Bartolome Island Day Tour : Volcanic Hikes And Marine Encounters

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 28 February 2024 |

No visit to Galapagos would be complete without sight of the Isla Santiago from Bartolome; well at least not for a Camino lover such as myself.

If other days on Galapagos have been all about the wildlife, our Bartolome Island day tour was going to be all about geology and that incredible view.

Iconic view from the top of Bartolome Island following the hike from the boat, looking out at Santiago Island

Bartolome Island Day Tour

The Galápagos Islands are synonymous with wildlife but many shy away from visiting as they think the islands are only accessible through expensive cruises or multi-day guided tours.  That can be the case but we travelled independently across the Galapagos Islands, on our own terms and within our own budget.  Yes, the Galapagos can be expensive but not prohibitively so.    

Bartolome Island is considered by some to be one of the world’s most beautiful islands. Standing at just 114 metres above the sea, it offers one of the most iconic views of Galapagos.  The picture perfect crescent-shaped bay with crystal clear blue waters, views of the nearby Santiago Island and the famous Pinnacle Rock towering above it.

And you get to see all of this on a day trip from Santa Cruz.

★★★★★

WE LOVED THIS BARTOLOME ISLAND DAY TOUR

  • Hotel pickup
  • Excellent guide
  • Amazing snorkelling

Independent Galapagos : Bartolome Island Day Tour

Bartolomé Island was named after Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan, a friend of Charles Darwin and principal surveyor on the HMS Beagle.

Bartolomé is a barren island, joined under the water to neighbouring Santiago Island by way of the beautiful Sullivan Bay.

There is very little vegetation on the island and very little by way of wildlife but you will find countless lava formations such as spatter cones, tuff cones, and lava tubes and a few very odd looking plants.

When planning our time in the Galapagos I always knew that I wanted to make this trip.  This is one of the longer day tours from Santa Cruz and only a handful of boats make the journey so booking in advance was a must.

blue, calm seas in the morning sailing from Santa Cruz to Bartolome on our day trip to the island

How Do You Reach Bartolome Island?

Bartolomé Island can be reached on some of the multi-day cruises but it’s also possible to visit on a day tour from Santa Cruz island.

This is a long sea journey and the tours depart early in the morning but include all transportation, meals, and the guided hike on the island.  Our tour also included a fabulous snorkelling adventure too.

I knew this was one of my must-do trips and researched the best day tours before leaving home.  We ended up travelling to the island in the same ship that David Attenborough had used, which just added to our fabulous day.

Top Tip : Do be aware that only a few boats make this journey and not every day so ensure that you plan accordingly. 

How Long Are Day Trips To Bartolome Island?

The duration of Bartolomé Island tours vary but they are typically long due to the distance you need to travel.  Our tour started at 6:45am and we returned to Port Ayora at around 5:00pm.

You’ll drive up through the Highlands to reach the Itabaca Channel to board your ship.  The sea journey to Bartolome is a good two hours and we were served breakfast onboard.

Some tours offer additional options such as snorkelling or a visit to nearby beaches, which can add an extra hour or two. We opted for snorkelling and swam with the famous Galapagos penguins.

looking down at the boardwalks that make up the trail on Bartolome island in the Galapagos

What Should I Bring On A Day Trip To Bartolome Island?

This is a long day so it’s important that you come prepared.  We knew that we would be snorkelling before leaving home and we travelled with our own gear.  If you don’t have any don’t worry, the tour companies offer full snorkelling equipment and wetsuits.  You will need to collect them the day before your trip and take it with you on the day.

  • Sunscreen: It was very hot when we visited and the walk to the top of the island is totally exposed so be prepared for this and take precautions.  The Galapagos Islands have strong UV rays, so it’s important to protect your skin with a high SPF sunscreen.
  • Hat and Sunglasses: These will provide additional protection from the sun and help reduce the glare from the water.
  • Comfortable Shoes: The hike on Bartolomé Island is steep but you do walk on boardwalks and lots of wooden steps.  The path is in good condition but comfortable walking shoes are important.
  • Drinking Water : It’s really important to stay hydrated.  Take water with you.  Water is provided on board and you can also refill bottles with drinking water on board the ship
  • Camera: This is a must.  The journey to the island is glorious and the views from the top of Bartolome were amazing.  Many folks also used underwater covers for their phones when snorkelling; we had one but as Gerry had lost his phone we decided not to chance losing mine so sadly no underwater photos for us.
  • Snorkelling and Swimming Gear : We knew to expect snorkelling and we had our own rash suits and snorkelling gear.  If you don’t have them the tour should provide them. Flippers were provided onboard the ship.
  • Snacks : This is a long day and lots of food is provided but you may get hungry so pack a few snacks in your bag just in case, for your return journey.
  • Cash: You can purchase some drinks onboard and you may wish to tip the crew members and guide so carry a little extra cash.
  • Insect Repellent : I’d read a few posts saying that you were not allowed to use insect repellent on Galapagos, but this was never an issue for us.  There are biting insects and in particular horse-flies so be prepared and use a good repellent.
  • Sea Sickness Medication : The journey at sea is long.  It was super calm in the morning but a little choppy on the journey back.  If you suffer from motion sickness make sure you take medication with you and take some for the trip home.
turquoise sea and the iconic Pinnacle rock with Santiago island behind

What To Expect On Bartolome Island?

Bartolome Island was formed by an extinct volcano and is believed to be one of the younger of the Galapagos Islands, at around 1.5 million to 2 million years old.  On a clear day they say you can see ten other islands from the top of Bartolome; we never spotted ten but we did have a fantastic view.

Bartolome Island is very different than other islands. It is barren and offers a unique landscapes although very little plant or animal life (on land at least).  The iconic Pinnacle Rock was formed from an eroded volcanic cone; our guide told us that one of these days it may collapse but for now it stands firm.

  • Iconic Landscapes: At the risk of repeating myself, Bartolome Island is one of the most famous views of the Galapagos.  It’s worth climbing the hill just for that.
  • Snorkelling and Diving: The crystal-clear waters that surround Bartolome Island are unique and offer an incredible opportunity to see a diverse array of marine life.  The cold-water current makes this location very unique and the water are rich with marine life.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Marine life here includes sea turtles, sea lions, stingrays, spotted eagle rays, blacktip sharks and a small colony of Galapagos penguins. Divers may also have the chance to see the bizarre red-lipped batfish. 

We spotted schools and schools of tropical fish, sea turtles and Galapagos penguins.  We had an encounter with a rather large and very grumpy sea lion as we tried to return to our Zodiac and Gerry spotted a huge shark swimming under our boat.

grumpy sealion being moved off the jetty to allow us to enter the zodiac boat

What Wildlife Will You See On Bartolome?

Bartolome Island has an almost Mars like surface and you can get up close and personal with the remnants of long extinct volcanic activity.

Whilst there are no land animals, there are really excellent snorkelling opportunities.  You can snorkel off the beach at the foot of Pinnacle Rock or like us from the boat.

  • Galapagos Penguins: These are one of the few species of penguins found outside of Antarctica. They are small in size and can often be spotted swimming or waddling along the shores.
  • Galapagos Hawks: These birds of prey are endemic to the islands and can often be seen flying overhead.
  • Sea Lions: These playful creatures can be found basking on the beaches of Bartolome Island or Sullivan Bay. Visitors can sometimes get up close and personal with them during snorkelling trips but I was a little wary after our encounter with the one near our boat! 
  • Sally Lightfoot Crabs: I loved these brightly coloured crabs, they were everywhere in huge numbers.  I loved them because my mum was called Sally.
  • Sea Turtles: These majestic creatures can often be seen swimming in the clear waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands. We spotted them when we were snorkelling but we also spotted several during the journey to the island.
  • Sharks: Black-tipped and White-tipped reef Sharks are present and Gerry spotted a really large shark swimming under our Zodiac.  It’s a little nerve wracking to see them and then jump in the water but we were assured they are totally harmless.
  • Giant Manta Rays: These graceful creatures can reach up to 30 feet in the ‘wingspan’ and are a common sight in the waters of the Galapagos. Sadly we never got to see them here but we did spot them during our visit to North Seymour.   
  • Flora : Due to the arid nature of the island’s volcanic land, it is hard for vegetation to flourish. While not particularly rich in vegetation, Bartolome still hosts a number of resilient species. Tiquilia Nesiotica may look like a dead bush, but its leaves are covered with small gray hairs that help it prevent moisture loss and sun damage.  We also spotted lava cactus which has to be the strangest plant I’ve ever seen.
Galapagos Cactus that looks like a weird multi legged spider, spotted on our Bartolome Island Day Tour

Will You Have A Guide On A Day Tour?

All tours on the uninhabited Galapagos Islands are accompanied by official guides.  Our guide on this tour was a Galapagos Islander and had followed in her father footsteps; he was also a guide.  She had studied Volcanology and Geology at university and was passionate about the land and the sea of her homeland.

The guides are experts.  Make the most of them as they are a fountain of knowledge.

What’s Included In Your Bartolome Island Tour?

As with all the tours we booked on the Galapagos Island, the day is fully inclusive.  All transport, meals and drinks were included.  You could also use the snorkelling equipment if needed.

We had three meals on board our ship; breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack.  There were also drinks and water freely available too.  I should add that special diets are also catered for.  All of my meals were gluten free and vegetarian options were readily available.  Just mention when you book and they take care of everything else.

During our long snorkelling adventure, life jackets and ropes were provided for those less confident in the water.

When booking your tour do check and compare what is included in the cost of your trip; tours do vary in quality and what’s included.

★★★★★

WE LOVED THIS BARTOLOME ISLAND DAY TOUR

  • Hotel pickup
  • Excellent guide
  • Amazing snorkelling

Our Amazing Snorkelling Experience at Pinnacle Rock

After our hike our guide offered the group two options.  We could swim and snorkel from Sullivan Beach or we could snorkel from the boat; swimming around the island and meeting the boat at Pinnacle point. Below Pinnacle Rock lies an underwater world teeming with life.

The guide explained that during her last visit, horse flies on the beach had been a problem and perhaps swimming from the boat might be better for us.  We took a vote, and everyone voted for snorkelling from the boat.  Wow!  It was a good choice and an incredible experience.  We’re so pleased she offered us this option.

Gerry is not a strong swimmer so we stayed close to the guide (who was in the water with us).  The current is strong here but oh my, the marine life was incredible.  And we got to swim with the penguins.

We were followed by the Zodiac so anyone who was feeling tired was quickly taken out of the water.  We never once felt in danger but for us it was the experience of a lifetime and a privilege to witness this unique underwater world.

colleen snorkelling from the boat during our Bartolome Island day tour

Conservation On Bartolome

Bartholomew, much like the rest of the Galápagos, is stringently protected by the Ecuadorian government to preserve its delicate ecosystems.  When you visit, ensure you leave no trace and respect the guidelines put in place and always follow your guides and crew members. 

We got to swim with the Galapagos Penguin, the second smallest penguin species in the world,

In 1982, these creatures suffered a massive decline during an El Niño year and they have been slow to recover.  In 2008 a  parasite was found in Galapagos Penguins and researchers are worried that this could potentially lead to avian malaria. We were lucky to see these animals and the local population in Bartolomé continues to be monitored to ensure their health and survival.

Knowing this, it’s easy to understand that in order to protect these species and their habitats, strict rules and regulations are in place for visitors to follow.

What is the Cost of the Bartolome Island Tour?

This was one of our more expensive tours, partly down to the distance travelled and the longer day. However, it’s not noticeably more expensive and we felt that it was worth every penny.

  • The tours cost around the 350€, some of the more expensive trips are around 450€. 
  • Our boat was wonderful and there were 14 of us in the group; it felt like a good number and never felt too busy.
volcanic Mars-like landscape observed during our day trip to Bartolome

What Level Of Fitness Do You Need?

The climb to the top is steep; you don’t get those iconic views from the sea level.  But the journey up was broken with regular stops and talks about the volcanic structure and landscape around us.

The hike to the top of Bartolomé Island isn’t for a casual walker and perhaps a moderate level of fitness is required.  I’m a hiker but I’m pretty rubbish on hills and I found it very comfortable.  I took it slow, I let the young fit things go ahead and I never felt rushed.

The hike up is approximately 1.5 kilometres long but you don’t walk this all at once.  And the elevation is just over 100 metres so not too difficult.  Ultimately, the landscape is so amazing and the views breath-taking that you often forget about the climb.   

Equally the swim does require a level of fitness and swimming ability.  However, you are given life jackets and you can leave the water whenever you want. 

I would say overall, you need a moderate amount of fitness but we’re in our 60s and not athletic and we had no issues.

What Will The Weather Be Like On Bartolome Island?

We visited the islands at the end of May and during our trip to Bartolome Island the weather was perfect.  The sea in the morning was beautifully calm although it was a little choppier on the return trip.

During the hike it was very hot and the sun is strong so sunscreen and protection is really important.  The temperature here rarely dips below around 25c.

The water was surprisingly chilly around Bartolome and I would recommend either the wetsuit provided or a rash suit, this will keep you warm in the water and protect you from the sun whilst snorkelling.

When is the Best Time to Visit Bartolome Island?

When planning your visit to the Galapagos Islands, the best time really depends on the wildlife and activities that you are interested in. In terms of climate, the seasons can be categorized into two main periods: the cool and dry season (June to November) and the warm and wet season (December to May).

  • If you want to witness the waved albatross, the ideal time is between April and November. 
  • If you want to spend time at sea there is generally less wind and the sea is calmer during February, March and April. 
  • December to May offers pleasant weather, warmer water temperatures, and excellent visibility for snorkelling and diving.
  • August and September tend to have the coolest temperatures and rougher sea conditions.
on board the ship taking us from Santa Cruz to Bartolome Island

Is it Worth Visiting Bartolome Island?

Our day tour to Bartolomé Island gave us some of the best experiences we had during our Galapagos adventure. It was in total contrast to our walk around North Seymour Island and was a great opportunity to learn about conservation and sustainability.

It was an experience we’ll treasure and the whole day made for a memorable adventure.

For those who revel in the unspoiled wild beauty of the natural world, Bartolome Island is a must.   And this day tour is proof that the Galápagos are far from unreachable; rather, they are totally within a DIY island-hoppers grasp and we thoroughly recommend you booking your spot on a boat.

Are You visiting the galapagos Islands?

I have a series of posts that may be of interest to you and help with your Galapagos Island planning :

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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