We woke up anchored right off the coast of Bartholomew Island, one of the most frequently visited islands within the archipelago due to its unique geology and top-quality snorkeling.

We started the day with a pre-breakfast hike to the top of the island. Making our way up a stairway of 375 steps, we passed several small volcanoes, lava flows and a moonscape of rust-colored rocks. Bartholomew, a young island that emerged from the ocean less than 800,000 years ago, offers the opportunity to travel back in time and learn about the beginnings of life on a new terrain.

We observed a few species of pioneer plants along the hike, such as the endemic lava cactus that inhabits this harsh and unique environment. Once we reached the top of the stairway, we took in one of the most photographed sites in the Galapagos: stunning views of the beach and Pinnacle Rock in the distance.

After breakfast, we enjoyed the opportunity to visit a beautiful white sand beach for swimming and snorkeling. We observed whitetip reef sharks resting under ledges and scores of sea stars on the sandy bottom of the snorkeling site. It was exciting to encounter Galapagos penguins as a large variety of fish swam alongside us.

We anchored right off the coast of Chinese Hat after lunch and went deep water snorkeling again. Galapagos penguins swam beside us, as did large schools of yellow-tailed Razor Surgeonfishes and whitetip reef sharks.

After snorkeling, we took a Zodiac ride to photograph Galapagos penguins resting on the lava flows. It is odd to see penguins with cacti in the background, but the sight is standard in this unique archipelago.

We finished our day with an incredible sunset as we shared great memories about these enchanted islands.