Santiago Island

Jun 14, 2018 - National Geographic Islander


We arrived today to one of the largest islands of the archipelago: Santiago, or San Salvador Island. This central spot in the Galapagos was a common stop for buccaneers, pirates, whalers, and other visitors of the Islands, including the famous scientist, Charles Darwin. The island has good anchorage sites, as well as some fresh water on the highlands, and giant tortoises for the hungry visitors. It even had some economic activity, as a salt mine operated here until 1965. 

As humans introduced goats, the populations of giant tortoises diminished, the land iguanas became extinct, and the vegetation changed. Today Santiago is an uninhabited island where our funds run different programs to restore the ecosystem. The eradication of goats in 2005 was a huge accomplishment. The reintroduction of giant tortoises has been taking place here for decades now. 

We visited Santiago in three different locations today, two in the morning and one on the afternoon. Early in the morning we disembarked on Espumilla Beach, where we explored the beach to practice our photography and where Galapagos hawks posed for our lenses. We then moved to Buccaneer’s Cove where we kayaked and snorkeled along the shore! 

After lunch, we visited Puerto Egas, where our trail took us to the grottos, collapsed lava tunnels that are home to the endemic fur sea lion. Swimmers chose to stay at a black beach, where we saw the sun setting behind some much eroded tuff cones. Birds were diving for food, fish were jumping out of the water, escaping predators. This was another day in paradise…

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About the Author

Antonio Adrian

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Antonio is Ecuadorian, although he was raised in Catalonia. He has been a naturalist in the Galápagos since 1994. He studied sciences in a boarding school in England for two years, and he spent four years in medical school in Spain. He then dropped out, to follow Darwin’s footsteps around the wide world.

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