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August 26, 2010 / Jim Fenton

Day 7: Cerro Dragon and Sombrero Chino

This is part of a series about our vacation to the Galápagos Islands. To see the first article in the series, click here.

August 12, 2010

"Dragon" (Land Iguana)

"Dragon" (Land Iguana)

We awoke this morning to a clear day, anchored amidst a number of small islets on the opposite (northwest) side of Santa Cruz Island. Our morning hike took us to a site known as Cerro Dragon or Dragon Hill, named after the endemic land iguanas that live there. We saw quite a number of them, as well as the large holes in the ground in which they live. Apparently feral dogs and cats had severely decimated the population of these iguanas, although this is getting much more under control.  Nevertheless, someone from our ship heard, and one of the naturalists saw, a couple of small cats on the trail.  This was a serious concern and reported to the authorities for eradication.

I’m happy to see that, unlike the developed portion of Santa Cruz island we saw yesterday, introduced species aren’t nearly as much in evidence, at least to my untrained eye. The naturalist explained that the developed (non-national park) portion of Santa Cruz was fairly small. I have to think that the drier climate here on the leeward side has a lot to do with it as well, because the wind and birds will carry invasive species’ seeds without regard for the boundaries. It’s nice to see that the problem is a little more contained than it seemed yesterday.

After the hike, we went out snorkeling along an islet known as Guy Fawkes Island. The water was a degree or so warmer today, and the sunshine helped visibility quite a bit. For most of the swim, the main attractions were very colorful marine creatures attached to the cliff on the side of the island. Toward the end, a very large ray (probably a manta ray, but I’m not sure) appeared below us, and then (finally!) a sea turtle. A sea lion also showed up to play, although there were so many other snorkelers in the water around her that it was difficult even to see her. Overall, an excellent snorkeling outing. Just before lunch, the kids went out on “Zodiac driving lessons” which all enjoyed.

While we ate lunch, Endeavour moved a short distance to the vicinity of a small islet known as Sombrero Chino or Chinese Hat, named for its elevation profile as seen from the ocean. While some of the nearby islets have a peaked but smooth profile (somewhat like the roof of a thatched hut), Sombrero Chino has a much craggier top.

Celeste and Jim on Kayak

Celeste and Jim on Kayak

After lunch there was a Darwin lecture for those interested and a Galápagos game for the kids, which Celeste did quite well on. Later, Celeste and I went out kayaking while Kenna went to the beach to watch. We didn’t get to see much wildlife from the kayak (as expected) but got some good exercise and practice paddling around. When we were returning the kayak, one of the other kayaks had come loose and we caught it, but were told to leave it alone; it seems that guests aren’t allowed to help with this sort of thing. On the Zodiac boat returning to the ship, we took a short detour and saw a penguin standing on a cliff in a small inlet. It was our first clear sighting of the Galápagos Penguin.

At the end of the afternoon, many of us (and all of the family) took a Zodiac boat ride around Chinese Hat and neighboring Bainbridge islets. Jan, the naturalist on our boat, explained that the craggier appearance of Chinese Hat was due to a more violent eruption there than on the other islands that look “thatched” due to an accumulation of ash. It is a very new islet as evidenced by the roughness of the lava.

Galápagos Penguins

Galápagos Penguins

On our ride, we returned to the site of the penguin sighting, and this time saw both an adult and juvenile Galápagos penguin. This time I had my good camera, fortunately, and got some good pictures of them and of a lava heron perched nearby.

Lava Heron

Lava Heron

We returned for dinner and got a preview of the video they offer for sale of our week’s activities. In between pictures of our group there was apparent stock footage (there was a prominent picture of flamingos we are positive wasn’t taken this week), but it looks like a nice thing to have anyway as it does catch some events we remember like the flightless cormorant tugging at the ropes on our Zodiac.  Dinner was a barbecue served out on the pool deck and sun deck, and was excellent as usual. Given the clear skies all day, we were looking forward to more star gazing this evening, but unfortunately it clouded over. No stars tonight.

For more information on today’s activities, see the Lindblad Expeditions Daily Expedition Report.

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