"" Writer's Wanderings: Galapagos Journal - Santa Cruz Island, Dragon Hill

Friday, June 07, 2013

Galapagos Journal - Santa Cruz Island, Dragon Hill

The Xpedition sailed to the north side of Santa Cruz Island in the afternoon of day five of our cruise. Our excursion would take us to explore Cerro Dragon or “Dragon Hill” which gets its name from the population of land iguanas in the area which came dangerously close to extinction.

In 1977 over half of the surviving iguanas from Cerro Dragon were moved to a natural environment on Venecia. Though protected, the 38 adults could not reproduce successfully as the island lacked nesting soil. In 1978, park and station staff and local residents hauled over 300 tons of soil to Venecia and the Iguanas quickly began reproducing. Later, large juveniles were moved to Cerro Dragon. Annual monitoring trips show a growing population. In 1994, the park opened Cerro Dragon as a visitor site for viewing land iguanas in the wild. The tourist trail is the trail built and used to carry nesting soil to Venecia in 1978.

It was a hot afternoon. Too bad our snorkel gear had to be returned the day before. A dip in the cool waters would have been welcomed. We almost did get a dip however when we reached the landing spot and conditions were such that the naturalist and zodiac driver decided that a wet landing would be safer. Many had planned for a dry landing and had sneakers and socks on which they had to remove and then put back on once on shore. Hard to get rid of the sand between your toes at that point though. I was glad to have worn my Teva sandals. They were great for walking and didn’t mind getting wet either.

Fatima led us back by a lagoon that had two flamingos in it. We could get a lot closer to these two than we did at the other flamingo opportunity. She told us that this was a place where the flamingoes came to eat but not to nest. We watched and snapped photos as the two birds kept their heads down to their work. They must have been getting some crabs from the mud as you could see through the water to the bottom where they were making a grid in the sediment.

Several other birds were there as well. Black Necked Stilts and a Wimbrel which resembles a heron only with a curved bill. 

We walked along the shore for a short time to another lagoon for a peek at some more birds and a couple of iguana. The sun was extremely hot this afternoon and we all agreed that we’d had enough. I was thankful looking back on our week that we had had nice weather. The only rain was a bit as we started off on Sunday afternoon and most of the days had come with a nice breeze and/or a “friendly” cloud to shade us a bit from the heat of the sun. It was all more than we’d hoped for.

But wait! Where were the iguanas the island was famous for? We'd only seen one and that was a marine iguana. Maybe we should have taken the long walk but then I'm not so sure we could have survived the heat on that one.

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