Galápagos: Santiago island

August 18, 2023 • 9:30 am

First, the view from my cabin on Tuesday:  Isabela island:

And Wednesday’s “traditional Ecuadorian lunch”. It started off with a drink composed of purple Ecuadorian liqueur (at bottom) and pineapple juice. It was a good aperitif, but I don’t know what the booze was made from.

Ceviche with delicious pan de yuca: Ecuadorian (and Brazilian) cheese rolls made with cassava flour. They are addictive.

A palate-cleansing sorbet, whose identity was a mystery.

Mains: roast suckling pig (I asked for extra skin) with a cheese-and-corn vegetable and “towers” made of potato. Excellent, and quite filling

Dessert: dulce de leche cake, two cookies sandwiched around a chocolate filling, a piece of very bland cheese (like Indian paneer), and a piece of cream-filled chocolate. This lunch was so filling that I skipped dinner: I had NO appetite for the rest of the day.

Sunset on the islands:

Here’s where we were yesterday: off Santiago Island (formerly known as “James Island”). Darwin landed here—one of four islands on which he spent time.

A hearty breakfast. Some fruit juice I can’t identify, Ecuadorian latkes (o! for some sour cream!), a dish called tigrillomade from scrambled eggs and green plantains (excellent), eggs, sausage, and fresh pineapple.

A morning Zodiac ride around the coast where we couldn’t land. You can see that the cacti are the first plant colonizers of the lava, making dirt for plants to follow. Note all the bird poop:

A Galápagos fur seal (I will call it a fur sea-lion because of its external ears). It has its bairn:

Shortly thereafter, we took a ride in a glass-bottom boat. It was my first trip in one, and it was okay, but not as good as snorkeling. (I can’t snorkel as I don’t have my prescription mask with me, and I’m blind without it.)

A mess o’ fish through the glass bottom. I have no idea what they are.

And a Santiago lava lizard. According to the Reptiles of Ecuador site, this must be Microlophus jacobi. 

The front feet of a marine iguana. The wicked claws are to help it grip the rocks as it grazes on algae.

And the clawed rear feet:

This species of yellow land iguana, Conolophus subcristatus, had gone extinct on Santiago but was reintroduced. It was a big success, and is doing well. This one, we were told, was a honking big male.

A front-on view of the animal above:

Lazing in the sun:

This smaller and less yellow individual, I was told, is a female.

A piece of lava that had contained gas bubbles:

A Galápagos fur sea lion with offspring:

And a happy pinniped face:

A non-endemic yellow warbler: the only yellow bird in the islands.

A mated pair of American oystercatchers, another non-endemic species. Male on the left, female on the right.

The female (resting):

And the red-eyed, red-beaked male:

A handful of sand reveals sea urchin spines, shells, pieces of lava, and miscellaneous “sand”:

And a rare sight, a pair of mockingbirds, the Galápagos birds that did make it into On the Origin of Species as exemplars of divergence after geographic isolation (nowhere in that big book will you find a mention of finches). There are four species on the archipelago; this one is the Galápagos mockingbird, Mimus parvulus.

A good shot of one. They’re hard to photograph as they’re always flitting about.

I’m a day late with this one, usually posted the day after, and we had a great day on Santa Cruz yesterday, seeing a gazillion giant tortoises and a gazillion pelicans (and a seal) importuning the vendors at the fish market. Stay tuned.

15 thoughts on “Galápagos: Santiago island

  1. Cool about the iguana repopulation.

    And is there a snack bar in case you wake up hungry from skipping dinner?

  2. Cacti make the dirt for next plants….until recently I always took the rich dirt on top of basement rock for granted. The cacti on lava is a great example.

  3. That handful of sand is really pretty; I’ve never seen macro-sand like that with such a wide variety of identifiable shells and whatnot. I think I’d be spending and inordinate amount of time sifting through the sand. I imagine you’re not allowed any trinkets.

    The Yellow Iguana is a mighty handsome lizard.

    Thanks for another great travelogue. I missed not having one yesterday…I know, beggars can’t be choosers!

  4. Great combo: wonderful wildlife and great Ecuadoran food. What you showed as ceviche looks more like a soup with vegetables in it. Ceviche is raw seafood marinated well in lime juice with onions and some hot peppers added. It’s almost a street snack in Peru but common throughout South America. I’ve made it myself often, with scallops or fish. Tropical fruit juices and sorbet/ice cream are of course the great treats down there as are smoothies (batidas) with or without milk. Street stands offer a dozen or more flavors, separate or blended. Maybe your juice was passion fruit….one of the best. Long gone due to over harvesting, however, are barnacles (percebes or lobos..I forget local name)…relatives of lobsters and crabs but even MORE delicious!

  5. Could the fruit juice be guava? It looks like the right colour, but if you ever tasted it I think you would remember it.

  6. Apropos to islands off the coast of Ecuador but not much else.In 1553 several dozens of black slaves were shipwrecked in the vicinity of the Archipelago de Colon'(Galapagos) . A certain Alonso de Illescas, a former slave in Sevilla, took on the role of leadership of the castaways. In short order he married the local chief’s daughter and assumed the chieftaincy upon his father-in-laws death.He and his cohort helped the locals in their disputes with neighboring tribes and became known to Spanish colonists in Quito was the “black king of the Indians.” They managed to stay out of the clutches of the Spaniards for many generations.

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