See the blue-footed booby's comical mating rituals
Located near the northwesternmost point of Isabela Island is Punta Vicente Roca which, on a map, looks like the head of a seahorse. Here the remnants of an ancient volcano form a cove with a bay well protected from the ocean swells. The spot is a popular anchorage from which to take dinghy rides along the cliff where a partially sunken cave beckons explorers. Nazca and blue-footed boobies as well as brown noddy terns perche along the point and the sheer cliffs, while flightless cormorants inhabit the shoreline. The upwelling of cold water currents in this part of the Galapagos produces an abundance of marine life which, in combination with the protection of the coves, makes Punta Vicente Roca one of the archipelago’s most interesting dive spots. This place is also good for practicing some kayaking. The entire area of Punta Vicente Roca lies on the towering flank of 2,600-foot Volcano Ecuador, the island's sixth largest volcano, half of which has slid into the ocean, leaving a spectacular cutaway view of its caldera.
Fernandina is the youngest and westernmost island in the Galapagos, sitting across the Bolivar Channel from Isabela Island. Our destination is Punta Espinosa, a narrow spit of land in the northeast corner of the island, where a number of unique Galapagos species can be seen in close proximity. As our panga driver skillfully navigates the reef, it's not unusual to see penguins swimming near the dinghy. Red and turquoise-blue Sally Lightfoot crabs disperse across the lava shoreline, while herons and egrets forage among the mangrove roots. The landing is a dry one, set in a quiet inlet beneath the branches of a small mangrove forest. A short walk through the vegetation leads to a large colony of marine iguanas, a schoolyard of Godzilla's children, resting atop one another in friendly heaps along the rocky shoreline, sneezing out saline water to clear their bodies of salt. Nearby, sea lions frolic in the sheltered coast line. This is one of the few places you can glimpse iguanas grazing on seaweed both underwater and above.
Dominating this landscape, Las Cumbres volcano looms high overhead, at 1495 meters (4,858 feet), one of the most active volcanoes in the world, reporting seven eruptions from its 6-kilometer-wide caldera (mouth) since 1968. Along the coast line, the world's only species of flightless cormorants has established a colony near an inviting inlet frequented by sea turtles. Because these birds evolved without land predators, they progressively took to the sea, developing heavier, more powerful legs and feet for kicking, serpent-like necks, and wet, fur-like plumage. Their wings are now mere vestiges. Back toward the landing and farther inland, the island's black lava flows become more evident, forming a quiet, inner lagoon. Galapagos hawks survey the seascape from overhead.
- Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner