Santiago

Overview

Introduction

Also known as San Salvador or James, Santiago is the fifth-largest and one of the most visited of the Galapagos Islands. It is uninhabited, and there was a failed attempt at colonizing it in the 1930s. There are three visitor sites, and the two on the western coast of the island are Puerto Egas and Playa Espumilla.


Puerto Egas, on James Bay, offers a black-sand landing beach with impressive wind-carved, tuff-stone layers. The relatively flat, black-lava shoreline is broken up by pools, caves and promenades, where hundreds of marine iguanas sun themselves, seek mates and slither into the sea. Their black skin camouflages them among the lava rocks.


Playa Espumilla is a nesting area for sea turtles and, when the lagoon is filled, a place to see white-cheeked pintail ducks and flamingos. The estimated flamingo population on the Galapagos is around 500-1,000. These animals are an endemic subspecies of the flamingos commonly found in the Caribbean region.


Dozens of bright red-orange Sally Lightfoot crabs, among the only people-shy creatures on the islands, frolic in the tide pools and scurry on the rocks. The area also has a colony of fur seals, which are endemic to the islands but closely related to fur seals in Antarctica. The snorkeling is good along the rocks, where it's possible to see colorful fish, moray eels and sharks.


At the east end of the island is Sullivan's Bay (across from Bartolome Island). A volcano spewed a stream of lava there in 1897, and it still reaches to the sea. Visitors can follow a marked trail over the lava to see fascinating untouched volcanic formations such as pahoehoe lava. Only a few plants have taken hold there, including an unusually shaped cactus and some carpetweed.


Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat) is a popular snorkeling spot 656 ft/200 m off the coast. These beautiful waters are a playground for sea lions, sharks, penguins and manta rays. A series of seven diving sites offer divers the chance to get up close to the best of Galapagos' marine life.

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