Day 3 of our Galapagos cruise took us to the tiny island of Bartolome, just a few hundred meters away from the much larger Isla Santiago, as well as Sulivan Bay. Bartolome is home to the best known landmark of the Galapagos – Pinnacle Rock. Pinnacle Rock is a remnant of an old volcanic cone, which makes a lot more sense when you realize all of the Galapagos Islands were formed by volcanoes.
We had four activities packed into this day, and our guide cringed as he told us we’d have to disembark for the first activity at a bright and early 6am. We tried to make some halfhearted groans but couldn’t fully muster them, as we thought about the activity – a morning zodiac ride in the vicinity of Pinnacle Rock to try and spot Galapagos penguins! Who wouldn’t be excited about that?
We climbed aboard the zodiacs and stared in awe as we sailed past Pinnacle Rock, which was stunning in the early light of the dawn. Everything was quiet before the sun had fully risen, and we tried not to talk too much, as if to not scare away these elusive little creatures we were in search of. And sure enough, within moments we found some! These penguins are adorably cute. And although we were occasionally disappointed when we thought we saw one and our guide had to correct us, we ended up spotting a couple of other cool birds, including a blue footed booby!
After an early breakfast we left for our second excursion of the day – climbing to the peak of Bartolome, at 114 meters. As we arrived onshore we were excited to see many more brightly colored crabs close up, and to take in the gorgeous shoreline. The climb was steep at times, but never too difficult as a boardwalk served as our trail the entire way.
As we climbed we were surrounded by a’a lava, a rough, sharp and jagged form of lava – and it was everywhere. Our guide talked about the geological history of the Galapagos Islands, and to my surprise their history sounded extremely similar to that of the Hawaiian Islands. Since Hawaii just happens to be my favorite place in the world, I was even more excited about the similarities. And I almost exploded with exhilaration when our guide said the Galapagos still have active volcanic eruptions regularly, and no authority will stop you from getting close to red hot lava when they occur. Future trip! For now, we were thrilled with all wonderful views as we ascended and approached the highpoint.
As jam-packed-with-awesomeness as our morning had been already, we still had one more activity before lunch – a snorkel trip off the zodiacs into Sulivan Bay. And we saw lots of new amazing things under the water. Our guide had told us to be sure to look out for sea stars, and I thought, “Yeah, yeah, how exciting can that be?” I learned my lesson:
Next up were some cool fish:
But there were more interesting things to come – sea cucumbers, underwater lava tubes, and sharks! Yup, white-tipped reef sharks, docile enough for me to follow and photograph.
Our guide had told us we might see penguins in the water, if we were *very* lucky. He recommended we not even try to photograph them, saying they are “muy muy rapido” – very very fast! He chuckled as he was saying it, and was obviously convinced it was near impossible…. Challenge accepted! My photographs may not be National Geographic worthy, but I got ‘em! And really, who cares about the pictures; we swam with Galapagos penguins! (But here they are anyway just in case you’re interested…)
We had done so much, lunch was almost as appreciated as the excursions! Okay, not really. The truth is I could’ve been starving and still would’ve been ecstatic with all the animals and nature-y things we were seeing. And there was still more to come. After lunch, we took another hike, landing on the shore of Sulivan Bay. This time, we hiked over a century old pahoehoe lava flow. Pahoehoe lava is quite different than a’a; it’s smooth and glass-like, in which one’s imagination can decipher all sorts of things. We even saw intestines!
Finally, it was time to board the Aida Maria and relax. While Elliott was walking out on deck, he spotted beautiful patterns of birds keeping pace with our boat as we sailed on to a beautiful Galapgos evening.