Continuing our journey through the central islands, today we visited two of the smallest in the Galapagos archipelago: Chinese Hat and Bartolome. Size is not important when it comes to these two islands, as they both have unique attractions, including impressive natural history and incredible underwater worlds.
After visiting the island of Santa Cruz, National Geographic Endeavor II arrived at Bartolomé Island. With the first rays of the sun, we boarded Zodiacs. We headed for the small landing dock, located a short distance from steps that led us to the top of the island. As we ascended, we observed hundreds of parasitic cones and lava flows, silent witnesses to the explosive geological past of the island. The view from the top was spectacular. We observed dramatic lava fields, the result of recent eruptions that occurred on Santiago Island in 1897. We could also see some of the nearby islands, such as Santa Cruz, North Seymour, and Rabida Islands.
At 10:30 a.m., we took another trip to Bartolomé Island. Our plan this time was to discover the incredible underwater world and its surroundings. We observed reef sharks, sea turtles, colorful fish, and stingrays, but our most exciting moment was coming face to face with Galapagos penguins. Some of them swam right in front of us while trying to catch some fish. In the air, blue-footed boobies flew around in a feeding frenzy as they fed on the small sardines that are abundant on the island.
After a short navigation in the afternoon, National Geographic Endeavor II arrived at Chinese Hat Island (Sombrero Chino in Spanish). Midafternoon, we started our activities. Our guests could choose between deep water snorkeling and a dinghy ride along the coast. I led a group of snorkelers along the coast of Santiago; the snorkeling was spectacular. We had excellent visibility and a calm sea. Conditions were perfect for observing sea turtles, tropical fish, and the many whitetip sharks that swam indifferently in front of us. As we finished snorkeling, we spotted two Galapagos penguins drying out their feathers on a rock. These amazing, flightless birds were the delight of our guests.
After snorkeling, we returned on board to prepare for a Zodiac ride along the channel that separates Chinese Hat from Santiago Island. We observed several blue-footed boobies in a feeding frenzy while Galapagos sea lions rested on the beach. Arriving to the channel that divides Chinese Hat from Santiago Island, we spotted several Galapagos penguins swimming together at full speed as they tried to catch some fish. After a few minutes, they got out of the sea and headed towards some small caves where they live and spend the night. We did the same. It was after sunset when we headed back on board. Everybody talked about the incredible creatures that made our day a memorable one that will remain with us forever.