Just a few hundred meters off the east coast of Santiago Island lies one of the Galapagos’ most scenic and intriguing islands — Bartolome. This small volcanic island (just 1.2 square kilometers) and Sulivan Bay on Santiago Island were both named after naval officer and lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who was a lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836.
If you are traveling to the Galapagos Archipelago with Aqua Expeditions, day 4 of Aqua Mare’s East Galapagos Itinerary will begin with an early morning anchor at Bartolome Island. Here guests will visit the islet’s two visitor sites: Bartolome Panoramic Viewpoint, accessible by dry landing and Pinnacle Rock Beach, accessible by wet landing. For divers, there is also a marine site that is renowned for its vibrant and abundant sea life.
Bartolome Panoramic Viewpoint
The 600-meter trek up to the Bartolome Panoramic Viewpoint commences as a wooden boardwalk that progresses into a steep wooden stairway. Although the summit is the ultimate destination, there are plenty of other points of interest to keep an eye out for on your way. Various volcanic formations including spatter cones, tuff cones, and lava flows can be seen along the trail. You will also come across endemic flora such as the tequila plant or tiquilia nesiotica. This native plant may appear to resemble a dead bush, but in actuality its leaves are covered with small gray hairs that help it prevent moisture loss and sun damage. Due to the arid nature of the island’s volcanic land, it is hard for vegetation to flourish. The tequila plant was one of the first to establish roots on Bartolome and can now be found alongside lava cactus, and scalesia bushes.
From the peak of the Bartolome summit trail, explorers will avail postcard perfect views of Bartolome Island’s famous pinnacle rock and golden sand beach below. Film enthusiasts may recognize the stunning vista from the 2003 Peter Weir film, Master and Commander, starring Russel Crowe. Trekkers are also rewarded with a beautiful landscape across the bay’s blue waters to the sprawling black lava flows of Santiago Island, and Daphne Major and Minor islands. On a clear day, more than ten Galapagos Islands can be seen from the viewpoint.
Pinnacle Rock Beach
After an early morning hike, cool off with a swim or snorkel in the shallow waters of Bartolome Island’s northern beach — Pinnacle Rock Beach. Here visitors are welcomed to the sandy shores by playful sea lions and curious Galapagos penguins, one of the world’s second smallest penguin species. The tranquil waters of this golden sand beach are brimming with marine life and is reputed as one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos. Underwater highlights include fluorescent tropical fish, reef sharks, rays, and sea turtles which nest in the area from January to March.
While visitors may be focused on life beneath the water’s surface, one should not forget to keep a lookout for a number of marine birds that frequent the bay. Galapagos hawks are often seen circling the skies here as well as the waved albatross and blue-footed boobies.
Bartolome Dive Site
While there are many great dive sites in the Galapagos, arguably Bartolome Island is one of the most unique. The waters off the north beach are cold due to an upwelling current which means it benefits from richer nutrients and therefore, more abundant aquatic life. Divers will have the opportunity to swim along underwater cliffs that drop down to the sea bed and stepped plateaus. These submerged rocky ridges are the perfect hideout for seahorses, green marine turtles, and white tipped reef sharks. Other highlights include barracudas, octopus, and a plethora of colorful reef fish. If you are particularly lucky, you may even come across the elusive Galapagos scalloped hammerhead shark cruising through the waters.
Where do we go next?
The next stop for visitors exploring East Galapagos with Aqua Expeditions is Santa Cruz Island.
Santa Cruz is the Galapagos Islands’ main tourism hub and second largest island located at the heart of the Archipelago. On the south coast of this dormant volcano lies Puerto Ayora, a charming city where the region’s endemic flora and fauna thrive alongside the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
One of the key natural highlights of Santa Cruz is Los Gemelos — two massive sinkholes that measure approximately 1.6 kilometers in diameter and 280 meters in depth. This lush, dense green landscape is a natural haven for bird life. Aqua explorers will also visit Caleta Tortuga Negra, a pristine mangrove estuary; Cerro Dragon, a rugged hill home to a thriving population of land iguanas; Zanillo, a giant tortoise reserve; and Fausto Llerena, a giant tortoise breeding center.
Book an expedition on Aqua Mare to discover the elusive wildlife and dramatic volcanic landscapes of the Galapagos Archipelago. Curated with exclusivity and personalized service enabled in mind, the yacht is the only one in the Galapagos Islands to have a one-to-one crew to guest ratio. Plan your trip now and feel free to reach out to our Expeditions Consultant with any questions you may have.