Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos archipelago and one of the few places where it is possible to see giant tortoises in the wild. After landing, we boarded private buses to reach the highlands where they live. But first, we stopped in a cloud forest to examine the impressive geology of the Los Gemelos area. Several sink holes, or pit craters, are surrounded by many scalesia trees and other native vegetation. A short distance later, we entered giant tortoise territory. We saw so many of these iconic creatures that gave the Galapagos its name. Afterward, we headed to Las Bachas just a few miles away to enjoy the beautiful white sand beach where turtles lay their eggs. All day long, we were captivated by the beauty and wildlife of this very special place.
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.