Bartolomé, a favourite stop on any Galapagos cruise passing through this part of the archipelago, is formed by two cinder cones joined by an idyllic, lush green isthmus fringed by storybook-like golden beaches. It is around here that most of the wildlife is to be found, the rest of the island being too harsh an environment for all but the most pioneering and hardy of species.
The impressive panoramic vista of the surrounding bays and islands is probably one of the best in the Galapagos and makes the 114m climb to the summit of the island well worth the effort. The top is reached via a wooden boardwalk designed to protect the fragile lava from the feet of enthusiastic visitors. The surreal, Mars-like landscape of lava tunnels and spatter cones is broken only by early colonisers such as matplants, lava cacti and the lava lizards that dart over the red-brown surface of the volcano.
Back down at sea level, good visibility means that excellent snorkelling is to be
found in the two bays while a gentle panga ride around the foot of the rocks
often affords great opportunities to watch the endearing behaviour of the
world’s only tropical penguin – the Galapagos penguin.