Floreana Island

Jan 27, 2020 - National Geographic Endeavour II


Baptized in honor of the first Ecuadorian President General Juan Jose Flores, Floreana is by far the island with the richest human history in the Galapagos. It was in 1832 when President Flores decided to annex the archipelago to Ecuador, with Floreana being its first political capital. Afterward in 1835, Charles Darwin visited the island on board HMS Beagle, observing the endemic tortoises and mockingbirds, nowadays extinct to the island. Finally, in the early 1900s, Floreana became the most mysterious island in Galapagos, because of several strange disappearances that occurred there, especially the famous Baroness and Phillipson, whose bodies never were found.

We left behind Espanola Island, sailing west to reach Punta Cormorant to the north of Floreana. Early in the morning, we set foot on the greenish beach, colored by the remains of olivine, the green semi-precious mineral, abundant along this part of the island. Walking inland, we arrived at the lagoon behind the beach, where our guests observed some waders such as flamingos, black-necked stilts and whimbrels. Heading along the trail, we observed native and endemic deciduous vegetation, typical of the arid zone, to finally arrive to the second beach. This beach was made up of white organic sand, its components were living things such as coral and shells. On the beach we saw evidence of sea turtles laying their eggs the previous night, and many tracks had been left in both directions, to and from the sea. We were just crossing the last part of the beach when something caught our attention; a group of frigatebirds digging holes with their long bills. The incredible part of this is that they do that without touching the ground, just flying.

After breakfast National Geographic Endeavour II was repositioned to Champion Islet, where we started one of the most beautiful snorkeling trips of this week. The water was very clear and very calm, helping us to identify many species of tropical fish and varieties of invertebrates on the rocks. A group of juvenile sea lions swam with us the entire time and sometimes the more curious ones tried to touch our masks with their noses. From the water we saw a mockingbird chasing a small finch, a group of swallow-tailed gulls resting on small crevices, and red-billed tropic birds.

In the afternoon we landed at Post Office Bay, the same place that was used by whalers and buccaneers in the 16th and 17th centuries to send letters to their relatives. Nowadays we do the same. Our guests know that the old barrel was for many years the only way to get current news from the rest of the world. The Baroness and Dr. Ritter lived here and used the same barrel, and their control of it was one the reasons they had so many conflicts. The weather conditions were excellent, water was very clear, and some sea turtle tracks were seen from the Zodiac before landing. The landscape has not changed for many years, just the old pieces of metal behind the barrel looked rustier. Just before the sunset we came back on board; from the sky deck, we could see Pajas Hill, and I remembered the years I lived in this incredible island when I was a child.

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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.

About the Photographer

Jonathan Aguas

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Jonathan was born into one of only a handful of families that reaches back five generations in Galápagos, in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, on San Cristobal Island. He first left the islands when he won a highly-coveted scholarship to finish his studies in the U.S.  This was the start of his life-long passion for science and languages. He earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative biology from the University of Florida and later spent time in Europe, where he learned French. He is now fluent in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

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