James (Santiago)

The fourth largest island in the Galapagos goes by several names. Depending on who you ask, it’s either James, Santiago or San Salvador. Uninhabited for some time, it is a rich site for observing the land-shaping power of volcanic activity and for viewing wildlife.

Sugarloaf Volcano
Sugarloaf, the islands’ now dormant volcano, towers more than 1,000 feet above the coastline, providing habitat for lava lizards, Galapagos Doves and Darwin’s finches. Cliffs of hardened volcanic ash stripped yellow, brown and black dominate most of the landscape. Along the coastline, the sea has shaped the ash into coves and rocky beaches.

James Bay and Buccaneer Cove
Puerto Egas on James Bay, on the western coast, captures the islands’ many natural treasures. Lava pools and caves line the blackened beaches, providing habitat for marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs and herons. Galapagos diving and snorkeling tours to inlets along the coast reveal abundant marine life, including fur seals, tropical fish, sharks, moray eels and octopuses. Inland from Puerto Egas, is a salt crater. Once the site of a small salt mine, it now provides habitat for many types of birds, including the Galapagos hawk. Just north of James Bay is Buccaneer Cove, where 17th and 19th century pirates stashed their loot.

Sullivan Bay Lava Flows
A volcanic eruption more than a hundred years ago created the dramatic landscape encountered by visitors to Sullivan Bay on the eastern coast of James Island. Untouched by erosion, every lava ripple has been preserved in the large pahoehoe formation here, giving the impression that the surface is still bubbling with hot molten lava. Only the hardy Brachycereus cactus and Mollugo carpetweed plants have colonized the glazed black rock here, a testament to nature’s resilience.

You may also be interested in…