Sombrero Chino & Santiago Islands

Sep 14, 2018 - National Geographic Islander


We woke up this morning with a fabulous view of Sombrero Chino and the Bainbridge Islets right in front of our ship.  The striking parasitic cones of Santiago Island are believed to have been formed a long time ago, when the sea level was lower in the area. This shield volcano, named Sombrero Chino for its extended peculiar silhouette, means “Chinese Hat” when translated to English. Its shape is that of a huge hat, like the ones worn in some regions in China.  This unusual yet clear profile is typically found in oceanic islands of volcanic origin.

Just after breakfast we explored the area on Zodiacs and had the chance to cover a relatively long distance admiring the volcanic landscape and looking for wildlife.  Lava herons, noddy terns, Galapagos shearwaters and Galapagos sea lions were photographed. Just as we were going back to the ship, we finally spotted a single Galapagos penguin, which was the delight of many observers! Once onboard, we put on our snorkeling gear to continue exploring the area, but this time by going deep-water snorkeling.  The underwater world was at its bests with warm weather and very clear water.  

At lunch time, the ship was repositioned to the south of the fourth largest island of the archipelago, Santiago Island. On our way there we sailed near Bainbridge Rocks to spot, for few minutes in the distance, a few greater flamingos in an inner brackish water lake inside a crater.

In the afternoon, after a presentation on Charles Darwin by naturalist Luis Vinueza, we explored Sullivan Bay located in Santiago Island. We had a fascinating hike on recent lava flow. We learned that the lava we observed today is believed to be just a little more than a hundred years old. It came from an eruption that was witnessed as recently as 1897. Most of the hike was over smooth “pahoehoe” or ropy lava with many “aa” lava patches here and there. Along the way we saw some volcanic formations like cinder cones, spatter cones, “hornitos” tree casts, and more.

As the day came to an end we returned to the ship in the company of the last sunrays and as a golden finale, had a BBQ dinner served on the sky deck.

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About the Author

Carlos Romero

Expedition Leader

Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Venezuela, where he lived for many years near the ocean and later the rainforest. He returned to Quito to study biology and specialized in the fauna of Ecuador. His main field of study was zoology with an emphasis on vertebrates. He has a doctorate in biology and a master’s in ecotourism and natural protected areas management. He designed a new curriculum for the largest university in Ecuador, the Central University— a masters in environmental management and administration of natural protected areas. Carlos has also taken part in various scientific projects and expeditions with the Biological Sciences Department of Quito’s Polytechnic University. He has published several scientific papers, including one about the bats of Galápagos and one about the vampire bat of mainland Ecuador.

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