Santa Cruz Island, 3/13/2023, National Geographic Islander II
National Geographic Islander II
Today was our first full day of activities on Santa Cruz, the geographical center of the Galapagos. Santa Cruz is also the economic capital of the archipelago with a population of about 18,000 people. The island’s principal activity is tourism.
The headquarters of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station are found on Santa Cruz. Both the park and the research station are involved in the conservation of these fragile ecosystems. By bus, we headed into the highlands to visit a local farm that produces artisanal coffee and moonshine. After that, we stopped at Los Gemelos and observed the two sinkholes and the endemic giant daisies. The highlights of our visit were the giant tortoises that live on the island and at the breeding center in town.
Patricio, better known as Pato amongst his friends, was born in the Galápagos Island. His family moved to the islands from the mainland and settled on the island of Santa Cruz over thirty-five years ago. Pato had an enchanted childhood in the islands...
Santiago Island played an important role in the history of the Galápagos Islands, as it was one of the first islands visited by Charles Darwin during his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1835. The island is protected as part of the Galápagos National Park, which was established in 1959 to preserve the unique biodiversity of the islands. We woke up anchored at Buccaneer Cove. Also known as Caleta Bucanero, Buccaneer Cove is located on the northeastern coast of Santiago Island. It was named after the pirates who used to anchor their ships in the cove during the 18th and 19th centuries. The cove is known for its impressive rock formations, which were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. Our guests had the opportunity to do a pre-breakfast kayak outing to witness not only the amazing scenery but also a variety of wildlife, including sea lions, marine iguanas, and various species of birds. After a delicious breakfast, we got ready for water activities. Guests enjoyed snorkeling, kayaking, and tours in the glass-bottom boat for those who didn’t feel comfortable in the ocean. These tours are referred to as dry snorkeling. After activities and talks on board, we navigated to a different destination on the island. Puerto Egas, also known as James Bay, is located on the western coast of Santiago Island. It is known for its black sand beach and its unique geological formations, which were created by lava flows. Some of our guests decided to stay on the beach and enjoy their last snorkel of the expedition. Others went for a great walk along the coastline. They explored the island’s natural beauty and observed the wildlife, including sea lions, iguanas, finches, and a variety of bird species. What a fantastic last day we had, and what a great way of ending this wonderful expedition.
In the western part of the Galapagos, two special and unique islands are found. Isabela and Fernandina are the youngest islands in the archipelago, and both are still considered active. In the morning, we explored the coastline of Isabela at Punta Vicente Roca. In addition to the stunning landscape and its interesting geological features, lots of wildlife can be found here. Guests can observe seabirds like blue-footed boobies, brown noddies, Nazca boobies, pelicans, and more. Abundant sea turtles inhabit the area, and we got to see many of them. Flightless cormorants gave us a little show while they displayed courtship behaviors in the water. Snorkeling is amazing here, and a curious Galapagos penguin approached our guests. Our afternoon visit took us to one of the most pristine areas in the Galapagos. Sea lions, marine iguanas, cormorants, snakes, pelicans, and Galapagos hawks were the main attractions. It was an unforgettable day that ended with a wine tasting. We observed an amazing Galapagos sunset while enjoying a glass of wine on the observation deck.
During our second full day aboard National Geographic Islander II , we explored North Seymour Island. In the morning, we went on a hike to observe and photograph blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigatebirds, as well as Galapagos land iguanas. In the afternoon, guests had the chance to snorkel and hike on Rabida Island. Known for its diverse range of wildlife and natural scenery, North Seymour is located just north of Baltra, the airport island. One of the morning’s highlights was observing Galapagos land iguanas basking on rocks to absorb heat and regulate their body temperature. It was fascinating to watch them move slowly, using their powerful legs and sharp claws to climb the rocky terrain. Galapagos land iguanas are herbivores, and we observed them feeding on cactus pads and other vegetation. Rabida Island is a small volcanic island located in the central part of the archipelago. One of the most fascinating species we encountered was the endemic Galápagos sea lion. A key part of the ecosystem, they help regulate the populations of fish and other marine species. While strolling along the red sandy shore, our guests observed a good number of sea lions resting on the beach.