Exploring the Galapagos and Española Island

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This is the second in a series of articles on Rick Shively’s recent trip to the Galapagos with Lindblad ExpeditionsRead his first entry in this series at recommend.com

Sunday morning marked the beginning of the first full day of our Lindblad Expeditions’ Galapagos explorations, waking up to the sight of Española Island where the National Geographic Endeavour anchored off of Gardner Bay with its dazzling white sandy beach, populated by sea lions romping in the surf or sunning and dozing on the beach.

 

 

A hearty buffet breakfast that kicked off at 6:30 in the morning, was followed by a snorkeling and kayak briefing at 7:30 before the Zodiacs started making their rounds to the beach or to the glass bottom boat for non-snorkelers. The Zodiacs run back and forth from the beach all morning, dropping off and picking passengers as they come and go from the activities on the island, everyone eager to take advantage of the beautiful day under clear, blue skies.

It’s interesting to note that this was one of four islands Charles Darwin visited on his 5-week visit to the Galapagos in 1835 that resulted in his famous theory of evolution and it’s clear, with the abundance of wildlife and marine life we’ll experience over the next week, why he had the opportunity to formulate his controversial views on evolution.

After a buffet lunch, we visit still another part of the island where we make a dry landing at Punta Suarez, reputed to be one of the richest wildlife locations in the Galapagos and it does not disappoint. You no sooner arrive before you’re surrounded by sea lions and seabirds, all seemingly being studied by a virtual army of colorful marine iguanas, crawling over the rocks and posing for the cameras.

Punta Suarez is also the habitat for colorful Española lava lizards, masked boobies and blue-footed boobies. Among the many birds found here are the Galapagos dove, the Galapagos hawk, the warbler finch, the hood mockingbird, the large-cactus finch, the large-billed flycatcher and the small-ground finch. Aside from the gorgeous waved albatross, other sea birds seen here include the swallow-tailed gull, red-billed tropicbirds, Audubon’s shearwaters and American oystercatchers.

We head off on an afternoon trek, hopping over boulders and rocks, remnants of the volcano activity here from thousands of years ago, hiking from the beach and up to the edge of a cliff where you can watch a fascinating air show as shallow-tailed gulls and the majestic albatross swoop and glide across the skies. Here, too, are the beautiful blue-footed and nazca boobies, nestled along the rocky shoreline and swooping into the sky.

The island itself is a mesmerizing example of Mother Nature’s artisanship with sculpted cliffs and rocky inlets accessed by grotto-like openings into and around the edge of the islands. Everywhere you look, you’ll see hawks, seabirds and sea lions perched comfortably along the cliff walls, watching the human interlopers as we glide by in Zodiacs, snapping photographs so as not forget the raw beauty of this place.

One of the things that makes traveling to the Galapagos with Lindblad Expeditions such a rich experience is the in-depth attention and tutoring by the naturalists aboard the ship, which makes this very special cruise come alive through their intimate knowledge of the islands’ environment. Each night after the day’s adventure, they go over what we experienced, along with a briefing on the next day’s program.

To see more about Rick’s travels in the Galapagos, view his photo essay at recommend.com, and watch for his next article in this series: Exploring Floreana and Santa Cruz Islands.