“Nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance. A broken field of black basaltic lava…even the bushes smelled unpleasantly.” – Charles Darwin

While Darwin’s first impression of the Enchanted Islands might have been a little less than flattering, Fernandina Island welcomed us to its broken fields this morning. Our shoes met with a slippery shoreline of black, lifeless lava flows. Bursting with life and home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Fernandina is one of the youngest islands in the archipelago. Marine iguanas defined the landscape; their abundance was awe-inspiring.

Some iguanas rode the waves to shore. Others scaled impossible cliffs. Many laid basking in the sun, while finches plucked parasites off their backs.

A few of us had the chance to witness large males battle one another; their mouths dripped with crimson blood as their heads rammed into one another.

Meanwhile, we enjoyed spectacular views of sea lions splashing off the shoreline, flightless cormorants drying their wings, sea turtles sunbathing on rocks and even a Galapagos hawk scanning the horizon for its next meal. On the sandy beaches, our naturalists interpreted the skeletons of those who met their demise on the island. We returned to National Geographic Endeavour II for our afternoon’s adventure.

Some guests took an early afternoon plunge into the cool waters. Snorkelers were treated to a wonderful show of sea turtles riding the surf close to shore.

After high noon, we embarked on a Zodiac ride in an area called Punta Vicente Roca. To our great fortune, we saw many penguins and flightless cormorants bouncing through the water as our captains kept us close to the shore of one remarkable shield volcano.

Onboard the observation deck of National Geographic Endeavour II, we marveled at the geology of the Galapagos while thinking about what it must have been like for those who first explored these waters a few hundred years ago.

The sun fell quietly behind Fernandina and Isabela Islands as we crossed over the line of the equator. As the day wound to a close, the crew took our ship farther southbound for the next day’s expedition. What an amazing opportunity to visit Santiago Island, and I can say it was another day in paradise!