Located approximately 20 miles off the coast of southern California, Catalina Island boasts stunning hiking, unique wildlife, a rich history, and a 20-year waiting list to own a car. Not to worry: golf carts are allowed on the roads! As National Geographic Venture’s Captain and crew sought the best Zodiac access point, our morning featured a visit from Hillary, ranger with the Catalina Island Conservancy which stewards over 88% of these lands through resource protection, education, and recreation.

Never connected to mainland California in its geologic past, Catalina originally lacked all terrestrial life. Once soils started to form, plants and animals arrived at the island by chance, carried on the wind, drifting across the ocean, or flying. Native American residents, European explorers, and more recent inhabitants have also introduced species from afar. Catalina Island is home to at least 50 endemic species, those that occur naturally in this location yet live nowhere else in the world! Human activities and livestock grazing have, over decades, greatly impacted island vegetation, environments, and fauna. However, the exemplary, diligent efforts of the Conservancy in partnership with the Institute for Wildlife Studies has resulted in successful population recoveries for both the Catalina Island fox and local bald eagles.

This inaugural voyage on National Geographic Venture explored the California coast and experienced the dynamic ocean conditions of regional reputation. We’ve enjoyed discovering stories of history, geology, wines, culture, marine science, and conservation together.