Adventures on Bartolome and Sombrero Chino

National Geographic Endavour II at anchor off Bartolome in the Galapagos Islands. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Bartolome, Galapagos; Thursday, March 15, 2018
After a while, you get used to the early mornings aboard Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic  National Geographic Endeavour II. With the humidity and heat in this, the “wet” season, crushing around nine in the morning, the best chance to beat the heat is to get out there and start exploring as early as possible.
Today, we were up at 5:30am to set out on an early-morning walk to see one of the most-photographed sites in the Galapagos Islands: the island of Bartolome. Having been here once before in the autumn of 2014, this was the island I had hoped we would visit again – and I wasn’t letting an early morning stop me.

It pays to be up early…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…to explore the gorgeous island of Bartolome. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Now, this outing was optional, and some (but definitely not all) guests chose to stay onboard and sleep in. And that’s totally okay. But I’d encourage anyone who comes to the Galapagos and is fortunate enough to land on Isla Bartolome to get out there and tackle it head-on, because the views are amazing.
After a quick zodiac ride from the National Geographic Endeavour II at 6:15am, we arrived at the beachhead. A dry landing gave way to a system of boardwalks; if you’ve ever played the 1994 cult classic computer game, Myst, Bartolome looks like it could have inspired the creators. The Surrealistic Island that Will Become Your World – at least for a few hours – offers up a barren and desolate landscape, unlike anything else in the Galapagos.

Barren and otherworldly, Bartolome is barely 1.2 square kilometres. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

A sun-bleached boardwalk keeps you confined, but also makes it possible to ascend to the wind-whipped summit, some 114 metres above sea level. It takes either 374 or 388 or 380 steps to climb up, depending on which reference book you look at. Frankly, the count could have changed several times, as planks are replaced periodically by the Galapagos National Park Service. The distance covered isn’t great, and it is some of the easiest terrain you’ll encounter on the Galapagos Islands thanks to the wooden boardwalk, but the sheer number of steps and the elevation gain will keep the perspiration flowing all the way to the top.
Your reward at the summit: one of the region’s most enduring images: a panoramic vista of Bartolome and nearby Sullivan Bay, where the richness of the shallow water contrasts sharply to the Moon-like volcanic landscape.

The long hike to the top…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…is challenging despite the boardwalk…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…but rewards visitors with beautiful vistas. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

On my last trip to Isla Bartolome, it was cloudy. Today, the sun shone brightly, and we were able to catch it on the rise during our hike. Seeing the sun crest over the Martian landscape of Bartolome is an absolutely life-changing experience; on-par with standing atop a glacier in the Arctic or seeing penguins frolic in Antarctica.
After this excursion, breakfast was served in the ship’s restaurant before guests were invited to go ashore once again, this time for a series of snorkelling trips and glass-bottom-boat rides. I jumped on the last glass bottom boat ride of the cruise at 11:30 with just ten minutes to spare, and managed to have one of the best wildlife sightings of the entire day, as we were treated to not one but two Galapagos Penguins, stingrays, schoo

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