Who would imagine that two of the smallest islands of the Galapagos archipelago are considered the most famous? Today we had the opportunity to visit Bartolomé and Chinese Hat, two unique islands with incredible natural histories and beautiful underwater worlds. After visiting the island of Santa Cruz, National Geographic Endeavor II arrived at Bartolomé Island. With the first rays of the sun, we boarded Zodiacs and headed for the small landing dock, just a short distance from the steps that lead to the top of the island. As we ascended, we observed hundreds of parasitic cones and lava flows, silent witnesses of the island’s explosive geological past. The view from the top was spectacular. We could see some of the nearby islands, including Santa Cruz, Santiago, and North Seymour, among others.

After breakfast, we took another trip to Bartolomé Island. This time, we planned to discover the incredible underwater world and its surroundings. We observed sea turtles, colorful fish, and stingrays. The most exciting moment was when we came face-to-face with the Galapagos penguins. We saw them swimming in front of us while they tried to catch fish. Blue-footed boobies were in a feeding frenzy in the air, feeding on the small sardines abundant on the island.

In the afternoon, National Geographic Endeavor II arrived at Chinese Hat. Guests chose between deep water snorkeling or visiting a small beach. I led a group of snorkelers along the coast of Santiago; the snorkeling was spectacular. We had excellent visibility and a calm sea. We enjoyed perfect conditions for observing colorful fish and the whitetip sharks that swam indifferently in front of us. After snorkeling, we returned onboard to prepare for a Zodiac ride along the channel that separates Chinese Hat from Santiago Island. We observed several great blue herons and lava herons along the coast. On the beach, Galapagos sea lions rested indifferently. In the air, a Galapagos hawk flew over the area, looking for some marine iguanas for dinner. The penguins were the most spectacular part of our visit. We spotted about twelve Galapagos penguins swimming together at full speed as they tried to catch some fish. We observe their interactions with each other before they finally got out of the sea. They headed to the rocks, towards some small caves where they will spend the night. We did the same; it was almost 6:00 p.m. when we headed back onboard. We were happy and tired, and we had the best memories of a special day spent in this magical place called Galapagos.