Adventures on Isla Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, Galapagos; Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Adventures on Isla Santa Cruz: another day in Galapagos Paradise with Lindblad Expeditions. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Today started bright and early aboard Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic  National Geographic Endeavour II with a 6:30am wakeup call, followed by breakfast at 6:45am in the dining room.
There are plenty of early-morning wakeup calls at this time of year in the Galapagos, intended to beat the worst of the early-morning heat and humidity, when can get pretty oppressive around 9am.

National Geographic Endeavour II at anchor off Cerro Dragon. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Two options were available to guests this morning as we went out to explore Cerro Dragon, or Dragon Hill, on the island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos. Home to the endemic Galapagos Land Iguana, the landscape is dotted with volcanic rocks and giant prickly pear cactus trees.
The first option, for long hikers, involved a strenuous hike over uneven and challenging ground on a looping trail about 2.8 kilometres (1.75 miles) in length. The second option, a soft hike, was more of a shoreline exploration that avoided much of the rocky trail, but not all of it. Here in the Galapagos, uneven terrain is almost unavoidable.

Coming ashore…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…for a morning hike. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

I chose to participate in the long hike, and our Expedition Staff did a great job of telling us that the trail might be a little muddy. However, heavy rains the night before had left the trail extremely muddy, and it wasn’t long before I sank in up to my ankles and nearly lost a shoe to the mud, which had the adhesive qualities of caramel.
Lacking the proper footwear, I and a few other guests turned back and opted to spend some time relaxing by the picturesque lagoon near our landing site. It was unfortunate, but necessary. I didn’t have high-profile hiking shoes and even then, this was the sort of walk that, in Alaska or British Columbia, you’d be taking rubber boots ashore for.

The trail started off easy…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…but quickly became mired in mud as a result of heavy rains the night before. Be sure you pack some high-sided footwear! Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Fortunately, hoses and brushes are located on the aft Zodiac embarkation deck, enabling guests to clean their shoes. It’s not just for cosmetic reasons, either. Cleaning muddy or dirty shoes is mandatory so as to not track dirt and seeds from one island to the next.
At 10:30am, those who wanted to go deep water snorkeling disembarked the vessel. If you didn’t want to do that, zodiacs would take guests to a nearby beach for swimming and shallow snorkelling near the shoreline.

You almost can’t make a wrong choice here in the Galapagos with scenery like this. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Just as we were sitting down to lunch, an odd sound began to reverberate throughout the dining room. It was the sound of torrential rain slamming against the windows. The skies had opened up and doused the National Geographic Endeavour II with a rare rain storm.
After our delicious and special Ecuadorian buffet lunch, Zodiac rides were offered to explore the coast of Santa Cruz Island, in an area called El Eden. While the adults were off doing this, the kids were invited to take their turn at driving (in a very supervised and controlled manner) their own zodiac. I was envious; I have to take a course costing several hundred dollars to learn how to do that!
For our afternoon zodiac ride, I took nothing with me except my bottled water. I left the DSLR, the GoPro and the iPhone behind on the ship. I’d heartily encourage you to do the same at least once a day here in the Galapagos. It gave me the chance to see – to truly see­ – nature at its finest.

Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

During our hour-long zodiac exploration of the shoreline, we saw numerous blue-footed boobies and learned that the hue of their beaks and flippers depends on their sexual activity, or lack thereof. Males with less sexual activity have the darkest blue feet, while those who are sexually active have lighter blue feet, on account of all the expended energy.
We also saw several small sharks swimming near the protected mangroves of the island, crabs clambering up damp cliffsides, schools of tuna zipping through the water, frigate birds, and the colourful (and large) Sally Lightfoot Crab.
Of course, I regretted not bringing my camera with me. There were some great photo opportunities. But in the end I’m glad I focused on what was going on with my own two eyes. It was a very special experience, and one that I’ll treasure forever.

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