On our first morning of this Wild California Escape, National Geographic Quest ventured to two of the four northernmost Channel Islands. Acquired by the National Park Service in the mid-1980s, the Channel Islands provide a window for us. Through it, we can see what the coast of California may have looked like before European colonization. The first island, Anacapa, does not have many places to land, so we took to the sea in a fleet of Zodiacs. Cruising along the coastline, we kept an eye out for marine mammals. Thousands of nesting pelicans, cormorants, and gulls dove into the plentiful sea around us.

As we enjoyed a delicious lunch, National Geographic Quest sailed west to an anchorage in Prisoner’s Harbor off Santa Cruz Island. Here, we got our first glimpses of some of the endemic species found on these islands. These sightings included the Santa Cruz Island scrub jay, which lives only on this island!