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
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.