Today we have our first full day exploring the enchanted Galapagos archipelago. Our guests are excited to join in on all of the activities our expedition leader planned for them. Arriving early to explore the islands is a great advantage, the weather at its best, the wildlife active, and the perfect light to take great photographs.
We disembarked on South Plaza, one of the two small islands located at the foot of the northeast part of Santa Cruz. The first gift was the colony of Galapagos sea lions along the coast. They were very active with the pups playing and jumping out of the water, the alfa male barking loudly to warn the harem of any potential predators, and the female sea lions nursing the babies on the black basaltic lava. The scenario was very impressive, the warm light was incredible on the purple-reddish shrubs covering the islands, and the forest of opuntias with many land iguanas at their base waiting for any falling fruit upon which to feed. Galapagos offers astonishing views with amazing landscapes and fauna that is so close it gives you the impression you are part of the environment.
The highlight of the morning was the moment we found a couple of swallow-tailed gulls on their nest. Nearby was a baby gull asking for food, seeming very hungry, so, we waited for a few minutes and the “National Geographic moment” happened! The mother sea gull opened its beak to regurgitate a big piece of squid into the chick’s mouth. Wow! Just like in the documentaries.
After our morning exploration we returned to our ship to have breakfast and then another surprise occurred. This time it was a large pod of bottle nose dolphins that came so close to our ship. What a spectacular event!
Later some of our guests explored the shoreline on kayaks and then in the afternoon we went to visit Santa Fe Island to snorkel with green turtles, sharks, sting rays, eagle rays and a wide variety of multicolor reef fish. The special touch was the sea lions playing with our guests. Later we disembarked on a very tiny beach where a big colony of sea lions live. We walked farther along to spot the famous Santa Fe land iguana, one of three species inhabiting this archipelago. Another unique feature of this island is the special forest of giant prickly pear opuntia cacti, the biggest and tallest cacti on our planet. The sunset was perfect, and our day ended with a very special barbeque dinner at El patio café onboard National Geographic Islander II. It was a great day full of unique experiences!