, as part of a very rich upwelling, produced by the Cromwell Current.

Early in the morning, we spend some time on the bridge of our ship looking for some cetaceans and sea birds. Then we celebrate the crossing of the equatorial line, and then, we took a Zodiac ride to explore Punta Vicente Roca, a magical place at the foot of Ecuador Volcano; from the distance, you can observe how the half of this volcano stand up, the other half collapsed with one of the last eruptions that split the caldera in two.

Along the shoreline of this impressive cliff, you can see many sea birds resting and nesting. One of them is the brown noddy tern; a good friend of pelicans. Once the latter plunge-dive and put their huge pouches in the water to scoop the fish, the terns sit on the pelican’s head waiting for any leftovers. Nazca boobies are one of the three types of these diving torpedo birds found in Galapagos, and one of the biggest in size. They love these walls to rest after fishing, and blue-footed boobies like their companion. The geology is another highlight in this magical place, you can see many lava dikes that breaks the tuff material, from down to up, and get above the sedimentary material.

Also here you find the two kind of sea lions living in Galapagos, the fur sea lions and the “regular sea lions.” The first descends from southern fur sea lions and the second from the northern California sea lion. After the Zodiac ride, we went to snorkel in this calm water bay. Here you can experience one of the most incredible spaces to snorkel in the world. Tons of reptiles like marine iguanas and sea turtles. Birds like penguins and cormorants, mammals like sea lions and fur sea lions, and many varieties of fish are part of the astonishing collection of creatures that you see here. Our guests were just amazed of the diversity of animals and enjoyed the experience.

In the afternoon, we moved to Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island, the youngest of the 17 in formation, and one of the pristine places on earth. Here, we enjoyed our walk through tons of marine iguanas basking on the black lave to get some energy. We enjoyed the juvenile sea lions playing in the pools of the intertidal zone, the cormorants drying their atrophied wings on the basaltic rocks, the bull sea lions protecting their territory, the lava lizards having a symbiotic relationship with iguanas and sea lions, and the hawks in search for their favorite prey. The place is unreal, full of wildlife, it seems like a little Jurassic Park in the middle of the ocean.

It is Christmas Eve! We are having a great time together, and tomorrow morning we are going to say Merry Christmas explorers!

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About the Author

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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