We woke up early to go on a pre-breakfast outing. Some of us went on a photography excursion, where we learned about our phones and camera settings in the field. Some of us went kayaking along the shores of Chinese Hat Islet and Santiago Island.
After breakfast, we went on a Zodiac cruise along the calm bay of Chinese Hat and Santiago Island. We were lucky to spot five Galapagos penguins. Some of them fished while others sat on the rocky shore. These are the northernmost penguins on the planet, and their population is small within the Galapagos. During the Zodiac cruise, we also spotted a couple blue-footed boobies and brown pelicans. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to snorkel along the coast of Santiago. While snorkeling, we spotted a couple whitetip reef sharks, two Pacific green sea turtles, Galapagos sea lions, and a large variety of fish. Right before we went back to our Zodiacs, we spotted several Galapagos penguins in the water that swam with us. Some of them were quite curious and pecked at our masks.
After lunch, we went ashore to explore the black lava fields of Santiago. After a dry landing, we explored a barren terrain. Pioneer species are just establishing themselves, and not much erosion has happened on the young basaltic eruption from 1897. We traveled back in time to learn about the Galapagos Islands before erosion and primary succession took place in the archipelago. Santiago is one of the largest islands in the enchanted archipelago, and several conservation projects have taken place on this island. The National Park Service eradicated about eighty thousand goats on Santiago, and now the island is going through a “re-wilding” process.