Galapagos Islands Travel Blog

Welcome to the Galapagos Islands Travel Blog. We provide unbiased opinions on the best travel ideas, sales, specials across all islands. If you want to arrange a private tour contact 201-688-7170

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bartolome Galapagos

This is the single most visited place in the Galapagos. If you saw just one photograph of the islands before you came, it probably was of Bartolome’s Pinnacle Rock, towering over a perfect blue cove, lined by a copper-colored beach, and set off by the rugged profile of Santiago not far in the distance.

There are two sites on this small island: a hike up an extinct lava cone for a sweeping view of the nearby islands and a beach where snorkeling and birdwatching can be very good.

Bartolome Galapagos - Summit Trail

The landing for the summit trail is a dry one, directly from the panga onto a rock and concrete stairway from water level. The trail is 600 meters one way. It is a wonderfully designed and sturdily constructed boardwalk, built to preserve the fragile tuff cone surface from the erosion of thousands of visitor feet. The boardwalk steps are easy to manage, wide and not too high. There are several points where you can pause and look out at the increasingly spectacular view as you make the ascent.

All along the walk, you will be struck by the stark beauty around you. The gracefulness of the contours contrasts with the near-barrenness of the slope on which you climb. As you look closer, you will see the little lava lizards scampering across the ground or sitting on one of the small boulders that were blasted out of the throat of the now-extinct volcano that formed the island.

The wind picks up as you reach the very top of the island, so it’s best to bring a windbreaker here. There are several flat areas on which to stand and look all around you. There is nowhere else on the islands where you can get such a strong sense of the sheer number and variety of sizes of the islands of the Galapagos Travel. The nearest island you can see is Santiago, a few minutes away by boat. South are Santa Cruz, Baltra, and Seymour Norte. Rabida is to the southwest. And there are dozens of islets and large rocks protruding from the ocean’s surface.

The larger islands are dramatically colored, with the typical orange base, the sweeps of black lava, and the fringes of gray life. The ocean’s color ranges from nearly white at shorelines to turquoise to blue and gunmetal gray. The profiles of the land, the contours and dimensions, are endlessly fascinating and beautiful. Pinnacle Rock (about 70 meters high) at the mouth of the Bartolome cove sets off the scene admirably. The top of the island is very far above it, and you can easily see the frigate birds that use it as a roost between their raids on other birds.

Keep an eye on the water further out, too. On my latest visit, huge manta rays were leaping out of the water, turning somersaults as they emerged.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sullivan Bay Galapagos Tour

As your boat passes by Santiago Galapagos on its various trips and as it pulls into Sullivan Bay itself, you often see wedges of black lava cutting across the island’s reddish slopes. Santiago is a classic volcanic island, rising to a dominant cone nearly 1000 meters tall at its northwest side. It also has many smaller cones projecting from its major slope, some having craters and others not.

Sullivan Bay Galapagos Islands

Sullivan Bay is the place to be reminded of how active the volcanic earth building is in the Galapagos. This site features a lava flow slightly more than 100 years old. It is a great swath of lava that oozed down to the sea, curling around small cones that came before it, adding land at the sea’s edge where there was no land before. There is a lot to be learned here about land-building processes, but first there is the feeling of astonishment and mystery as your walk over the shiny black lava fields.

The landing is a dry one onto a small ledge. You should wear lightweight running shoes to protect your feet on landing and on the fairly smooth but sun-baked lava flow. (You guide may have toughened bare feet, but visitors rarely do). Watch for penguins near the landing area. You may be lucky.

As your enter the lava field, what looks from a distance to be monotonous paving turns out to be a multilevel terrain of sheer fascination. It is like being in immobile black batter – 110 square kilometers of it. The proper name for this kind of flow is pahoehoe, pronounced with five syllables (“pa-ho-e-ho-e”). the word is Hawaiian for “ropey”. It is used by scientists everywhere to describe the same type of lava flow and surface character. It is a very apt word, conveying very well the shapes the lava takes as it flows fairly slowly, hardening into fans and swirls and protrusions of roughly parallel rope-shaped strands.

This kind of pattern is formed when the superheated lava cools more rapidly on its surface than in its interior. The lower, hotter part continues to flow and the upper parts begin to drag as they cool and harden, this uneven cooling gives the flowing mass its characteristic fan shape, with a series of curving creases roughly perpendicular to the direction of the flow. The flatness of the land over which it flows (the lava tends to separate and flow around obstacles such as earlier-established volcanic cones) and the fact that this flow went rather slowly overall (it was not the result of explosive volcano-buildin) allowed the flow to meander. There are fans a few inches in diameter as well as ones several meters across; they all interweave and overlap in the most marvelous fashion. Some of them look very much like other things; one part you’re likely to see the one called “pig guts” by the locals, and there’s no arguing the accuracy.

Stay tuned for more on my Galapagos travel journey...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Puerto Egas - Galapagos

In my travel throughout the Galapagos Islands I really enjoyed visiting Puerto Egas of James Bay... The trail, which actually follows the remnants of a road wagons once used to haul the salt, starts to wind away from the shore and up around the slopes of the crater’s cone. It’s hard to get much of a sense of the topography at first; there’s just a slope on your left side and flat ground to the immediate right. It’s an easy walk, although on a very hot day it can seem a lot longer than it is. Wear tennis shoes, not sandals; light-weight slacks also are a good idea. Somehow this hike seems to be one of the hottest excursions. The way to minimize discomfort is to keep a close eye on the sights alongside as you walk, and don’t be impatient to reach the rim of the salt crater itself.

But move along; as the elevation gradually increases, the birdwatchers in the group probably will have some great moments. The slope of the crater is a likely place to see the vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus). Just as it stands out in the dark piled on each other in layers, two or even three deep. This seems to be a way of retaining each other’s body heat. They seem to complete with each other for the spot that has the most direct exposure to the sun, even if it means clinging nearly vertically from a shoreline boulder with tails hanging out into space.

The walk will be an easy 15 minutes, ending at a small plain of black lava flow. This area is pocked by three aquamarine potholes. These holes are formed in the same way that the Santa Cruz lava tubes were formed, only these are not land-locked. The lava flow went out to the open sea and now the water rushes in and out of the tubes with the tides. The tops have caved in here and there, making the open pothole that you look down into. At one time, visitors could swim in these grottoes, but the combination of risks to swimmers of surging tides and of disturbing the wildlife has closed this option.

The main two pools are a wonderful sight, they're connected as they are to each other, with a bridge of black lava arching over them near the middle of their length. The exit of the pool to the open sea also has an arch over it, where it’s great just to sit and watch the water flow back and forth below you.