SANTIAGO (JAMES / SAN SALVADOR)

Santiago, often called James, is the Galapagos' fourth biggest island, with an area 226 square miles (585 square kilometers). Its shape is more elongated than some of the other islands, about 22 miles (35 kilometers) in a northwest - southeast direction and 14.5 miles (23 kilometers) wide. The highest point is 2,974 feet (906 meters).

The island is also called San Salvador or Chavez; sure to confuse an unsuspecting tourist. The English named it James after King James II. The Ecuadorians called it Santiago (from Spanish for Saint James) in 1832 after their official independence from Spain.

Wild donkeys are a major problem on the island as they have destroyed large areas of native vegetation. The Galapagos National Park Service is presently engaged in an eradication program and has significantly reduced the number of donkeys.

James Bay is on the northwestern side of the island (Puerto Egas.) The landing is on a black beach with eroded rock formations in the background. The trail crosses the dry interior where the remains of a salt-mining enterprise can still be seen and then continues along the coast. Inter-tidal pools are home to a variety of invertebrate organisms. Land Iguanas are scattered around feeding on exposed algae while Oyster Catchers try to capture Sally Lightfoot Crabs. The trail then leads to the Fur Seal grottos, one of the only places in the islands where Fur Seals can be seen. Puerto Egas is a good spot for taking pictures. Either at dawn or sunset, the light for photography is perfect. The lava and the black sand seem to catch fire and the animals acquire a surreal quality.

On the other side of the island, the southeast, is Sullivan Bay. Across a narrow channel from Bartolome, this site offers the possibility of seeing a recent Pahoehoe (ropy) lava flow, formed about 100 years ago. It is exciting to imagine how this lava flowed down to the sea, engulfing everything in its way. After exploring the lava flow, there is swimming and snorkeling with playful Sea Lions off two small coralline beaches.

Santiago - James or San Salvador
   
General Information  
Area : 226 square miles (585 square kilometers)
Maximum Altitude : 2,974 feet (906 meters)
Population : 0
Geographic Features : Lava formations, black sand beach.
Getting There : Private tour.
Getting Around : Hiking
Major Sites : Buccaneer cove, Espumilla beach, Puerto Egas, Sullivan Bay.
Observations : Dry landing
Flora : Mangroves, Lava cactus, Ropey lava, Carper weed.
Fauna : Galapagos Penguins, Galapagos Hawks, Lava Lizards, Sea Turtles, Marine Iguanas, Mockingbirds, Sea Lions, Shore Birds.
Activities : Walks, snorkeling, bird watching, tours.