We swung quietly at anchor all night off the island of Fernandina, and in the wee hours Captain Teran ordered the engineers to start our engines. We navigated a short distance across the Bolivar Channel to the coast of Isabela. The sun rose in a cloudless sky and we knew it was going to be a hot walk on shore this morning! After breakfast we disembarked on a small black sand beach below the slopes of Volcan Alcedo.
This morning’s hike was unusual in that we walked on a section of the coast that, until the early 1950’s, had been sea floor! There was a sudden uplift along this shoreline which was recorded by the Walt Disney film crew in 1954. We found coral heads—high and dry and slowly deteriorating since the 50’s—and encrustations of marine organisms on the lava rocks that were once under the waves. Everyone enjoyed the hikes and we all had great looks at bright yellow land iguanas and a couple of small giant tortoises. I was surprised to find these giant reptiles here along the coast this morning! During the dry season most of them migrate to the cooler, damp highlands up the volcano’s slopes. Hundreds of thousands of these emblematic reptiles were taken from the islands by sailors in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. They were used for food by the whalers and sealers, and for zoo and scientific collections. Needless to say, we took many photographs of the two or three individuals that we found!
Back at the black sand beach after the walk, some of us went for a refreshing swim, and we weren’t the only ones in the water this morning. We saw sea lions, sea turtles, flightless cormorants, and a large spotted eagle ray! Many of us also enjoyed relaxing on the beach while others chose to return to the cool of the air conditioned ship. Later, while we had a hearty lunch and a well-deserved siesta, the ship moved north. We anchored in the steep walled Tagus Cove for the afternoon’s activities.
Two groups of guests donned their wetsuits and loaded the Zodiacs to go snorkeling with Juan Carlos and I. Sofia and our panguero Horacio took a group kayaking. Both kayakers and snorkelers enjoyed seeing penguins, cormorants, and sea turtles. The conditions were fabulous for both of these water activities!
Later we had a choice between kayaking, hiking, or a Zodiac ride. Sofia took a small select group of kayakers who paddled around the entire cove! Aura set off at a fast pace (per request of some of her group) and I, at a slightly slower pace, and we took our guests up the tuff cone trail where we had a fantastic down and across the Darwin Crater Lake to where the National Geographic Islander was anchored in Tagus Cove. Juan Carlos and our video chronicler Patrick had a full very Zodiac on their cruise along the shoreline. But it was a marvelous outing with feeding frenzy of sea birds, and many cormorants, penguins, and sea turtles along the way.
We were all back on board soon after the sunset blushed pink in the west beyond Fernandina Island. Soon we had our anchor up and we headed north out of Tagus Cove. During the night’s navigation we will cross the equator line twice and then head east to the central islands.