Cruise Report: Southern Isabela Island

From the National Geographic Islander in Galápagos, May 13, 2010

We awoke to a sunny day with huge swells pounding the beach and rocking the ship at anchor off Volcan Alcedo, Urbina Bay. This was NOT the weather that I had ordered or hoped for, but nonetheless we forged ahead with our plans for both long (fast or normal speed groups) and short walk options along the uplifted coastline this morning. We skillfully managed an unusually exciting disembarkation safely, with well organized groups of guests, who slid out of the Zodiacs and onto the beach during the calm between the series of waves, and at the precise moment that it was safe, hurried onto shore. Perfect timing and no one even got his or her camera gear wet!

The morning’s walk was fabulous – one of the best we have had at Urbina Bay in over a year! We spied more than a dozen colorful adult land iguanas, and one pair of them was definitely contemplating making baby iguanitas… We watched the male rubbing his chin on the female and gently nudging her tail. Further along on the trail we first heard, and then spotted, a hatchling iguanita – this is the first baby iguana I have seen in over 30 years of visits to Urbina! In all we saw 4 giant tortoises this morning; sleeping in the trail, sleeping in the shade or strolling along.

Some of the bravest among us swam in the gigantic breakers and then, with almost military precision, we boarded the Zodiacs, raced through the waves, and got everyone back safely (though a few of us were somewhat wet) to the ship. Great and exciting morning!

After lunch and siesta Naturalist Celso gave an interesting and educational presentation on Charles Darwin and his important contributions to scientific thinking. Twenty lava hikers joined Giancarlos and Jonathan on a walk across the extensive, rough lava fields that stretch for miles between Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul volcanoes. When they reached a small brackish pool they were delighted to discover 4 flamingoes, and several grebes and gallinules feeding among lush marsh reeds.

We also offered a Zodiac ride and this outing was peaceful and quite spectacular: eagle rays, penguins, cormorants, pelicans, golden cowrays, and dozens of sea turtles entertained us as we motored and paddled in quiet mangrove lagoons. The threatening gray clouds luckily only threatened rain and we all returned to the ship as the evening darkened, once again content and well satisfied with our day’s exploration of the Islas Encantadas.

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