A small island just off the east of Santiago Island, Bartolomé has some of the most iconic landscapes in all of the Galápagos. We couldn’t leave the islands without seeing it for ourselves.
Similar to North Seymour, we first took a 45-minute bus from Puerto Ayora to the Canal de Itacaba in Santa Cruz, then about a 2-hour boat ride to Bartolomé, which is much further than North Seymour. The landing was much smoother this time, there was even a small pier.
Top of Bartolomé and Pinnacle Rock
Bartolomé is an extinct volcano that reminded us of the Hawaiian islands with a gentle slope from the center down to the coast. The national park built a path of wooden stairs to facilitate visitors that allowed us to slowly ascend to the top with viewpoints along the way.
The land is mostly barren, though some species have found a way to colonize the land such as lava cacti and lichens. It’s such a contrasting landscape to the deep blue sea.
The sun came out just as we were climbing to the top, which while making the walk up a bit hotter, was perfect timing for seeing the landscape with the best light. And voila!
Twin bays separated by a narrow strip of land with lush green vegetation. Azure blue waters separating this island with the volcanoes on Santiago Island in the back. Simply stunning.
To the right of that iconic view is the famed Pinnacle Rock, a giant triangular rock formation that spearheads out of the tip of Bartolomé, a symbol of the Galapagos Islands.
We headed there next to look for penguins!
Galápagos Penguins on Bartolomé
Bartolomé is one of the islands known for spotting Galápagos penguins, along with Isabela Island. Since we had decided not to go to Isabela, this was our only hope of spotting these endemic species as well as seeing any kind of penguin this close to the equator. Usually penguins never travel up this far, but because of the currents that flow from the south, the cool temperatures and waters (along with the abundance of food) allows them to survive. So we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
Our prayers were answered when we spotted a penguin in the water as our boat was coming around to Pinnacle Rock. We were all delighted to follow its movements in the water, until we spotted another penguin atop some rocks. It turns out the male penguin in the water was swimming towards the female on the rock. In no time, he was on top of her and attempting to mate. This was beyond anything we could have hoped for!
The entire experience was enhanced by our naturalist guide, who not only explained that the male was unsuccessful (too bad, try again later), he provided entertaining commentary. He made all kinds of suggestive noises, kissing sounds, and funny comments like “¡sensacional!” that had all of us roaring with laughter. This alone would have made the entire Galápagos trip worth it.
Bartolomé Marine Wildlife
To follow up the penguin spotting, we continued around Pinnacle Rock and snorkeled around the reefs by the shore. The waters were clear with great visibility and plenty of marine wildlife, though they were certainly pretty cold!
There were schools of fish swimming around, as well as lots of starfish at the bottom.
A few sea lions even came and circled us curiously and playfully – they were so fast! We also saw a stingray resting beneath a rock.
The highlight, however, was definitely swimming with white-tipped reef sharks!
We were so pleased with our day on Bartolomé. Any day with stunning landscapes and incredible wildlife is a perfect day. The Galápagos Islands are truly exceeding all of the insanely high expectations we already had coming in.