Galapagos: Bartolome and Santiago Islands


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Day 5: Took the dinghy to Pinnacle Rock, and then, approaching Bartolome Island – two Galapagos penguins! They really are surprisingly small, at about a foot, and of course very endearing.

From the Bartolome landing site, we looked down on a passing golden cowray, and a sea lion playing in the water, stretching and arching its back rather like a cat. We also saw a submerged caldera, noticeable mainly because of the turquoise water it contained, contrasting with the surrounding cobalt.

We climbed a series of solid wooden steps and platforms up the 300 or so feet to the top. It was amazing to see the habitation process at work – tiquilia plants are well-established, and they have been followed by grasshoppers, and grasshoppers by the petite lava lizard (all of which we saw).

The snorkeling was fantastic. Nearly off the bat, a Galapagos penguin swam right across my field of vision, descending at a leisurely angle. I felt like I was in the tank at the zoo, having somehow ended up on the wrong side of the glass. I yearned to see more but I also knew to be grateful for what I managed to glimpse – many others didn’t.

I also saw:

  • 4 or 5 large blue-chin parrotfish, whose scales shimmered in a wild collage of blues, pinks and greens;
  • many razor surgeonfish of varying size;
  • 2 or 3 king angelfish – radiant with their triangular yellow tails and electric blue pinstripes along the back:
  • yellow starfish and a very large blue starfish; and
  • several large polarized schools, turning and swirling with impressive synchronicity – black-striped salenas, perhaps?

I would guess I saw 14 or 15 species in all, though perhaps some were juveniles of other species.

The afternoon lava walk on Santiago Island (starting at Sullivan Bay) was a good excursion and on most vacations would probably stand out as among the most fascinating parts of the trip. After all, volcanoes laid down this particular lava only 130 years ago. Poor lava, in the Galapagos you have a lot to live up to, and I can’t say I was as enamored of this barren landscape as I was of the penguins and sea lions.

But the rope lava, twisting to appear variously as a basket weave, coils of ship rigging, and rather off-putting intestinal tracts, did continue to fascinate through the walk. The best part was the Devil’s Bed – a large semicircle of concentric rope lava, broken into five or six pieces but still giving the appearance of being of one, intentional design.

And the scene here was an interesting contrast to Bartolome. After 130 years, life at Sullivan Bay was even more nascent – just a few scraggly weeds and some horse flies.

This is the fourth in my Galapagos travel diary series. See the previous posts herehere, and here.

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