CCC’s Galapagos Chronicles: Tagus Cove, Turtles, and a Sleeping Lion

Our last day on the island of Isabela brought us to Tagus Cove and Darwin Lake.  Tagus Cove is a protected inlet that has provided shelter to sailors, explorers, and cocktail campers for over 300 years. Darwin anchored here in 1835.  Darwin Lake is a caldera (cooking pot) formed by a tidal wave after a volcanic eruption on the neighboring island, Fernandina. Darwin Lake is slightly above sea level and twice a salty as sea water.

42 Tuesday Hike to Tagus Cove EM
The California Cocktail Camper in the foreground with Darwin Lake and Tagus Cove as the backdrop – the quintessential Galapagos tourist pic.
43 Tuesday Tagus Cove Carlos EM Jojo 3
EM, Joanna, and Carlos Romero on the hike to Darwin Lake. Carlos was of the naturalists guiding our trip. The naturalists were as interesting as the Galapagos themselves! Many have PhDs (like Carlos) and have spent years studying and traveling the Galapagos and the world. They were inspiring and made our visit to the islands even more profound (and fun, of course!).

Our journey took us from Isabela to Santiago island. We enjoyed a glass-bottom boat ride along the island’s coast line and hiking at Puerto Egas.

1 Wednesday Santiago Bishop's Rock
The Bishop Rock at Playa Espumilla, Santiago. Can you see the Bishop’s Miter on the top of his head?
4 Wednesday Santiago Playa Espumilla Da on Glass Bottom Boat
My dad, Tom, enjoying views of the fish from the glass-bottom boat. Note the boat driver with his face, head, and body completely covered and protected from the Ecuadorian sun! (Photo by Joanna.)
41 Tuesday Off to Snorkle 3
After our boat ride, we piled into the Zodiac for snorkeling. Deep-water snorkeling was a daily activity during the trip. It was like being in Mother Nature’s aquarium. We saw many beautiful, brightly colored fish and swam with giant sea turtles and penguins! The Galapagos penguin is endemic to the islands and the only penguin that lives north of the Equator. (Photo by Joanna.)

Our visit to Santiago included a walk along the coast of Puerto Egas. Puerto Egas, named after Hector Egas, was the location of a salt mining company in the 1920s and then the 1960s. Humans attempted, unsuccessfully, to colonize the island in the 1930s and introduced domestic livestock like donkeys, goats, and pigs.  Rats and mice also came along for the adventure. The livestock and rodents destroyed much of the native plant and wildlife. Today, thanks to conservationists and eradication efforts, Santiago has been pig-free since 2000 and donkey and goat free since 2006.  The endemic flora and fauna, once again, have an opportunity to flourish.

7 Wednesday Santiago Puerto Egas Marine Iguanas
Marina iguanas snoozing on the beach. They sleep close together for warmth. (Photo by Jason.)
6 Wednesday Santiago Puerto Egas Jason and sea lion
Jason finds a friend. It’s the proximity to the wildlife that makes the Galapagos so unique. (Photo by Joanna.)
7 Wednesday Santiago Puerto Egas Claire Jojo Jason EM
With Claire, Joanna, and Jason. The opportunity to take such a trip with my family was what made the Galapagos so special for me.
11 Thursday El Trapiche Mon and Dad 1
Bev and Tom making friends. The Galapagos Giant Turtle impresses visitors from around the world. This land turtle can weigh over 500 pounds and live for over 100 years. Their shells are either dome shaped or saddlebacked to accommodate their food supply. Dome-shaped turtles, like the one above, live in the highlands where there is plenty of food. Turtles with a saddleback carapace live in more arid, food-scarce conditions. Their shell makes space for their long necks and legs enabling them to access taller and sparser vegetation.  Evolution in action! (Photo by Jason.)
14 Thursday El Trapiche Jason and Claire Turtleshells
Jason and Claire enjoy the experiential reality of the turtle! The giant tortoise gave the Galapagos its name as “galapagos” means tortoise in Spanish. (Photo by my mom, Bev.)

The final days of our fantastic voyage were spent exploring the island of San Cristobal, one of the oldest geologically in the archipelago. It is also home to the capital of the Galapagos province, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. We hiked and swam at Punta Pitt and snorkeled around Leon Dormido, so named because it resembles a sleeping lion.

18 Friday Punta Pitt Hiking up the trail
Hiking up Punta Pitt. This area is composed of volcanic tuff and is a nesting site for three kinds of boobies and two types of frigates. They can nest close together without problems because the food supply is plentiful. No competition means peaceful neighbors!
15 Friday Punta Pitt Panorama with ship
Punta Pitt’s beach is a lovely place to swim after a hot hike.
31 Friday Punta Pitt Sea Lion Posing 1
The sea lions love the beach at Punta Pitt too. I think they love posing for the tourists more! Mother Nature’s Diva in the making.

We finished our last day in the Galapagos with a snorkel and swim around Leon Dormido aka Kicker Rock.  This is a 459-foot volcanic rock that is best place for seeing sharks (we saw one young Galapagos shark) and rays (we saw a school of spotted eagle rays). Joanna and I also enjoyed floating on our backs through the channel taking in the other-worldliness of this rock formation.  It was a perfect way to complete our most magical journey to Las Islas Galapagos!

Friday Leon Dormida
Leon Dormido at sunset. Adios Galapagos. Gracias por un viaje especial. (Photo by Bev.)

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