Galapagos Cruise Report: Isla Floreana

From the National Geographic Endeavour in Galápagos, Monday, May 17, 2010

During the night we sailed westward to the island of Floreana in the southwestern part of the archipelago. Before breakfast we headed ashore by Zodiac to the famous Post Office Bay. Landing on a sand beach, we wandered inland through Palo Verde trees to the site of the Post Office Barrel. This is where sailors from whaling ships once left mail to be picked up by other ships headed back to Europe. As modern travelers following in this time-honored tradition, mail deposited in the barrel by other tourists was handed out to volunteer “carriers” from our group who will deliver those letters or postcards addressed to someone living near their home town.

During breakfast, the ship repositioned part way around Floreana to an anchorage near a small offshore islet known as Champion. We ventured out again by Zodiac to cruise around Champion searching for the very rare Floreana mockingbird, which has disappeared from the main island of Floreana, but still persists in small numbers on several of these offshore islets. By midmorning we were ready to explore the underwater realm via glass-bottom boat or with mask, snorkel and flippers. There were a great variety of fishes in the waters fringing Champion, and playful sea lions flying effortlessly through the waters around us.

Another short hop by ship brought us to the vicinity of Punta Cormorant where there were opportunities to kayak in the early afternoon, and later for photo and natural history walks on the main island. Here we visited a wide and shallow lagoon where intensely pink flamingos were feeding in the briny waters. We hiked over to the far side of an isthmus where we found a lovely white sand beach. On a small outcrop of black lava rock there were dozens of brightly colored Sally Lightfoot crabs being washed by the incoming waves. 

This beach is an area where green sea turtles come to lay their eggs, and many of us had the extraordinary luck to see tiny hatchling sea turtles emerging from the sand to make their infant sprint across the beach to the sea. Only 1-5 out of 1,000 survive, and it wasn’t long until swooping frigate birds began to pluck them from the water. From photos we can see one tiny turtle biting the soft tissue of a pelican’s beak in an effort to defend itself and escape. But despite surviving multiple attacks by the frigate birds, it ultimately became a pelican’s dinner.

After our dinner, we were treated to an immensely beautiful and inspiring presentation on photographing birds by National Geographic Photographer, Tim Laman, a perfect end to another magical day in the Galápagos.

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