Galapagos Cruise Report: Bartolomé and Santiago Islands

From the National Geographic Islander in Galápagos July 12, 2010

It is probable that these two islands were connected; nowadays they are separated by a narrow channel. It is believed that this separation occurred due to a rise in sea level several thousand years ago. Although these islands are not located right on top the geological hotspot of Galápagos, there is a dormant volcano in Santiago. Its last eruption occurred in 1897, which surrounded it with small lava islets adjacent to Bartolomé – as if it were reclaiming the territory that Santiago lost before.

Early in the morning, we headed to Bartolomé Island to climb to its summit and enjoy the view of the beautiful geological landscape. While observing the hundreds of parasitic cones with their destroyed calderas, it was easy to understand how active the island had been at one time. Ascending the wooden steps, we observed pioneer bushes, lava lizards, and insects – the inhabitants of this island. Finally, at the top, we could observe the magnificent Pinnacle Rock, which is among the most famously photographed rocks in the archipelago.

After breakfast we landed again at Bartolomé, but this time our guests had the opportunity to snorkel around the Pinnacle Rock. The weather was excellent and water very clear, and we observed many species of tropical fish, including white- and black-tipped reef sharks, penguins and a playful sea lions.

At noon, we started sailing to Santiago Island; and it was just after lunch that we observed a large pod of bottlenose dolphins swimming happily around the ship. Our guests were very excited and taking pictures of them. As soon we arrive at Santiago, a group of guests began kayaking along Puerto Egas´ coastline, and another group went swimming at the landing beach. I was in charge of the kayakers, who paddled curiously, exploring the caves along the shore, while in the ocean we heard the sea turtles breathe with their heads above the surface.

We landed at the black beach and began to walk through the intertidal zone. We observed many marine iguanas resting together on the rocks, preparing for the severe conditions during the night when the temperature decreases considerably and the only source of energy they have is their body heat. At the grottos, a group of Galápagos fur sea lions rested indifferently, and beside them, lava herons and yellow crowned night herons began their evening activity – hunting for delicious crab.

After sunset, we returned to National Geographic Islander exhausted but extremely happy, remembering the innocence of the creatures we saw and all the beauty we experience during this incredible day in Galápagos.

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