Said to be the most-visited and most-photographed destination in the Galapagos, diminutive Bartolomé Island has a total land mass of only one-half of one square mile and no human inhabitants. The island, just off the east coast of Santiago Island, is punctuated by the iconic Pinnacle Rock.The main vent of the volcano here is Bartolomé itself. Hike a planked walkway and climb more than 300 wooden steps to reach the island’s 374-foot summit and be rewarded by some of the archipelago’s most spectacular views, including pristine Sulivan Bay and neighboring Santiago, North Seymour, Baltra, Santa Cruz and Rabida islands.
At the foot of Pinnacle Rock is the island’s northern beach, where swimmers and snorkelers are likely to encounter marine iguanas, green sea turtles, sea lions, white-tipped sharks, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and multihued schools of tropical fish. Galapagos hawks soar overhead, while Galapagos penguins strut on land and swim and fish in the clear waters. The island’s southern beach, where swimming and diving are prohibited, is the ideal place to watch stingrays, spotted-eagle rays and both black- and white-tipped sharks as they ply the waters.
Named for after naturalist Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, Charles Darwin’s lifelong friend and a lieutenant aboard the HMS Beagle, Bartolomé is a living illustration of the tenacity of Earth’s species. Green sea turtles and Galapagos herons breed here, along with the rare and endangered Galapagos penguins (there are thought to be fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs in the world), amid exotic vegetation, jagged cliffs, and the broken lava tubes, flows and spatter formations that bear silent witness to its titanic origins. Bartolomé Island is a must for any eco-adventurer.