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August 27, 2010 / Jim Fenton

Day 8: Bartolomé and Santiago Islands

This is part of a series about our vacation to the Galápagos Islands. To see the first article in the series, click here.

August 13, 2010

View from Bartolomé

View from Bartolomé

We relocated overnight a short distance to the small island Bartolomé, near Santiago Island. Bartolomé has a path consisting of boardwalk and stairs that can be used to ascend to the peak at the center of the island. We started early and did a hike up this path before breakfast. The island is quite young, so there is very little in the way of soil and very little rainfall (again being in the rain shadow of Santa Cruz) so what little vegetation exists is well adapted for a dry climate. The peak gives a commanding view of the surrounding islands. There is a solar-powered beacon light at the top; I notice that there are solar panels on all sides because the sun can pass both north and south over the course of a year (although I wondered why the north and south solar panels were positioned at steep elevations so close to the equator).

We returned for breakfast and then took a ride on the ship’s glass-bottom boat near the island. We could see quite a variety of sea life, mostly similar to fish we had seen on snorkeling trips, except that now we were in a position to hear the naturalist at the same time. The highlight of the ride was a quick visit from a sea turtle that swam under the boat.

Beach on Bartolomé

Beach on Bartolomé

A Zodiac boat then took us to a nearby beach where much of our group was either soaking up the sun or snorkeling. Although we had brought our snorkel gear, we decided not to go to the trouble of getting it on to go snorkeling.  A few hearty souls went in the water without wetsuits, but did not stay for long. Celeste and her friends did some sand sculpture, including a very accurate sand depiction of a sea turtle. The sand was copper-colored, very fine, and wonderful to walk on.

After lunch, we spent some time packing and catching up on laundry while the ship relocated to Puerto Egas on the northwest side of Santiago Island. Santiago had been inhabited until about the 1970s by a salt mining operation, and is still recovering from the effects of species introduced long before that, including goats (which have been eradicated) and rats (which haven’t yet).

Santiago Lava Lizard

Santiago Lava Lizard (note missing tail)

The group we were touring with was growing too large, so another naturalist, Alexandra,  attempted to split off part of the group into another one she would lead. However, Kenna, Celeste, and I were the only ones that saw her, so we got what amounted to a private tour of the trail. In addition to the “usual” sea lions, marine iguanas, and crabs (my, how quickly we get jaded), we saw several of the endemic lava lizards (this island’s lava lizards have a characteristic red streak down their side), a fur seal (technically a double-furred sea lion), and numerous birds including a striated heron and the colorful warblers.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

There were many tide pools formed from the lava underfoot, and I was curious why they aren’t filled with sea creatures such as limpets as they are in California. Alexandra told us that that the water temperature varies widely over the span of a year, 30°F or more, due to the confluence of different ocean currents in the Galapagos, so limpets and such would probably not survive very long under those conditions.

Sea Turtle

Sea Turtle

An appropriate finale to this last hike on the Galápagos was the sighting of not one but two sea turtles in a lava inlet just feet from where we were standing. We got to watch them for a few minutes, and took several pictures before completing the trail and returning to the ship.

Galápagos Fur Seal

Galápagos Fur Seal

The farewell reception this evening was festive but muted because nobody wanted the trip to end. One of the ceremonies was the distribution of Zodiac boat driver’s licenses to the kids (including Celeste) who participated in driving lessons yesterday. The certificates entitle the kids to drive Zodiac boats on future cruises as long as they are in good standing with the Captain and ask nicely.

Dinner was excellent, as usual (getting jaded on this, too, apparently) and we are retiring early because we need to be ready for an early breakfast, with our bags packed, in the morning. Unfortunately, it was cloudy again this evening so no repeat of the spectacular star display from a few days ago.

For more information on this day’s activities, see the Lindblad Expeditions Daily Expedition Report.

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