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Although officially known as Santiago, the island is also variously known as James (its English name), Olmedo, Gil, and York. It covers a total surface area of 585 square kilometres, and its highest point is 907 metres above sea level.

Some of the potential landing sites and highlights around Santiago Island are shown below.  There are two kinds of landing: a “dry” landing, where you step from the panga (dinghy) that takes you ashore directly onto rocks or a jetty, and a “wet” landing, where the panga edges into a sandy beach, and you step out into knee-deep water and wade ashore.

Buccaneer Cove

Buccaneer Cove

This cove bears testament to the fact that Santiago was once a refuge for British buccaneers, who would anchor in the sheltered bay to repair their ships and stock up on tortoise meat among other things. The steep cliffs, where hundreds of seabirds perch overlooking the beach of dark red sand, are a magnificent site.

  • Location highlights: Historical site, Rock formations
  • Activities: Snorkelling, Walking (Approximately 1km hike along the beach)
  • Landing conditions: All times: Wet
  • Physical demand: Gentle

Playa Espumilla

Playa Espumilla

This beach is a popular place for marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs, which attract herons in search of food. Snorkelling here is highly recommended – the abundance of marine life includes octopus, moray eels and sharks.

  • Activities: Snorkelling, Swimming
  • Landing conditions: All times: Wet
  • Physical demand: Gentle

Puerto Egas

Puerto Egas

Also known as James Bay, this site is home to Galapagos hawks and nimble Galapagos lava lizards. The visitor trail leads to a coastline with tidal pools and grottos full of fauna. Here the Galapagos sealions bathe in the sun. It’s also a great place for snorkelling.

  • Location highlights: Tidal pools, Grottos, Underwater formations
  • Activities: Snorkelling, Walking (Approximately 2km hike)
  • Landing conditions: All times: Wet
  • Physical demand: Moderate

View suggested itineraries

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: Galapagos penguin, South American fur seal, Galapagos hawk, lava lizard, American flamingo, Sally Lightfoot crab, marine iguana, brown pelican
  • Where: Central islands, Galapagos Islands

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itineraries:

Galapagos Islands: Luxury on Land

Discover the natural wonders of the Galapagos archipelago and its unique wildlife by land, sea and air. Accommodation is a tented safari camp on Santa Cruz Island, with daily excursions to some of the surrounding islands, where you will find Galapagos sealions, green turtles, flamingos and white tip reef sharks.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 10 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £5,595 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Wildlife of Ecuador & the Galapagos

Combine two of South America’s finest wildlife destinations – the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands. View the outstanding variety of wildlife on walking trails and by boat from a luxury eco-lodge in the Amazon jungle, and cruise the unique Galapagos archipelago for close-up wildlife encounters.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 12 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,945 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Amazon & the Galapagos

Take a look at the fantastic wildlife of Ecuador with three days in the Amazon jungle in a private reserve, taking guided boat trips and enjoying bird’s eye views from the canopy walkway. A week’s cruise around the Galapagos Islands tops off the trip with close bird and marine life encounters.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 16 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £9,195 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

5 day First Class Northern Galapagos cruise

An exploration of the some of the Galapagos’ smaller northern islands, exploring lagoons filled with flamingos on Santa Cruz, colonies of sealions at Rábida and thousands of marine birds on Genovesa. There are plenty of opportunities to view the exceptional wildlife on hikes or panga rides.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration exc. flights: 5 days
  • Price exc. flights: From £3,570 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

8 day First Class Galapagos Highlights

Spend a week exploring in depth some of the larger islands in the Galapagos, including Isabela, the largest of the archipelago and home to flamingos, Galapagos penguins, green turtles and land iguanas. Discover a host of unique bird species, including magnificent frigatebirds and iconic blue-footed boobies.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration exc. flights: 8 days
  • Price exc. flights: From £3,695 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

8 day deluxe Western Islands cruise

A comprehensive voyage of discovery covering the western islands, discovering pristine island environments and an amazing wealth of wildlife. Landings include Rábida, one of the most colourful islands in the archipelago, home to Galapagos penguins, sea lions and some of the rarest birds in abundance.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration exc. flights: 8 days
  • Price exc. flights: From £4,285 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour
Recommended cruise vessels:

Mary Anne

The elegant Mary Anne is an environmentally friendly ship with an astonishing 1,000 metres of canvas sail. She accommodates passengers in 12 well-appointed cabins, all with air conditioning and private facilities. On board there is a lounge and bar area, solar deck and outdoor dining area.

Santa Cruz II

The Santa Cruz II is an elegant vessel, which carries 90 passengers in 50 modern cabins. Air conditioned throughout, facilities across the five spacious decks include indoor and outdoor dining, a lounge bar, library, a gym and two hot tubs overlooking the ocean. Activities include kayaking and snorkelling.