We had an amazing day today. We started with a pre-breakfast hike since the heat can be strong in the early hours at this time of year. Bartolome Island is located in the central part of the archipelago. It offers incredible volcanic views of young lava and volcanic cones that formed in the last few hundreds of thousands of years. Bartolome is a tuff cone built by volcanic eruptions of nearby volcanos on Santiago or James Island. To climb to the top of Bartolome Island, we started with a dry landing and hiked up 380 steps. These wooden steps have a railing to help visitors get a good grip. Every hundred steps or so, there is a balcony to help groups regroup and take a little rest while they listen to naturalists explain the geology of this fascinating island. From the summit of Bartolome, at about 300 feet or so, one can see Pinnacle Rock, the lava flows of Sullivan Bay, and even Sombrero Chino Islet! The view is outstanding!

As an alternative for guests who preferred to take it easy and enjoy a Zodiac ride, we departed for a wonderful ride along the island’s coast. We saw so much wildlife at its best! Sea lions swam along as blue-footed boobies were diving for the first catch of the day. Pelicans plunged into the water while frigatebirds engaged in parasitic behavior. Finally, the moment that we were all waiting for arrived. A small group of penguins came out of their burrow in the black lava and headed straight to the sea. Just like children, these cute little birds walked single file past the Zodiac and jumped into the water. It was fantastic!

It was time to head back on board for a well-deserved breakfast. We took a break and departed again for water activities. The beach on Bartolome Island consists of inorganic material that results from the erosion of the tuff cone and the accumulation of iron minerals, giving the beach a golden color. It is a great place for snorkeling or strolling around. Some of our guests boarded Zodiacs for more exposed waters on the other side of the island. We enjoyed the presence of whitetip reef sharks, rays, fish, and, of course, the always amazing penguins! It was just out of this world! Our guests in the glass-bottom boat also enjoyed seeing the little penguins and sharks from above.

In the afternoon, we had water activities at Sombrero Chino Islet, also known as Chinese Hat. Located on the other side of Bartolome, this islet is part of Santiago Island. It is known for a small colony of penguins. The snorkeling was great and so was a Zodiac ride along the rocky lava coast with penguins and pelicans walking amongst the candelabra cacti. What a great afternoon. Sombrero Chino was the cherry on the top of this gorgeous day!

Photo caption and photographer: Pinnacle Rock, a famous landmark on Bartolome Island. Photo by Mari Ramirez