It is the beginning of our expedition aboard National Geographic Islander II, and today we visited two central islands, Plaza and Santa Fe. These two islands offered us land iguanas and one of the largest colonies of sea lions in the archipelago. We all got the chance to explore the islands by land and sea, and we enjoyed amazing encounters with the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.
National Geographic Islander II
A small group of us got up extra early. By 6:45 a.m., the kayaks were loaded and in the water. We followed along the base of the cliffs on the inside of Darwin Bay. The cliffs continued underwater for a few hundred more feet! Perched on ledges above us were great frigatebirds, magnificent frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, yellow-crowned night herons, Galapagos mockingbirds, and Darwin finches. Red-billed tropicbirds flew overhead, though their screeching hadn’t yet started. The rest of the day was a bonanza of wildlife: fur seals, chicks, nest-building, twig thievery, squawks, clucks, and whistles. A sea lion on the beach provided the perfect model for Christmas card photos. He posed with his nose pointed skyward, occasionally leaning for a scratch as he sat upright on his front flippers. The snorkel was fabulous. We observed parrotfish and damselfish, and the juvenile giant damselfish awed everyone with its sapphire spots. We spotted guineafowl puffers and Moorish idols with their filamentous trailing dorsal fins and long pointed noses. The afternoon was equally impressive with a hike up Prince Philip’s Steps. We observed a colony of Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies courting in the trees, and screaming tropicbirds. We spotted short-eared owls on the trail as Galapagos doves wandered nearby, nonchalant in their foraging and unaware that a major predator was nearby. Genovesa…there is truly no island like it on earth.