Isabela and Fernandina Islands

Mar 03, 2020 - National Geographic Islander


In the early morning we navigated to the north side of Isabela, the largest island of the Galapagos. With a nice warm breeze, typical of the season, and sunshine shedding light on the flanks of the volcanoes of Isabela island, we gathered on the observation deck with nice fresh brewed coffee in one hand and binoculars in the other. Suddenly we spotted a lot of splashing about a mile away from our course. Through the binoculars, we realized we had an enormous pod of common and bottlenose dolphins. Our captain redirected National Geographic Venture toward the pod, and soon we could see close to a thousand dolphins surrounding the ship! There were also lots of seabirds foraging, and minutes later, we had another momentous encounter - It was a pod of sperm whales.  I have not seen them in over 10 years; this morning they made my day, and definitely the rest of the year.

Later, we anchored at Punta Vicente Roca to do some snorkeling and Zodiac rides along the foot of the Ecuador volcano. The presence of wildlife in this spot is remarkable. There were manta rays, mobula rays, flightless cormorants, Galapagos fur seals, Galapagos sea lions, a hammerhead sharks and many other surprises.

All this excitement before lunch! In the afternoon, we anchored off Fernandina Island to explore the shore and lava fields. Fernandina is a dream for nature lovers as it’s home to the largest concentration of marine iguanas. We saw them by the thousands, together with red crabs and Galapagos sea lions. Various forms of endemic animals inhabit every inch of this island.

As the sun set, we watched playful sea lions enjoy the beach. A day like this does not happen often, and its truly a gift to humankind. Receiving this dose of nature reminds us why preservation is so important, not only for us, but for future generations.

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About the Author

Juan Carlos Avila

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Juan Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador. He spent part of his elementary schooling in the province of Cotopaxi, a beautiful area in the Ecuadorian Andes ringed by volcanoes. In 1989 his family moved to the Galápagos and settled in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in this archipelago. It was here that Juan Carlos finished high school and gained his deep love for nature.

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