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Santiago (James) Island – Galapagos

Santiago (James) Island – Galapagos

Originally named James Island after King James II of England, it was a favourite island for pirates and whalers and has a long human history as well as outstanding wildlife viewing. The fourth biggest island (after Isabela, Fernandina and Santa Cruz) it has an area of 365 square miles and a maximum elevation of 2,975 feet. Along with Isabela and Fernandina in the west, it is also one of the most volcanically active, with many young flows and cones visible particularly along the south, west and east coasts. Santiago Island actually consists of two coalesced volcanoes, a typical shield volcano on the north western end and a low, linear fissure volcano on the south eastern end. Once rich with vegetation, the island has been devastated by the release of feral goats in the 1880’s and pigs, which caused massive devastation of the native flora and fauna of the island. Thankfully as part of Project Isabela, a complete eradication of goats, pigs and donkey’s has been achieved (the island was declared pig-free in 2000 and goat and donkey free in 2006). The restoration of the vegetation since then has occurred rapidly.

Sullivan Bay

This site is of great geological interest and is located southeast of Santiago Island. Sullivan Bay offers a rare look at a recently formed lava field. Located on the eastern coast of James Island, just across from Bartolome, this lava field is thought to have been created in eruptions that took place around 1890.

Activities: Hike (0.9 mi / 1.5 km) swimming and snorkelling

Difficulty: Moderate

Type of Landing: Dry landing at the rocky shore and a wet landing at the white sand beach

Highlights & Animals: Pahoehoe lava flows, which has hardened in accordion-style formation. Small glass-like bubbles of lava can be found, called “hornitos”. Penguins in the coastline.

Playa Espumilla

This tawny beach is a favourite nesting ground of Green Sea Turtles. There is a trail going inland with some very large Palo Santo trees where a number of land birds can be seen, including the Galapagos Flycatcher, the Galapagos Dove, Darwin Finches and Galapagos Mockingbirds. The beautiful sandy beach is a great place to swim and has some great mangrove areas.

Activities: Hiking (1 mi / 1.6km), Snorkelling and swimming at the beach

Difficulty: Easy / Moderate

Type of Landing: Wet landing

Highlights & Animals: Lowland Forest, Galapagos Hawk, Darwin Finches. Snorkelling

James Bay (Puerto Egas)

This was the island where Charles Darwin spent the majority of his land visits in Galapagos. At James Bay, the Fur Seal Grottos provide great chances to get close views of both Fur Seals and Galapagos Sea Lions in a series of rocky pools. This visit also provides some of the best opportunities for tide-pooling in the Galapagos, and chances to see shore birds such as Plovers, Sandpipers, Herons and Oystercatchers. The snorkel from the beach is excellent.

Activities: Snorkelling, hike (1.2 mi / 2 km)

Difficulty: Easy /moderate

Type of Landing: Wet landing

Highlights & Animals: Galapagos Fur Seals, Galapagos Sea lions, tidal pools and “grottos”, Galapagos Hawk, Oystercatchers, Marine Iguanas, finches. Snorkelling: Reef Sharks, Turtles, Rays, nice underwater formations.

Buccaneer Cove

This is the place were Darwin landed and built his base camp on his visit to James. It is a geological marvel since it offers wonderful scenery and chances to see both new and old ash formations. There is no landing site, so visit here can be only done either by dinghy or kayak. During the dinghy ride you might see Blue-footed Boobies, Brown Noddy, Galapagos Fur Seals and Swallow-tailed Gulls.

Activities: No landing. Boat tour along the coast. Kayaking and Snorkelling

Difficulty: Easy

Type of Landing: No landing

Highlights & Animals: Sea birds, scenery, snorkel, spectacular rock formations.

  • Cactus finch blue
  • Galapagos Hawk Santiago Island
  • Kayaking Buchaneer Cove
  • Marine Iguana Puerto Egas
  • Oyster Catcher Santiago Island
  • Santiago Lava Lizard