Bartolome island is a top spot to include in your Galapagos itinerary. It is most famous for the iconic Galapagos view of jaw-dropping volcanic landscapes. Bartolome is also great for underwater wildlife and awesome scuba diving. Let's not forget the unbelievable opportunity to snorkel with penguins and playful sealions. We highly recommend Bartolome as one of the very best Galapagos islands to visit!
Read on for everything you need to know to plan your visit to Bartolome island. What wildlife can you find here? Which activities and visitor sites await? Also learn about the history and geology of Bartolome.
• A small colony of Galapagos Penguins call this island home, making it a great spot to snorkel with these fun little fellas.
• Green sea turtles come to Bartolome’s golden sand beach to nest from January to March.
• Whitetip reef sharks can often be spotted cruising around the shallow waters.
• Galapagos hawks nest here, so keep your eyes on the sky.
• Enjoy breathtaking views of the most iconic Galapagos panorama. On a clear day you'll see Pinnacle Rock and up to 10 other islands.
English Name: Bartholomew
Ecuadorian Name: Bartolome
Total Area: 0.5 sq miles
Population: zero (uninhabited)
Bartolome is the most photographed island at Galapagos, and for good reason. The Bartolome viewpoint offers a stunning 360 degree panorama, and one of the best spots at Galapagos for a scenic happy family snap. The vivid black & red lava, green vegetation, deep blue sea, and golden sand, constrast together beautifully.
Bartolome Island is also renowned as one of the very best Galapagos snorkel sites. Let's face it, where else in the world can you snorkel together with penguins? Throw in friendly sea lions and, reef sharks and colourful fish too, for an incredible underwater experience.
Bartolome island used to be a volcano, emerging from beneath the sea most likely 1.5 to 2 million years ago. It is therefore one of the youngest islands at Galapagos. Bartolome’s most unmistakable landmark is Pinnacle Rock - the unusual looking rock formation emerging from the land like an arrowhead. This is a natural landmark, formed by an eroded volcanic cone. Some, however, claim that the rock has taken this form due to US Air Force soldiers using it for target practise during World War 2.
Bartolome is a very dry and rocky island, with sparse vegetation. This explains why it is unsuitable habitat for most land animals, with the exception of lava lizards.
The island's name originates from a friend of Charles Darwin, who sailed with him aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835. Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan was principal surveyor and second-lieutenant on the famous voyage. Sir Batholomew was also honored with the naming of Sullivan Bay landing point (Santiago Island).
Bartolome also boasts another unique claim to fame. Film buffs may recognise Pinnacle Rock from the 2003 movie “Master and Commander” starring Russel Crowe. The film is set during the Napoleonic wars. A British naval captain (played by Crowe) chases a French vessel around Cape Horn to the Galapagos Islands, in order to protect British whaling ships based there. The British crew disembark at Galapagos, and encounter some of the strange creatures that live here. The dramatic final sea battle then takes place in Galapagos waters. The movie is a work of fiction, but is worth watching before or after your Galapagos trip.
How to visit Bartolome? This small island is just a two hour navigation from the Itabaca Channel, making it a great day trip destination from Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz). It is a highly recommended inclusion to a Galapagos Land Tour itinerary, and is also often visited during Galapagos Cruises.
Contact us for a FREE TOUR QUOTE, or for more information to plan your Galapagos vacation and visit to Bartolome island.
Visitors to Bartolome can enjoy a wonderful variety of activities: treking up to the peak to enjoy panoramic views, visiting the scenic beaches, snorkeling from the shore, or diving. Read on for more information about each activity.
Landing Type: Dry
Trail length: A 30-40 minute trek up to the 114m peak.
Terrain:Easy footing along wooden boardwalks and up 372 steps.
After a dry landing at the concrete dock, the path turns into a wooden boardwalk and staircase of 372 steps. The climb can be tough on a hot day so remember to take plenty of water along with you. Take as many breaks as you need on the way up - there is plenty of space for people to pass you and no rush to reach the top.
At the peak visitors are richly rewarded with a postcard perfect view of the Galapagos Islands. Below you can see Pinnacle Rock and the golden sand beach. Across the bay behind are the immense black lava flows on Santiago Island, and Daphne Major / Minor islands. You should also be able to spot your cruise ship anchored in the blue waters of the bay. If your camera has a panoramic mode, now is the time to use it!
Along the way up and down the steps, there are other points of interest to look out for. Volcanic formations can be observed, like spatter cones and tuff cones. The ancient lava flows form a desolate yet beautiful lunar landscape. You'll also come across pioneer vegetation like endemic Tiquilia nesiotica, Lava cactus, and Scalesia bushes. These are the first plants to establish roots on new ground, and demonstrate just how difficult it is for plants to colonise a volcanic island.
Landing Type: Wet
Terrain: Sandy beach
Having seen the panorama from above, now it’s time to get your feet wet and explore the beach below! A wet landing drops visitors to a beautiful golden sand beach, with free time to snorkel, swim or sunbathe.
For snorkelers, you are only allowed to enter the water on the north beach. The principal snorkeling site is around Pinnacle Rock. Here lucky tourists share the ocean with speedy penguins, playful sea lions, curious reef sharks, rays, and tropical fish species. This is a highly recommended activity – one of the best snorkel sites at the Galapagos islands.
For those on the beach, the options are to sunbathe or swim. Explorers can also follow the short trail leads through mangroves to the south beach. This is where sea turtles nest from January to March, and reef sharks and rays can often be see in the shallow waters. Although no swimming is allowed on the north beach, wildlife can usually be observed from the shore.
From the beach, also keep your eyes peeled to the sky. Galapagos hawks may be observed circling high above, while Blue footed boobies dive like bullets to catch fish.
The waters around Bartolome are cold due to an upwelling current. The up side is that colder waters are richer in nutrients, so this area is an important Galapagos feeding ground. Sea birds like blue footed boobies are attracted to schools of fish. Sharks, sea lions and Galapagos penguins are also attracted to the area.
The Bartolome dive site is based on and around a rocky platform. Underwater cliffs drop away down to the deep sea bed, with stepped plateaus, making the perfect site to find a great diversity of marine life. The black coral steps are a favorite hideout for sea horses, while reef sharks are common around the overhangs.
Some of the underwater highlights to look out for include: Green Sea Turtles, Sea lions, Whitetip reef sharks, Barracudas, sea horses, Moray Eel, Octopus and colorful reef fish such as King Angelfish, Parrotfish, Hogfish and Rays. On a really lucky day you might even spot a Galapagos Scalloped Hammerhead shark cruising on through.
Note: All wildlife sightings are by their very nature unpredictable, and activities may be subject to change by your guide or the National Park Authority.
In conclusion, Bartolome is one of our favorite Galapagos islands to visit. What the island lacks in land animals, it more than makes up for in exotic marine life. Snorkeling with penguins or hammerhead sharks is a huge tick off of anyone's bucket list. Lest we forget, that 360 degree view is the best panoramic vista at the Galapagos Islands! We strongly recommend that Bartolome island be part of your Galapagos experience.