Galapagos: Pinzón

Pinzón Island: Playa Escondida – the hidden beach

After the Christmas and New Year’s Eve break, we returned to the Galapagos Islands on January 2nd 2020, to visit our last locality, Pinzon Island. Following the Galapagos National Park protocol, we spent three days in Santa Cruz for quarantine before traveling to Pinzon.  

Leaving Santa Cruz on January 5th, we started our journey on a boat trip of almost 3 hours to Playa Escondida. Our last study site for the project, Pinzón Island is sometimes called as Duncan island and is one of the smallest islands (18 km2), located in the middle of the archipelago. Due to this, it has been isolated for many years and human activity on the island is very restricted and tourism has ever been allowed. We are therefore very grateful to have been granted approval to work on the island.

We were given an amazing welcome on our arrival. Our park guide and boat driver took us into a beautiful natural pool complete with sea lions and white-tipped sharks, while a number of Galapagos hawks watched our every move – we were also to be impressed by the population of lava lizards – Microlophus duncanensis – that we came to study. The Hidden Beach honoured its name with a rocky volcanic shore without a grain of sand nor a hint of shade. The predominant vegetation was small bushes of Croton species trees, creeping plants, mangrove and cactus.  After arriving, we setup our tents and camp ‘kitchen’, then got ready for a walk to search the area.

The population of lizards around us was remarkable and would become one of the most abundant species of all the islands we visited before. The Pinzón lava lizards are also among the biggest lizards of the Galapagos islands and possess a distinctive red colour, which differs between males and females. They share their habitat with a band of Galapagos hawks, which often were looking for food and getting close the lizards.  

Despite the abundance of lizards, the working environment was harsh. Working more than 6 hours under the sun and above lava rocks with little shade represented a challenge for all of us. During the last two days, however, the weather turned on us a little, while we were attempting to film territorial displays. Nonetheless, we persevered and were eventually able to film and finish the data collection on time, check out some of the other wildlife before returning to Santa Cruz after a week of hard work. 

With our fieldwork concluded in Galapagos, we spent our last days in Santa Cruz organizing paperwork and data. The last two field seasons on the Galapagos islands have been an indescribable experience. Receiving permission to visit isolated islands and meet with the most amazing species in their natural environments will ensure this fieldwork will be a lasting memory for me and my wonderful volunteers. Thanks to everyone who has made this possible: permit issuing authorities, logistical support from colleagues at Universidad de San Francisco de Quito, La Trobe University, financial support from the Harvard Travellers Grant and Rufford Foundation, our national parks guides and my wonderful volunteers.

Muchas gracias!

Estefanía Boada