For our first full day in the Galápagos on board of National Geographic Islander II, we had the opportunity to visit two different visitor sites. Bartolomé, a small island about 1.3 km2 (0.5mi2) in size, located at the eastern side of Santiago Island, and Cerro Dragón at northwestern side of Santa Cruz Island.

As the sun rose, our expedition started with a dry landing at the “Escaleras” visitor point. With each of 372 steps on the wooden staircase, we appreciated the unique geological landscape and endemic vegetation. Our 30-minute walk was rewarded with the most iconic view of the Galápagos, as it is the scenic shot from the movie, Master and Commander. Our last activity on Bartolomé was a visit to a beautiful beach where we swam with playful penguins and sea lions, as well as sharks and a variety of other species of fish.

To conclude this extraordinary day, we visited Cerro Dragón in the afternoon. After a thrilling disembarkation on cooled lava rock, we did a 1.7 mile walk along a dry forest. On the trail we noticed lush vegetation due abundant rain. We also encountered the famous Galápagos land iguana. At this time of year, we saw males and females close together in their dens.