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Where is Bartolome (Isla Bartolomé)? The Galapagos Island is located south of the equator near the middle of the Galapagos archipelago, between Santiago (James) Island and Santa Cruz.

M/Y Letty passengers photograph Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island.
M/Y Letty passengers photograph Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

How do you get to Bartolome? We arrived on an M/Y Letty Galapagos cruise, operated by Ecoventura. The ship's pangas (rubber boats) brought us to the volcanic island's beach, where we made a dry landing.

Bartolome hike

Following our Galapagos guide, Cecibel (Ceci) Guerrero, we climbed 394 steps up a wooden boardwalk to the summit of a formerly active volcano. The climb wasn't strenuous because Ceci periodically stopped to provide information about the Galapagos Island's wildlife, plants, geology and history.

Ceci Guerrero explains volcanic formations.
Ceci Guerrero explains volcanic formations.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"The boardwalk is made of Cedrela or Cuban cedar," she explained. "Cedrela odorata belongs to the mahogany family, so it is very durable. Cuban cedar was introduced to the Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz and Floreana, during the 1950s as hardwood for boat-building."

Things to see on Bartolome

What is the size of Bartolome? The Galapagos Island has a total land area of 1.5 sq km (0.6 square miles).

Bartolome was named after Sir Bartholomew Sulivan, who was a lieutenant on the HMS Beagle, the ship on which Charles Darwin traveled to the Galapagos Islands.

Cinder cones and spatter cones pimple Bartolome's brown and black landscape. "Pressure builds up as volcanic gases try to escape from under the earth," explained Ceci. "When the gases burst out, they push up big rocks called lava bombs."

Examining lava rock
Examining lava rock
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

When we picked up chunks of lava rock, we were surprised that they were so light. "The lava filled with gas, then hardened before the rock fell," said Ceci.

Our Galapagos guide also pointed out lava tubes that looked like volcanic veins with the diameter of truck wheels. She noted that Galapagos penguins live in collapsed lava tubes.

Farther out, we spotted a lava pool, or flooded volcanic crater, hugging the shoreline.

Colonizer plants

Why haven't most Galapagos plants established themselves here? Ceci explained that Bartolome is in the wind and rain shelter from Santa Cruz Island.

"Because volcanic ash doesn't hold water, plants that grow on Bartolome have to spread out so they can extend their roots to absorb water."

Gray matplant
Gray matplant
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

On both sides of the boardwalk, we saw gray matplants (scientific name: Tiquilia nesiotica), endemic plants from the Boraginaceae (Borage) family. "They are one of the colonizer plants that grow on volcanic slopes, stabilizing the ash and protecting it from erosion," said Ceci. "They grow flowers. Lava lizards eat them."

Elsewhere in the arid zone, we saw green Chamaesyce (scientific name: C. amplexicaulis) plants and tall prickly pear cacti (scientific name: Opuntia sp).

Pinnacle Rock

After slowly climbing for a half hour, we reached a wooden platform below an orange lighthouse on the summit. The view of Pinnacle Rock was worth the effort.

The arrowhead-shaped tuff cone guarded a bay and crescent moon-shaped beach on an isthmus, covered with lava flows from the 1900s. Pinnacle Rock was chiseled into its conical shape by American military stationed on the nearby Galapagos Island of Baltra to protect the Panama Canal during World War II.

Beaches and isthmus beside Pinnacle Rock formation
Beaches and isthmus beside Pinnacle Rock formation
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Land iguanas became extinct on Isla Baltra because soldiers also used them for target practice and introduced species destroyed the land iguanas' food.

Baltra Galapagos

"Baltra used to be called South Seymour," explained Ceci Guerrero. "The island was flat, so it was easier for the military to build an airfield there."

After our Bartolome tour, our Ecoventura Galapagos cruise continued to Baltra, about 2.5 hours southeast. Its Petro Commercial station is the only place between the embarking and disembarking port of San Cristobal, where M/Y Letty could refuel.

Passengers with Galapagos sea lion on beach
Passengers with Galapagos sea lion on beach
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Bartolome beach

After retracing our steps down the boardwalk, some members of our tour group snorkeled around Pinnacle Rock. They reported sightings of Galapagos penguins, marble sting rays, white-tipped reef sharks and Galapagos sea lions (scientific name: Zalophus californianus).

As the rest of us strolled along Bartolome's beach, a mother sea lion waddled up from the surf on her flippers.

With a Charlie Chaplin-like walk, she approached her hungry pup and rolled over in the sand to nurse him. From start to finish, our tour of Bartolome Island was a fascinating experience.


Ecoventura: www.ecoventura.com

Copa Airlines: www.copaair.com

Ecuador Ministry of Tourism: www.ecuador.travel

More things to see & do in the Galapagos Islands:

Gardner Bay Espanola Island Galapagos Beach - Sea Lions, Sea Turtles and Galapagos Hawks

Isabela Island Galapagos - Hiking and Kayaking at Tagus Cove

North Seymour Galapagos Trip - Land Iguanas and Magnificent Frigatebirds

San Cristobal Galapagos Interpretation Center, Kicker Rock and Playa Ochoa

Santa Cruz Island Galapagos - Lava Tubes and Pit Craters