Bartolome and Rabida Island

Mar 02, 2020 - National Geographic Islander


This is our first full day of exploration in the enchanted islands – the Galapagos. This morning we visited Bartolome Island, an incredible place to learn about the geology of the region. This archipelago is one of most active hot spots in the world, and part of the ring of fire where the last eruption occurred just few weeks ago. Bartolome is made of pyroclastic material, ashes know as tuff, and basaltic lava. A parasitic volcano stands right in the middle of the island, and it has produced varying small volcanic formations, such as cinder cones, spatter cones, and lava flows.

We had a very early morning walk in the dawn hues, perfect for photographing the fantastic scenery. Our path took us to the top of the island, where, once there, we got to admire the view of the iconic Pinnacle Rock. As an interesting fact, Pinnacle Rock was featured in the 2003 film “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” After our hike we returned to the ship for breakfast, and then headed out for various activities. Some guests rode Zodiacs in search of penguins and seabirds. Others suited up for a snorkeling session off the nearby beautiful beach where multicolored fish swam amongst the coral and rocks. Other guests chose to explore the deep sea, the deep-water snorkeling was amazing too. The equatorial position of the Galapagos creates a unique ecosystem for both sea and land. We encountered some of this on our deep dive, seeing many types of sea stars, and different kinds of warm and cold-water fish.

In the afternoon, we moved to Rabida Island where a red sand beach is home to many sea lions. A few feet behind the beach, we found greater flamingos in a brackish water lagoon feeding on rich carotenoid shrimp. Some other lagoon birds like pintail ducks and wandering tattlers were swimming in this pool as well. A few of our more intrepid guests explored the coast of Rabida on kayaks, a great experience and a close encounter with nature. The always playful sea lion, as well as some sea turtles and rays were spotted along the shore. Snorkeling in these crystal turquoise water was quite an experience. The rocky bottom is rich in benthonic life with an abundance of miniature creatures living in coral, rocks or the sandy bed beneath. It seems like every time we jump into the water there is something different to explore! In the wild, any marine creature might show up; this time we saw several white-tipped reef sharks and green turtles.

Later we waited for sunset, celebrating a successful first full day of exploration in this magic archipelago.

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About the Author

Christian Saa

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Christian was born on the island of Isabela in the Galápagos archipelago. He grew up on a farm and had a magical childhood devoid of cars, electricity, telephones—just pure nature and playful sea lions along the beach. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to Santa Cruz Island, the economic hub of the Galápagos Islands. His father began to work in tourism and took Christian around the islands during school vacations. It was during this time that Christian learned to love and understand the real value of this unique archipelago, and he decided to devote his life to its stewardship. A lifelong passion for nature and its creatures took root in his heart, and he eventually decided to become a naturalist, which he has now been doing for 18 years now.

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