Today is giant tortoise day! We anchor in the northern part of Santa Cruz and start our day with a short Zodiac drive to the turquoise waters of Itabaca Channel. We drive up to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, leaving behind the coastal zone vegetation and passing through dry forest before immersing ourselves in the humid zone, where everything is green. We stop at Los Gemelos, two volcanic craters surrounded by a scalesia forest. In this magical area we spot a variety of endemic birds and plants while learning about the geology of the island. Finally, we arrive in the luxuriant green highlands of Santa Cruz where we spot countless Galapagos tortoises. We spend all morning walking around these giants while we learn about their history, biology, and behavior as they roam peacefully in their natural habitat. These enormous creatures are truly fascinating to observe, which some of us did while sitting under a tree, painting, taking pictures, or chilling in a hammock. The giant tortoises are everywhere, and we spot dozens of them from the restaurant where we have lunch. On our way back, a flock of blue-footed boobies flies overhead, making us feel we are inside a nature documentary! We cap off this amazing day with a sunset walk on the beach before returning to the National Geographic Endeavour II.
National Geographic Endeavour II
Early in the morning, we came ashore to explore Bartolome Island, one of the most iconic places in the Galapagos. In the afternoon, we visited Chinese Hat, a very old scoria crater located at the foot of Santiago, not far from Bartolome Island. Our intrepid guests onboard National Geographic Endeavour II explored the terrestrial and marine worlds of Bartolome and Sombrero Chino. Our day began with an invigorating early morning hike to the summit of Bartolome. We climbed 376 steps to enjoy a breathtaking view from different angles. It was well worth the effort to get to the top! During the Zodiac ride to the disembarkation site, we observed a few seabirds hunting over the ocean, including boobies, pelicans, and noddy terns. Bartolome Island offers a diversity of geological formations, including volcanic ash and a plethora of spatter cones. Guests learned about some of the pioneer plants of the Galapagos, including the endemic lava cactus. Afterward, they explored the marine world surrounding Bartolome, coming face to face with whitetip reef sharks, penguins, rays, and a variety of tropical fish. In the afternoon, guests snorkeled around the coastline of the peculiarly shaped islet, Sombrero Chino. They swam with Galapagos penguins, tropical fish, and reef sharks. We concluded the day’s activities with a peaceful Zodiac ride along Sombrero Chino as we discussed the geology of the Galapagos and the unique wildlife found in the area. Photographers: Christian Saa and Walter Perez