Bartolome and Dragon Hill, 2/4/2023, National Geographic Islander II
National Geographic Islander II
Today we woke up for an early walk to the top of Bartolome, a satellite islet of Santiago Island. This relatively new islet is a good place to appreciate different geological formations, such as tuff and spatter cones and basaltic flows. The presence of pioneer plants like Tiquilia nesiotica and lava cacti make Bartolome a good place to understand how life began after the first plants were established on the newly-formed islands. We also had the chance to explore the underwater world, and we observed many species of fish and the elusive Galapagos penguin.
During lunch, we navigated toward Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island, where we had an opportunity to observe the iconic Galapagos land iguanas. We enjoyed a surprise when we found a few flamingos in a brackish pond at sunset. This offered guests a great opportunity to practice their photography skills during the golden hour.
Floreana Island was the first to be inhabited. Apart from its human history, its wildlife is also spectacular. As the sun rose, we were also getting ready for a very special outing, kayaking in the Post Office Bay area. Temperatures were perfect and the activity could not have been better. As we were exploring by kayak the calm waters in this area, a few sea lions joined us, following us as we go. Soon after, a little group of flamingos joined the area, landing on a sand bank just by where we were. Definitely the best way to start your day, if you like a little exercise early morning. The rest of us opted for a shorter version and went straight to the famous Post Office barrel used as an informal postal service for centuries. The rest of the morning offered an incredibly diverse snorkel or a guided glass-bottom Zodiac outing for non-snorkelers. Later in the afternoon, after a well-deserved rest, we landed on a popular green sand beach at Cormorant Point. From here, we walked down the trail that took us closer to this popular nesting site for flamingos. There are very few of these birds living in the archipelago and today we observed at least 40 of them.
For our first full day in the Galápagos on board of National Geographic Islander II , we had the opportunity to visit two different visitor sites. Bartolomé, a small island about 1.3 km2 (0.5mi2) in size, located at the eastern side of Santiago Island, and Cerro Dragón at northwestern side of Santa Cruz Island. As the sun rose, our expedition started with a dry landing at the “Escaleras” visitor point. With each of 372 steps on the wooden staircase, we appreciated the unique geological landscape and endemic vegetation. Our 30-minute walk was rewarded with the most iconic view of the Galápagos, as it is the scenic shot from the movie, Master and Commander . Our last activity on Bartolomé was a visit to a beautiful beach where we swam with playful penguins and sea lions, as well as sharks and a variety of other species of fish. To conclude this extraordinary day, we visited Cerro Dragón in the afternoon. After a thrilling disembarkation on cooled lava rock, we did a 1.7 mile walk along a dry forest. On the trail we noticed lush vegetation due abundant rain. We also encountered the famous Galápagos land iguana. At this time of year, we saw males and females close together in their dens.
Santiago Island played an important role in the history of the Galápagos Islands, as it was one of the first islands visited by Charles Darwin during his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1835. The island is protected as part of the Galápagos National Park, which was established in 1959 to preserve the unique biodiversity of the islands. We woke up anchored at Buccaneer Cove. Also known as Caleta Bucanero, Buccaneer Cove is located on the northeastern coast of Santiago Island. It was named after the pirates who used to anchor their ships in the cove during the 18th and 19th centuries. The cove is known for its impressive rock formations, which were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. Our guests had the opportunity to do a pre-breakfast kayak outing to witness not only the amazing scenery but also a variety of wildlife, including sea lions, marine iguanas, and various species of birds. After a delicious breakfast, we got ready for water activities. Guests enjoyed snorkeling, kayaking, and tours in the glass-bottom boat for those who didn’t feel comfortable in the ocean. These tours are referred to as dry snorkeling. After activities and talks on board, we navigated to a different destination on the island. Puerto Egas, also known as James Bay, is located on the western coast of Santiago Island. It is known for its black sand beach and its unique geological formations, which were created by lava flows. Some of our guests decided to stay on the beach and enjoy their last snorkel of the expedition. Others went for a great walk along the coastline. They explored the island’s natural beauty and observed the wildlife, including sea lions, iguanas, finches, and a variety of bird species. What a fantastic last day we had, and what a great way of ending this wonderful expedition.