Santiago Island and its Incredible Rock Formations

Santiago Island was formed by ash and lava spewing volcanic action. Along the coast, you can see quite clearly the thousands of layers of compacted ash (called tuff, pronounced “toof”) and lava that created it.

We started our morning with a dinghy ride along that coast. The most exciting part of that ride was the large school of golden mantas and mobula mantas that were skimming along just under the surface of the water to eat – there were probably over a hundred of them, and they kept swimming back and forth past us as they ate. It was amazing, and according to our guide, very unusual to see that many at once. We also did at last see some blue-footed boobies, but not very many, and none of them posed well in terms of being able to take pictures of their feet. They fish just like pelicans do, diving straight down into the water to catch their prey.

After the dinghy excursion, we changed into swimsuits and wetsuits, and snorkeled along that same part of the coast. Many more fish than the day before, and even some white-tipped reef sharks. Those are not dangerous to humans. Sadly, the mantas had moved on and I didn’t see any of them on this outing.

Layers of weathered tuff

In the afternoon, we started at a black sand beach on the north side of the island, and walked over land to a place on the western side where lava had flowed out into the ocean. There were some tunnels/large cracks that let in sea water – we saw sea lions and a large turtle (medium size by Galápagos terms). Then we walked back along the shore for maybe half a mile until we picked up our original trail again. The rock formations along that walk were incredible. Those layers of tuff were eroded and weathered into big sweeping curves. Adding to that, there were places where lava explosions had flung big globs of lava onto the tuff and literally melted it, so that the result looks like stone droplets and splash patterns. It took my breath away.

Lava “splashes”

We didn’t see much wildlife. There were birds, of course: a cattle egret, a lava heron, and some American oyster catchers. Lots of little lizards. Some marine iguanas, and our first land iguana since the one we saw at the airport on our arrival.

Land iguana

After we returned to the boat, a delicious snack of sushi was prepared for us to tide us over to dinner. Tomorrow is our last full day on this adventure, and it will be a busy one!

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