Discover Galapagos - A travel guide to Galapagos cruises, tours, boats and yacht charters

Galapagos Islands tours - fun for the whole family!

A travel guide to Galapagos tours, boats, cruises & yacht charters

Galapagos Islands Guided Tour

Urvina Bay, Isabela

Photographers at Urvina Bay, Isabela Island, Galapagos

Our Galapagos holidays continue as we arrive in Urvina Bay early enough to see the golden sun rising over Isla Isabela. A cool mist hangs in the air high on the southeast side of Alcedo Volcano. We can see a few old lava flows reaching down the slopes through the Palo Santo trees. During an eruption of Alcedo in 1954, Urvina Bay was uplifted 10 meters from the sea floor. We are able to catch a glimpse of some huge boulder-like formations on land, and our guide explains that these are really coral formations.


Brown Pelica on nest with young, Urvina Bay, Isabela Island, Galapagos
Jeff Waugh
Brown Pelican
After breakfast we disembark in the panga to our landing site. As we walk ashore and along the trail we see Brown Pelicans nesting in the thickly growing Salt Bush on one side of us, and Flightless Cormorants nesting amongst the rocks on the beach side. On the rocks Marine Iguanas are basking in the sun and cooling in the breeze.

I see a dinosaur looking character and carefully approach with my camera and 100 mm macro hoping to get a close shot of his salt gland expiring a cloud of salt through his nostrils. 

As Marine Iguanas ingest sea salt, they must be able to rid their bodies of it, or they would dehydrate. The salt gland accomplishes this. As I get closer I realize how prehistoric these iguanas look. They have quite long claws that help them to hold onto the underwater rocks as they feed. This one also has a few barnacles growing from the top of his head. I imagine him as a dragon waiting to blast a cloud of smoke from his nostrils. I wait and wait, patiently, but am unable to catch what I'm looking for on film. No matter, it's still in my imagination.

Trying to capture a dragon!
Candis Waugh
Careful photography...

A donkey skull on top of an uplifted coral formation.
Jeff Waugh
Donkey skull and coral
Along the trail we approach an uplifted coral formation with a skull perched on top. It is the skull of a feral donkey that was either shot or (most likely) died of natural causes. Along with other domestic animals donkeys or burros have adapted to conditions in Galapagos. Donkeys do not seem to have affected the populations of tortoises as much as goats. Goats have had a very detrimental affect through competition for the same food source.

Recently, the feral Galapagos goats have crossed the aa lava barrier separating northern and southern Isabela and entered the previously goat-free north. This has had a disastrous affect on the vegetation and will ultimately be disastrous for the thousands of Galapagos Tortoises that feed on that vegetation. In an open plea for financial assistance Dr. Lynn Fowler and Tui DeRoy write:


"This invading army of introduced herbivores is rapidly mushrooming in size. Tens of thousands of them are laying bare the land under the helpless gaze of long suffering tortoises. Where the gentle giants once gathered by the score to graze in green meadows or wallow in sun-warmed rain pools, they are now crowding under the dwindling shade trees that are being toppled one by one.

Jeff Waugh
On the rim of Alcedo Volcano in 1980

The lush green nearly impenetrable slopes where Lynn worked hard to census donkeys have been transformed into an open park land with only scant trees still standing. The steep inner walls of the caldera, previously lined with maidenhair ferns and carpets of night blooming morning glories, are now releasing clouds of dust. Hordes of goats scramble about on these shear slopes, setting off frequent land slides. Lush stands of endemic tree ferns surrounding Lynn's old camp are but blackened skeletons now. Starvation and death from overheating in the equatorial sun are what faces the giant tortoises if we don't leap to their aid immediately..."

Your contributions are tax deductible and should be sent to: 
Alcedo Fund, Charles Darwin Foundation, Inc., Dept. 0553, Washington, D.C., 20073-0553, U.S.A.

In contrast, I am surprised by how green everything appears here. It has been a wet El Nino year with lots of rain and we are in the rainy season. The leaves are on the trees and flowers are blossoming.

We come across a Galapagos Cotton in bloom. Some historians believe that the Incas brought this cotton to the islands, while some biologists argue the seed could have easily floated here from the coast of Peru. Nearby we are surprised by the presence of a Land Iguana slowly feeding on the verdant vegetation.

Galapagos Cotton, Urvina Bay, Isabela Island, Galapagos
Jeff Waugh
Galapagos Cotton

We continue our Galapagos travel experience on a loop trail back to the beach where we enjoy a cool swim before returning to the boat. On one of the more relaxing days of your Galapagos family vacation, we have cold drinks, lunch and our usual siesta on our way...

To Elizabeth Bay


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The Galapagos Archipelago
Baltra (Arrival)
Santa Cruz - Caleta Tortuga Negra
San Salvador - Sullivan Bay
San Salvador - James Bay
Fernandina - Punta Espinoza
Isabela - Tagus Cove
Isabela - Urvina Bay
Isabela - Elizabeth Bay
Santa Cruz - CDRS and Highlands
Hood Island - Punta Saurez
Hood Island - Gardner Bay
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Evan with Galapagos Tortoise




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Follow the iguana to Hood Island...
Marine Iguana


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