Santiago Island, 4/21/2023, National Geographic Islander II
National Geographic Islander II
Sombrero Chino is a tiny islet located off the southeast of Santiago Island. The shape of the islet resembles a Chinese hat. During the Zodiac tour along the black lava coast, our guests spotted amazing Galapagos penguins looking for fish as they swam in the blue water. Later, guests came across whitetip reef sharks while snorkeling.
In the afternoon, Sullivan Bay at Santiago Island was waiting for us. This site features a recent lava flow that is the result of a volcanic eruption that took place around 1890. A long walk on the lava field offered us a great opportunity to learn certain geological concepts that are unique to this wonderful site.
María, who goes by her middle name Paulina, was born and raised far from the sea in the Andean city of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. She came to the Galápagos Archipelago for the first time on holiday when she was nine years old, and was smitten. Sh...
Today we woke up at Genovesa Island, a small island also known as Tower Island located on the northeastern side of the Galápagos. Genovesa is a protected area and access is restricted to authorized tour operators. The island’s unique birdlife and geology make it a popular destination for ecotourism, and efforts are being made to protect the island’s fragile ecosystem from the impact of visitors. Genovesa Island is a relatively young island in geological terms, having formed less than one million years ago. The island is the remnant of a volcanic caldera, which collapsed and created a horseshoe-shaped bay. The island’s terrain is characterized by steep cliffs, rocky outcrops, and sandy beaches. It is popular due to its unique birdlife, geology, and human history. We started our day visiting Prince Phillip’s Steps, where we encountered two kinds of boobies, Nazca and red-footed. The island is home to the largest population of red-footed boobies in the Galápagos. These birds are known for their bright red feet, which are used to attract mates during the breeding season. Nazca boobies, on the other hand, are known for their distinctive white plumage and black masks. In addition to the boobies, Genovesa is also home to the swallow-tailed gull, lava gull, storm petrel, and the red-billed tropicbird. The island’s unique ecosystem and lack of predators has allowed these birds to thrive and adapt in unique ways. As a fitting finale to the expedition, we also snorkeled with sea lions, kayaked in the caldera, swam at the beach, and enjoyed a sunset cocktail. A wonderful day!
This morning we started our activities with a pre-breakfast kayaking outing to explore the incredible landscape and wildlife at Chinese Hat Islet. After breakfast we took our guests for a Zodiac ride where we spotted Galapagos penguins. This species is unique to the Galapagos archipelago and the only one in the world to live north of the Equator. Afterward we enjoyed one of the best snorkeling sites in the islands, where we encountered plenty of fish and even several penguins. The afternoon offered a relaxing time at Sullivan Bay’s little beach, or a slow-paced snorkel with sea lions in the area. That wasn’t all. Later in the afternoon, we put on hiking shoes to explore Sullivan Bay’s young pahoehoe lava field. What a day!
On our first
full day of the expedition, we explored South Plaza and Santa Fe islands.
During the morning we hiked on South Plaza Island and for the afternoon, we
snorkeled and hiked at Santa Fe Island. South Plaza
Island is home to several iconic species of Galapagos fauna, including
Galapagos land iguanas, swallowed-tailed gulls, and Galapagos sea lions. One of
the most prominent species we encountered on the island was the Galapagos land iguana.
These reptiles are endemic to the Galapagos Islands and during the dry season
primarily feed on cactus pads and prickly pears. At this time of the year, the
island is green and the Galapagos land iguanas feed on yellow flowers. We also
observed them basking in the sun to regulate their body temperature, a common
behavior among reptiles. Another species we encountered on the island was the swallowed-tailed
gull. These birds are easily recognizable by their long forked tail, the red-ringed
eye, and striking black and white plumage. They are seabirds that breed on the
rocky cliffs of South Plaza Island, and we saw them in large numbers perched on
the cliffs and soaring overhead. Although small, Santa
Fe Island is home to a wealth of unique and fascinating wildlife, including the
Santa Fe land iguana, the Galapagos hawk, and Galapagos sea lion. After landing,
we had the pleasure of encountering Galapagos sea lions on the sandy beach.
These charismatic mammals are known for their friendly and curious behavior. We
saw them lounging on the beach and rocks, vocalizing with each other, and
occasionally approaching us to investigate. We also observed a group of sea
lion pups playing and frolicking in the water, displaying their agility and
acrobatic skills. Overall, our excursion
to South Plaza and Santa Fe islands was an unforgettable experience. The
opportunity to see these rare and beautiful creatures in their natural habitat
was truly a privilege. It also highlighted the importance of conservation
efforts to protect the unique and fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands.