Sombrero Chino and Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 15 Jul 2022

Sombrero Chino and Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island, 7/15/2022, National Geographic Islander

  • Aboard the National Geographic Islander
  • Galápagos

A glorious sunrise – a band of orange, caught between sea and cloudy sky – silhouetted the Bainbridge Islets as we approached Sombrero Chino, our anchorage for the morning.

Early bird kayakers and paddleboarders took advantage of calmer seas before the wind started to pick up, as it does everywhere. A lone penguin flew under paddleboards and popped up near the kayakers. Meanwhile, on the tiny beach, wellness specialist Steffi led a stretching session. A lone sea lion came to stare.

We spotted an adult Galapagos penguin with two juveniles standing on a small peninsula of lava on the shore of Santiago, across from the beach on Sombrero Chino. Beachgoers and snorkelers saw whitetip reef sharks, and a young Pacific green sea turtle cruised slowly under the snorkelers, giving everyone a perfect view. It came up once for air, positioning itself discretely at a distance for this task, before once more submerging and generally hanging out underneath us.

As we left the Bainbridge Islet collection, Captain Garcia slowed the ship down as we made a close pass of the northernmost islet. The internal crater floor is still intact, though the outer slopes of the small tuff cone are heavily eroded. At some point in the next few hundred years, the sea will eat away the lowest rim, and the ocean will scour the inside briny lagoon out into the depths. For the moment, we know the Galapagos flamingos are using it for nesting. Indeed, two juvenile flamingos, still grey, were spotted. I presume the adults were off foraging in better lagoons, and they will return at nightfall to feed their young.

The afternoon was spent in Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island. A bit farther north from Sombrero Chino, it is a barren, totally fascinating lava flow that formed after Darwin’s visit. He never saw this flow, although he walked these shores. It looks like it was formed just a few years ago – so slow is the erosion here in Galapagos with very, very little rain to break down these geological products of volcanos. A kid’s walk with Charley, followed by Zodiac driving lessons, had the Global Explorers in a heightened state of excitement for the afternoon.

All aboard in time for sunset! Barbecue dinner on the top deck! Dancing! Full moon! Sharks!

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