Though at first glance, each island within Channel Islands National Park seems similar in landscape, a closer look quickly reveals that each is home to its own uniquely powerful story of human history and ecological conservation. We continued our exploration of the stories of this archipelago today with visits to the precipitous cliff faces of Anacapa and the caverns and sea caves of Santa Cruz.

The morning marine layer gave way to reveal the easternmost in the island chain and our first destination for the day: Anacapa. This the only island whose name is derived from the native Chumash language and loosely means “mirage,” alluding to the dreamlike coastline that we explored on Zodiac cruises and ridgeline hikes. Close encounters with hundreds of California sea lions and thousands of brown pelicans along the cliff faces quickly made it apparent that the story of Anacapa is restoration. Because successful conservation initiatives by the National Parks Service and the implementation of the country’s largest network of Marine Protected Areas, both species have healthy populations here after years of battles with chemical pollution and overfishing.

On our way to Santa Cruz Island, our next destination, we were greeted by pods of common dolphins as they rode the pressure wave created by the bow of the ship. Once at the island, we landed and began to explore in search of the stories of the largest of this island chain. Here, endemism was a major theme, with exciting encounters with the Santa Cruz Island fox and scrub jay, both of which can be found nowhere else in the world. The native culture of the Chumash people also recurred as we hike along the ridgelines and marshes, through the dense native vegetation that allowed the people to live and thrive here for over 13,000 years.