Sombrero Chino Islet and Sullivan Bay

Jan 18, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


Calm waters! Perfect! The kayakers set out for the turquoise canal between Santiago Island and Sombrero Chino Islet. For the next hour they paddled the coastline, successfully finding a couple of Galapagos penguins swimming in the area. There were also sea lions, pelicans, and blue-footed boobies fishing. But they weren’t the only ones who got these sightings, because everyone else used the Zodiacs to go exploring as well.

Upon our return, it was a change into swimsuits and snorkel gear for most of us, and off again, back to the same beautiful, 80 degree water (yes…80 degrees Fahrenheit!), to spend the next hour drifting gently in the aquarium which was the ocean today. Some folks visited a tiny little white beach, and a female sea lion with pup occupied part of it…entertainment enough! The undersea life was phenomenal, many different species of rays, pufferfish, parrotfish, and endemic salemas. The wildlife list was long when we checked them off!

Sailing away from our anchorage, Captain Garcia took National Geographic Islander close by one of the Bainbridge Islets, whose rim wall was so low that it seemed the next big storm might breach the wall. But so far, the few meters above high tide keeps the ocean at bay and the lagoon separate from the rest of the world. As we passed, we searched for flamingos that sometimes visit the circular, highly saline lagoon. Although there were none today, the view was dramatic all the same.

By mid-afternoon, when the strongest heat of the day had started to subside (“started” being the key word), we landed on Santiago Island itself. Our adopted island starting in 1997, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic and our concerned travelers have given financial support to all the conservation and preservation measures of the Galapagos National Park service, because the island has been considered within the reach of restoration. The eradication of feral goats, pigs, and donkeys have resulted in the recuperation of vegetation that was suffering extreme predation for well over 150 years.

But where we walked today didn’t even exist when Darwin walked this coastline. Charles Darwin was here on Santiago for nine days in 1835. The lava flow we walked on appeared in 1897. However it looks like it could have solidified just last year. Ripples and folds told the story of direction of flow; the cracks told the story of slow cooling and separation of minerals in the basalt. Mother Nature has created sculptures in stone that the talented of the renaissance simply copied!

And being that today was our day for searching out Galapagos penguins, we were successful in this endeavor as well. Small, if laying down or with their backs to the world, they are hard to find with their dark coloring. However when facing out to sea, their brilliant white chests of satin stand out against the black basaltic lava of the coast.

This was a great Galapagos day!

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About the Author

Cindy Manning

Expedition Leader

Born in Lima, Peru, of North American parents, Cindy and her family subsequently lived in several South American and European countries with a couple stops in Peoria, Illinois. Cindy received a degree in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Afterwards, Cindy spent a year and a half teaching science in the Western Province of Kenya, East Africa. 

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