Santiago Island is one of the central Galapagos islands, and it is to the north west of Santa Cruz. It is one of the larger Galapagos Islands, covering an area of 226 square miles (585 square kilometers. The highest point on the island is 2,976 feet or 907 meters. Santiago Island was initially named James Island, after King Games II of England. It was later named Santiago.
Santiago Island has an interesting history, as in the past it was used as a stopping off point for pirates who found this to be a great spot for food. They would feast on the tortoises here. Later on, in the 20 th century, in the 1920s and again in the 1960s a salt mine crater on the island was used for salt extraction. At one point, some people tried to colonize the island, but today it is uninhabited.
Puerto Egas is one of the best Santiago Island highlights. This is a visitor site with a delightful long shoreline of lava. Here, the rock formations are home to a wide variety of different birds and animals. The rock pools along the side of the trail present some lovely opportunities to look out for weird and wonderful creatures.
Puerto Egas is also a Santiago Island highlight because this is one of the most likely places where you might spot the Galapagos fur seal. At Sullivan Bay, one of the fascinating highlights is the chance to hike across a lava flow that is fairly recent, viewing the intriguing formations that the volcanic activity has made. Don’t forget to bring your camera, to get some interesting photographs!
Any time of year can be good for visitors to Santiago Island. That said, if you have a preference for calmer seas then the warm and wetter season between December to June is probably the best time to visit. During this time, the waters tend to be warmer too, which makes it good for snorkeling. The cool and somewhat drier season runs from June to November.
Santiago Island is likely to be busier during peak holiday seasons. The summer holidays are a time when the Galapagos Islands are in general busier, and particularly in July and August. The time over Christmas and New Year is also especially busy, and probably best avoided, unless you need to travel at this time. It is also very expensive to visit during these busier months.
One of the wildlife highlights of Santiago Island, Galapagos is the chance to see the Galapagos fur seal. However, there are also a fair number of other animals and birds to be spotted too. While on Santiago Island it is worthwhile looking out for marine iguanas, sea lions, land and sea turtles, flamingos, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and even dolphins and sharks. There are opportunities to spot both Galapagos hawks and Darwin finches too.
In the past there were a number of goats, pigs and rats on the island, due to previous human habitation here. This did cause some damage to the ecosystem on the island and to native species. Work has been undertaken to eradicate these creatures, and mostly this was successful. However, the goats did keep some of the introduced vegetation in check, and so this does today create a problem, unfortunately.
At Puerto Egas, one of the main activities is walking along the two different trails that have been laid out here. One of the trails is about two miles (three kilometers) long, and it heads to the salt mine crater. The other trail heads inland and goes by a lagoon where flamingos can be spotted. At Sullivan Bay there is also a delightful trail across a lava flow. Visiting Chinese Hat (Sombrero Chino) is also a popular Santiago Island activity, and here there are some excellent snorkeling opportunities. The water here is often quite clear, allowing some excellent opportunities to view the life beneath the surface. There is also a short trail at Chinese Hat.
For divers, there are seven marine dive sites near to Santiago Island. These are mainly found to the north, and to the south east of the island.
One of our Insider recommendations for your time on Santiago Island is to look out for the sea turtle nesting site, if you visit Espumilla Beach on your Galapagos Islands cruise. Also, keep your binoculars handy, because there are often good chances to see Galapagos hawks while traversing the trail here. When on your Galapagos cruise, if you are not stopping at Chinese Hat find out if you are sailing by it anyway, as the island’s unusual shape is worth a photograph – it is quite striking looking.
If you want to ensure that Santiago Island is included in your Galapagos Islands cruise, then why not contact us now? We can identify the right boat to suit your needs, that includes a visit to this lovely island.