Located in the center of the Galápagos archipelago, Santa Cruz is a very interesting island due to its size and elevation. The northern part of the island is in the rain shadow with a chronic shortage of precipitation, while its south-facing side retains the cloud cover pushed by the prevailing southeastern trade winds. Because of these unique climatic conditions, the south of the island is greener, while the northern part has an extended arid zone. Santa Cruz is also the home to a large population of endemic giant tortoises, mostly found in the lush, greener southern “hemisphere” of the island.
National Geographic Endeavour II
It is the end of the dry season, and the weather in the Galapagos is starting to change. Our first visit today was Dragon Hill, an area where we found land iguanas nesting. We started by exploring the rocky shore, which is also known as the intertidal zone. This is an area where we can find many invertebrates that shelter from big predators in the tidal pools. We observed marine iguanas going to the water for food. We continued to explore the inside of the island, and we found one spectacular surprise: a greater American flamingo foraging in a brackish water lagoon. This bird, like many other animals in the Galapagos, is fearless in our presence and allowed our groups to take pictures and enjoy its presence from a close distance. We finally arrived at the land iguanas’ nesting site. As the rain has not started yet, there is very little food for these herbivores. They are looking for leaves and climbing cacti to eat the very scarce greenery. After a refreshing snorkel in the nearby islets, we visited a second site for the afternoon. We anchored in Borrero Bay. We explored these shallow waters in kayaks, paddleboards, and Zodiacs while observing the interesting mangrove ecosystem. We found pelicans nesting, frigatebirds displaying, and even baby sharks swimming around the nursery. Our day ended with a circumnavigation of a small islet known as Daphne, where a group of scientists following Charles Darwin’s footsteps discovered how natural selection and evolution can take place in just a few generations. A beautiful sunset complemented our toast as we ended a great day.