We woke up to National Geographic Endeavour II navigating along the coast of Isabela Island, the largest of them all. Large volcanoes were visible in the distance, and storm petrels soared around the ship.
We soon dropped anchor off the coast of Fernandina Island. Punta Espinoza is the only visitor site on this island. As soon as we landed, hundreds of marine iguanas welcomed us. These reptiles have black scales to help them track the heat faster. They are the only sea-going iguanas in the whole planet. We spotted a couple of Galapagos flightless cormorants as they performed a courtship ritual. One offered a piece of brown algae to the other as a present, and both immersed in a swanlike performance.
Punta Espinoza is like no other place on earth. Pioneer lava cacti grow on black lava fields, hundreds of marine iguanas bask under the sun, and primary succession is taking over the territory. We came to this site in the middle of the female marine iguana’s laying season. We observed several females digging up the sand to lay their eggs before leaving; this reptilian species offers no parental care for hatchlings.
After an extraordinary walk, we went deep water snorkeling along the coast of Fernandina. While underwater, we spotted several Pacific green sea turtles, marine iguanas feeding underwater, and a couple of very playful sea lions. We even observed three Galapagos penguins as they swim close to us.
During our afternoon expedition, National Geographic Endeavour II repositioned off the coast of Isabela Island for a Zodiac ride along the coast of a visitor site known as Punta Vicente Roca. From our Zodiac, we spotted about six Galapagos penguins perched on a rock. This is the northernmost penguin in the world and the only one found in their natural habitat over the equator. Along the coast, we saw a small colony of Galapagos fur seals, which are really sea lions, and several blue-footed boobies resting on ledges of tuff cones.
After an incredible Zodiac ride, we came back on board to celebrate crossing the equator with a glass of champagne in hand and some great appetizers. We could not have a better day than today! What an amazing day in the Galapagos!