On the first full day of our expedition, we visited Bartolome Island in the morning. It was a typical September morning, right in the middle of the dry, cool season, and the air was mild and breezy. Considered a jewel in the crown of the Galapagos Islands, Bartolome is small but due to its youth, it is like a field guide of geological features and is also dotted with small craters and cones. Bartolome is also home to a small colony of endemic Galapagos penguins, which find little lava tubes and caves along its shores where they can safely nest. In the afternoon we reached the northern coast of Santa Cruz, and visited a place called Cerro Dragón or Dragon Hill. This area is protected by the National Park Directorate for the remaining population of endemic land iguanas, as they have disappeared from the rest of Santa Cruz. We hiked through the arid zone of the lower slopes of the island, where the dominant trees were prickly pear, candelabra cacti, and palo santos, the fragrant incense trees.
National Geographic Islander
We all woke up today inspired and eager to enjoy our first full day in our expedition around the magical Galapagos Islands. Just after our home away from home, the National Geographic Islander, dropped anchor in the narrow channel between Baltra Island and North Seymour Island, we went ashore. Early in the morning, we visited North Seymour Island. An exhilarating explosion of wildlife enriched our souls and minds. We walked surrounded by the fantastic ecologically naïve Galapagos wildlife. We observed many active frigate birds taking care of their juveniles, and several male frigate birds were trying to attract passing by females with their red, rather comical full-blown gular sacks. We also saw swallow-tailed gulls, Galapagos land iguanas, and Galapagos sea lions. In the afternoon, we visited Rábida Island, disembarking on a red sand beach that looks surreal. We had a successful first exploration of the underwater world of the Galapagos. We spotted huge schools of fish, Galapagos sea lions, green sea turtles, and white-tipped reef sharks. Later, we went back to shore for strolling along the red beach surrounded by turquoise waters. At the end of this wonderful day, we felt not only happiness in our hearts and minds, but we felt grateful as well to have the privilege to explore one of the ultimate paradises on Earth, the enchanted Galapagos Islands.