Galapagos: Bartolome and Black Turtle Cove


I woke up later today at 6:45am but still before the 7am wake up call. I must be getting used to sleeping on the yacht. This was my fourth day on the yacht and life seemed to have settle into a comfortable kind of routine.

  • Wake up call at 7am
  • Breakfast at 7:30am
  • Morning hike
  • Read a bit
  • Lunch
  • Laze around, read, nap
  • Afternoon hike
  • Bathe before dinner
  • Dinner at 7:30pm
  • Briefing for tomorrow’s hike
  • Went to bed at 10pm

We also got to know our fellow passengers a little better. Besides the two of us from Singapore, there were a father and son from Israel, a couple from Australia and a couple from UK. The rest were from USA. A couple from New York was here for their honeymoon and there were moments when KKH saw an expression on the wife’s face that was something like “why is it so siong?”

There were pancakes available for breakfast. They were about the size of my palm. I took two and drizzled them with maple syrup.


We went to Bartolomé Island in the morning. It was a small island created by a volcano. It was right next to Santiago Island, the island with the black sand. But the soil on Bartolomé wasn’t black; it was brown with some gray areas because of the volcanic ash. It was a dry landing and it was perhaps the easiest landing we had. We landed on a man-made pier so it was easy to get off and on the dinghy.


Near the pier, a pelican was preening its feathers. The neck had turned red, displaying its mating colors.


Bartolomé felt rather bare as it was mostly just brown soil and rocks. There was not much greenery although some plants were growing.


It was an easy walk as there was a wooden platform and steps. It was built to prevent the visitors from eroding the soil. This was the first time we met other tour groups on the same island. I guess it was hard to avoid as there was only one way up and down.


It was a long climb to the top, all 365 steps. I was glad that Hernan stopped halfway to talk a bit about the formation of the Bartolomé Island. It was an opportunity for me to catch my breath.


Hernan told us that those big lumps of rock that we saw on the way up were called spatter cones. It was formed from the giant fireball was spitted out by the volcano. These balls fell to the ground and spattered, hence their name.


Finally we reached the last flight of stairs. Hernan told us that Jorge held the record among the guides for running up this flight of stairs. Jorge’s record was 9 secs. Some people tried running up the steps to see if they could break Jorge’s record. The best time was from a 20 year old guy who reached the top in 18 secs. All of us urged Jorge to demonstrate running up the steps but he declined, saying he’s too old already.


Then the rest of us walked up the steps at our own pace. From the top, we could see the beach that we would visit later. It was the one on the right, next to the pointy rock called Pinnacle Rock.


We also had a good view of an underwater secondary crater from summit. Then it was back down the mountain. I was looking at the scenery around me and wasn’t watching where I was going, so I missed a step and sat down suddenly on my butt. Only my dignity was hurt. I quickly got up again. The group behind me was very far away so I hoped nobody noticed anything. Back on the yacht, we were served some cheese and crackers.


At 10:30am we disembarked and went to the beach we saw earlier from the summit. Alex had finished his chores so he joined us for some snorkeling. I didn’t snorkel and instead walked from one end of the beach to the other. There were not many animals on the island.


Everybody stayed near Pinnacle Rock. I was the only one to walk to the other end of the beach so there were only my footprints.


I spotted this strange worm-like thing on the other end of the beach. It moved a little and then was still. It seemed to have died. I didn’t dare to touch it with my bare hands as I’m not sure what it was.


Moving back towards Pinnacle Rock, I walked into the water until it covered my knees. The water was so clear that it looked like it came straight from the tap. Even so close to the shore, I was able to spot some fishes. I’m quite sure one of them was a puffer fish as it had a distinctive shape.

Alex chatted with KKH and I while we were waiting for the dinghy to pick us up. Alex is an Ecuadorian but he looks a bit Caucasian with his fair skin and brown hair. He told us that he had worked on other cruise ships previously and had been to places like the USA and Caribbean. But he would be staying in Ecuador for a while as he just signed on to this cruise not long ago. He told us that the rest of the passengers would be leaving tomorrow and he would be picking up a new group at the airport. It was news to me. I had expected some passengers to leave but I did not expect that KKH and I would be the only ones staying on. I had gotten used to my fellow passengers and I’m not sure if I like the thought of getting to know a new group of people all over again.

The yacht began moving after we returned. The waves were quite rocky and I felt a bit seasick. I stayed on the top deck and by lunchtime, I felt better. The yacht was still rocking when we went to the dining room so all of us were extra careful when we went back to our tables with a plate of food. Nobody lost their balance or drop the food so it was all good. There was a lovely chocolate cake for dessert but I only took a bite as I was afraid that I would eat too much and be (sea)sick.


The sea took on this shade lovely shade of greenish-blue after lunch.

Black turtle cove

At 3pm, we went for a dinghy ride at Black Turtle Cove which was a mangrove estuary on Santa Cruz Island. There was no landing sites so all of us did not bother to put on shoes and went barefoot into the dinghies. There were clusters of mangrove trees forming little islands. Sometimes we had to go through narrow channels and had to duck our heads to avoid the low branches.

Black turtle cove

The first thing we saw were two pelicans sitting in a tree at the entrance of the cove.

Brown noddy

We also saw brown noddy. It was a plain brown bird with a whitish forehead. It was from the tern family.


In the cove, all of us kept our eyes peeled for any sights of animals in the water. We briefly saw some baby sharks which quickly disappeared out of sight. We also saw green turtles popping their heads out of the water to breathe. Most of the time they were far away and only popped up their heads for a few seconds. This photo was the best I could do.

Lava heron

We saw lava herons perched in the mangrove trees as well. They looked funny with tufts of hair sticking out on the top of their head.

Black turtle cove

We saw a blue-footed booby standing on a rock covered with Sally Lightfoot crabs. All this time I kept seeing blue-footed boobies but I was not able to get a good photo of its blue feet. I hope I would be able to have the chance before I leave the Galapagos.

Black turtle cove

As we were leaving Black Turtle Cove, we saw more pelicans. This time they were feeding. They dived into the water and scooped up the fish in their huge beaks. Jorge said that sometimes a pelican would break its beak on the underwater rocks when it dived. They were unable to feed with their broken beaks and would die of starvation. On one of the islands, they gave these pelicans a replacement beak, like giving someone a prosthetic limb.

Black turtle cove

The birds seemed to be more active and we saw several brown noddies flying around.

Sailing boat

On the way back to the yacht, we saw a big sailing boat. “Pirates,” Jorge said but he was joking. KKH and I thought that it could be another ship for touring the Galapagos Islands. When we were planning for this trip, we checked out the cruises and there were a few sailing boats listed.

At 5pm, Alex invited all of us to the lounge to watch a video documentary of a BBC series on the Galapagos Islands. All of us watched the first episode. At the second episode, those who were not interested in documentaries left. But half of us, including KKH and me, stayed behind and watched the second episode.

Then it was time for dinner. It was a special treat tonight. We had dinner on the top deck and one of the chef cooked fish and prawns on the grill. Besides the grilled food, there were other sides and sauces. There were two kind of sauces; a green avocado-based sauce and a white sour cream-based sauce. It seemed that the avocado sauce was very popular as there was none left when I went for a second helping. It was windy up on the top deck and some of the crew were around to bring us drinks and desserts. All of us were given sangria to drink and music could be heard the speakers. It was a festive mood. I went for a second helping of grilled prawns because they were so tasty. It looked as if I was getting back my appetite. But maybe it was the open air which always helped to improve the appetite. KKH reminded me that we were on the top deck so maybe that was why I felt better.

After our usual briefing about tomorrow’s hikes, I got some seasick pills from a couple from Montana. They were leaving tomorrow and offered to give us the pills as the sea would be a bit rocky around one of the islands KKH and I would be visiting. I thought it was safer to have some on hand in case I needed it.

I was outside our cabin at 8:30pm and saw pelicans alongside our yacht. They were hunting the flying fish that would leap out of the water. We also saw sealions and sharks swimming around the yacht. Looks like a fishing night for the hunters. It was the first time I saw animals around our yacht at night.

Kitchen on board Coral I

Then Alex brought us on a tour of the kitchen and the engine room. I think one of the passengers requested for it. First we went to the kitchen. It was narrow and cramped. All of us had to walk in a single file. It’s really amazing that the chefs were able to whip up all the tasty food in a small kitchen like this. Alex said that 90% of our meals were cooked in the oven. We also saw the large walk-in freezer that stored all the raw ingredients. Then we moved to the engine room. We could only go into the engine room one at a time. The engines were big and noisy and the room was hot. I didn’t stay long inside.

I went back to my cabin after I came out of the engine room. When I came down to refill my bottle a few minutes later, I found the some of the passengers (including KKH) chatting with Alex and asking him questions about the logistics. I stayed to listen as well. Alex told us that there were various ships or supply points located at various locations in the Galapagos Archipelago which would supply the yacht with food and water. There were also desalination facilities on the yacht. He said Ecuadorians would say “Ecuador AND the Galapagos” instead of grouping Galapagos under Ecuador. Tourism is a big industry in the Galapagos and what the people earned on these islands helped to support the people back in Ecuador. So all Ecuadorians understood that protecting the environment in Galapagos was to their benefit.

All cruises were only allowed to throw food overboard. All our uneaten food would be thrown overboard for the birds and fishes. But first, all the food had to be blended until they were in small pieces. There were also certain food, like bones, seeds and banana skins, which had to be removed as they could not be thrown overboard. All other waste and sewage had to be stored until it could be unloaded at the proper disposal plants. Sewage would be stored in a tank on board the yacht until it could be unloaded at a sewage plant on one of the islands.

It was interesting that almost everyone who stayed to listen to Alex showed some expression of approval when he told us about the strict rules to protect the Galapagos environment. I guess we all enjoyed visiting such a unique place and we would want to preserve it so that even years later, there would still sea lions sleeping on the beaches, marine iguanas basking in the sun, blue-footed boobies diving for fishes and water so clear that you could see all the way to the bottom.

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