Fernandina is the youngest and westernmost island in the Galapagos. It sits across the Bolivar Channel opposite Isabela. Our destination is Punta Espinosa, a narrow spit of land in the northeast corner of the island, where several unique Galapagos species can be seen near. Red and turquoise-blue zayapas crabs disperse across the lava shoreline, while great blue and lava herons forage through 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. Dominating this landscape from high overhead looms the summit of La Cumbre, 1,495 meters (4,858 feet), one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Farther down this stretch of shore, the world’s only species of flightless cormorants have established a colony near an inviting inlet frequented by sea turtles.
The snorkelling off Punta Espinoza offers some real treats. Galapagos penguins and sea lions await you in the waters off the point. A key feature of the ocean bottom here are the troughs formed by volcanic rock and ocean currents. Sea turtles like to hang out in the warm water of the troughs. You’ll also see marine iguanas ferrying back and forth between underwater grazing areas and their colonies on shore. If you are fortunate you may catch a glimpse of a flightless cormorant demonstrating their swimming abilities or watch a Galapagos penguin zip by. The Bolivar Channel is the very best place in the Galapagos to see dolphins and whales. On rare occasion our groups have been able to swim with dolphins, kayak with melon headed whales and even spot the elusive sperm whale.
Urbina Bay is directly west of Isabela’s Volcano Alcedo, where we will make an easy, wet landing (a hop into a few inches of water) onto a gently sloping beach. In 1954, a Disney film crew caught sight of this gleaming white strip, and went to investigate. To their astonishment, three miles (5 km) of the marine reef had been uplifted by as much as 13 feet (4 meters) prior to their arrival.