Day 1 - September 28, 2013 - Santa Cruz Island: Cerro Dragón
By Desirée Cruz, Naturalist
Weather: Sunny with scattered clouds
Air Temperature: 21ºC, 70ºF
Pressure: 961 hPa
Wind: 5 knots
What a great way to start our operation! I was very excited to be on this first voyage as a Naturalist. Not only the fact that Silversea Expeditions staff were on board, and that we were going to have the inauguration ceremony, but also about the site we were going to visit and I was going to guide. A very colorful place, with lots of Galapagos Land Iguanas and pink flamingos.
I went to the airport at the island of Baltra to greet our first incoming guests, including Mr. Lefebvre and his family. Baltra used to be an American Air and Navy Base during World War II. Beta Base was its code name and its purpose was to protect the Panamá Canal from any attack. Once the war was over, the Ecuadorian Navy and Air Force took over, and now it is an Ecuadorian Military Station. The first airstrip (an airport) in the Galapagos is located here. That’s where most of the flights currently land.
Silver Galapagos was completely refurbished and our first voyage was a good reason to celebrate. Thus, I was attended a nice ceremony during which Constanza Lefebvre officially inaugurated the ship, becoming her godmother. Local authorities, guests from Puerto Ayora, the largest settlement in the archipelago, and our onboard guests were the main witnesses for this important event.
After the ceremony and a couple of mandatory briefings, I was ready to go ashore, so I boarded the Zodiac and landed at Cerro Dragón, located at the North-western corner of Santa Cruz Island, the second largest island in the Galapagos group.
Cerro Dragón is one of the most scenic places in Santa Cruz. Black basaltic lava, a white sandy beach, a forest of giant cacti, reddish Sesuvium, and leafless Palo Santos make this quite a picturesque spot. The trail led us by a brackish water lagoon where I pointed out two Greater or Galapagos Flamingos along with migratory birds such as sandpipers and phalaropes, and waders as the Black-necked Common Stilt and Whimbrels. I was thrilled to see so many birds.
The highlight of this place is undoubtedly the Galapagos Land Iguana, a reptile once endangered that has had a comeback thanks to the management and conservation measures taken by the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation. Having been involved with the Galapagos National Park in the past, it is quite reassuring to know that close to 400 land iguanas thrive nowadays at Cerro Dragón or “Dragon Hill”. An endemic herbivore, land iguanas feed mainly on Prickly Pear Cacti. Males are larger than females and brighter yellow. Land iguanas are one of the trademarks of the Galapagos Islands.
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