South Plazas and Santa Fe Islands, 3/9/2023, National Geographic Islander II
National Geographic Islander II
It’s the beginning of our expedition aboard National Geographic Islander II, and today we visited two central islands of this archipelago, Plazas and Santa Fe. These two islands have one of the largest colonies of sea lions and land iguanas. In the morning, we observed a beautiful sunrise while hiking. In the afternoon, the ship moved to Santa Fe. We had an incredible snorkel and then explored the island. We enjoyed amazing encounters with the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.
Charles was raised in the Galápagos Islands. He is the grandson of Rolf Wittmer, the first person documented to have been born on the island of Floreana after his parents, Margret and Heinz Wittmer, emigrated from Germany in 1932.
Located near the center of the archipelago, Santiago is one of the largest islands in the Galapagos. The island has many features that make it one of our favorites, including the landscape and unique assemblage of species. Today we explored two sites. In the morning, we visited Chinese Hat, and we explored Sullivan Bay in the afternoon. Both places are outstanding and unique. We definitely had one of the best days of our expedition.
After a smooth navigation east of Santa Cruz Island, the second largest in the Galapagos, we arrived at South Plaza in the center of the archipelago. It was a lovely morning, and we boarded Zodiacs to start our day early. We enjoyed an amazing pre-breakfast outing along the cliff sides of the islet, where we observed seabirds nesting and resting on the rocks. We visited the home of one of the most emblematic creatures of the archipelago, the Galapagos land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus). We found several of the yellowish-gold reptiles in a visitors’ site. The Galapagos National Park has put a lot of effort into conserving the area. After breakfast, we enjoyed a relaxing morning. We handed out snorkeling gear and participated in stretching classes and photography classes. Later in the afternoon, we headed to Santa Fe Island for deep water snorkeling. We enjoyed the deep blue with playful sea lions and Pacific green sea turtles. Some guests had a remarkable time kayaking along the cliffs to admire the island’s amazing marine wildlife. After that, our guests had a pleasurable time walking and observing dozens of very curious sea lions in a breeding colony at the beach. We hiked deep into the island and found Santa Fe land iguanas in the area. It was another special experience in paradise!
Today, National Geographic Islander II anchored in the bay at Genovesa Island, located in the northeastern corner of the archipelago. Our excursion in the morning was to Darwin Bay Beach, and we found big colonies of nesting red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls. After visiting this beautiful bay, we returned to the ship to prepare for snorkeling activities. Some of the guests decided to go kayaking, and others relaxed on the beach. My group snorkeled from a Zodiac by the cliffs of this island. We found hammerhead sharks, various species of reef fish, golden cow rays, turtles, and other great wildlife. This was definitely a wonderful way to finish our time in the water here in the Galapagos. Later in the afternoon, we took a nature walk inland. We found more nesting boobies and mockingbirds. We observed great frigatebird males with their gular pouches inflated to court females. During the second part of the walk, the highlight was a short-eared owl flying around before it seemed to pose for pictures. During sunset, our captain raised a toast to our great time on board together.