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.

One of National Geographic Endeavour II’s strengths is the amount of open deck space it offers. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Rare among Galapagos ships, this open deck space allows for scenic viewing and the essential drying-out of wet gear. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

All good things must come to an end, though. Once we got onboard, the Pirate Zodiac loaded down with all the kids came roaring back, with the children all hopped up on adrenaline and, presumably Coca-Cola, which I notice has now been taken out of the self-service cooler in the ship’s main lounge. Two separate announcements had to be made over the ship’s public address, requesting that parents (and grandparents) take the behavioral reins for their children.

This public scolding, which is becoming an almost daily event, seems to have finally worked: the kids were better behaved in the evening. To be fair, this is hardly Lindblad Expeditions’ fault, and it certainly doesn’t reflect all kids on board, some of whom are super well-behaved. But a few parents are totally checked out, and it’s getting to the point where the adults without kids are starting to complain about it, vocally, to the ship’s crew.

A Magical Evening Cruising the Galapagos

Tonight, Lindblad Expeditions pulled out all the stops with a top-deck wine and cheese cocktail party at sunset. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Tonight, the wonderful crew of the National Geographic Endeavour II pulled out all the stops. As we set sail for Daphne Major Islet, a bar was set up outside on the ship’s Observation Deck, complete with a complimentary wine tasting featuring eight wines from South America. Glasses were free-poured and portions were generous as guests toasted the evening while circumnavigating Daphne Major Islet as the sun went down over the horizon.

Taste some regional wine…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…and enjoy the views. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Guests mingled with the ship’s Expedition Team up on deck in what was one of the most memorable events on this trip so far. While everyone comes here to see the natural wildlife, which is abundant, our evening of scenic cruising provided us with a better look at the unique geography of the Galapagos, along with one of our first opportunity to admire our ship underway. Because of the reduced distances between islands in the Galapagos, much of the cruising runs are quite short, and are done in the overnight hours.

Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

National Geographic Endeavour II is a great ship for the Galapagos. Many smaller vessels here lack an abundance of outdoor deck areas for mingling or wildlife viewing. With most of the Galapagos fleet coming in at under 40 passengers, viewing areas like the ones aboard our ship are a huge selling point, and one of the prime reasons to take a larger ship in the Galapagos.

When the sun finally set on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, guests slowly headed down four decks to the ship’s dining room for the chance to mingle over another enjoyable meal. It was an absolutely perfect end to another day in the paradise that is the Galapagos, and another day aboard the beautiful National Geographic Endeavour II.

Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report onboard Lindblad-National Geographic’s Endeavour II in the Galapagos Islands will continue as we explore Bartolome, Galapagos. Follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

To The Galapagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions

March 10, 2018San Cristobal, Galapagos; Embarkation
March 11Espanola, Galapagos
March 12Floreana, Galapagos
March 13Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos
March 14Santa Cruz, Galapagos
March 15Bartolome, Galapaogs
March 16Genovesa, Galapagos
March 17, 2018Baltra, Galapagos; disembarkation and onward journey home




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