Today we explored the west coast of Santiago, also known as James Island.
We started our day with a pre-breakfast activity. Most of our guests landed at the jetty on Bartholomew Islet and hiked to the summit to enjoy the view of Sullivan Bay and the surrounding islands. Other guests explored the coast line of the islet aboard our Zodiacs, in the hopes of being the first to spot the endemic Galapagos penguin. Their perseverance paid off, as a small group of penguins was spotted on the far side of the island, preening themselves in preparation to jump into the water to forage.
After breakfast we made our way to the beach for snorkeling and swimming. The calm waters of the bay right next to famous Pinnacle Rock made for a very relaxing atmosphere. After an hour at the beach, most guests returned to the ship to get ready for deep water snorkeling. The water had a comfortable temperature and visibility turned out to be somewhat variable, although good enough to enjoy the sights of many colorful species of fish and invertebrates, like the Panamic cushion sea stars that gather in the hundreds in the shallow waters of the channel that separates Bartholomew from Santiago Island.
As we returned to the ship, the Captain offered our guests the exciting opportunity to jump off the bow and quite a few guests took the Captain up on the offer!
During lunch time, National Geographic Endeavour II repositioned a few miles south to an anchorage surrounded by a group of islets known as Bainbridge. Right after lunch, we gathered on the sundeck as the ship slowly passed right next to an islet. From the deck, we could see the big brackish water lake in a crater on the opposite shore, where American flamingoes were observed.
After a well-deserved opportunity for siesta we took to our Zodiacs once again to snorkel in the shallow sandy-bottomed channel that separates Santiago Island from Sombrero Chino Islet. The visibility was great and the waters teeming with life. White-tipped reef sharks and Galapagos penguins were spotted both swimming and diving around us and basking on the rocky shore.
Late in the afternoon we left the ship one last time, to take advantage of the flat light to photograph the penguins and other wildlife on the shore, as well as the amazing landscape. We returned to the ship, and after finding out what awaits for us tomorrow during expedition leader Paula’s briefing we dinned al fresco on the sundeck.