Sombrero Chino & James Islands

Mar 13, 2020 - National Geographic Islander


We woke up early this morning in the central part of the archipelago, anchored near the small but impressive island of Sombrero Chino. Sombrero Chino is home to an incredible underwater landscape where black lava meets white sand. There was great visibility, so we eagerly anticipated close encounters with species like penguins and of course fish, and fishes (the plural when referring to different species). Our activities varied with choices like pre- and post-breakfast kayaking, walks, strolls along the beach, paddleboarding and even deep-water snorkeling, which was fantastic. We were extremely happy to see so many fish, sea lions, and even Galapagos penguins jetting right through our snorkeling group. The water temperature was 79 degrees Fahrenheit, with excellent water visibility, and a calm ocean with almost no current. All in all, an exceptional (and fun!) underwater environment.

Back on board, we had lunch as we traveled to our next destination. Soon after lunch, we were given a talk about Charles Darwin, a young naturalist who visited the Galapagos in 1835, and changed the world forever! We anchored, and soon after a Zodiac ride took us to Sullivan Bay at James Island. Here, we had a one-and-a-half-mile long hike over lava flows, frozen in time as liquid rock solidified long ago. Another Zodiac took us to a nearby beach where we snorkeled and rested either on a towel or right on the soft white sandy beach.

Later in the evening we reminisced on our many experiences of this wonderful day. As we gazed upon these islands for the last time, understanding that tomorrow will be our final full day, this place now seems to be timeless to us. It is now deep within our hearts, and our experience has been unforgettable – in a place where wildlife that has no fear and allows us to realize that we are not so different after all.

Therefore, my introspective thought:

“We must not acknowledge the methodical saying ‘don’t humanize the animals’ but instead ‘animalize the human’ by perceiving our surroundings with all our senses; embracing nature by coexistence and respect for one another, so we can become one with nature as we once were.”

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About the Author

Celso Montalvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Celso was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At the age of nine he arrived in the Galápagos for the first time and he was profoundly touched by nature, observation, and isolation.  When he saw the sharks, rays and turtles swimming in the bay, he was triggered by a sense of wonder that he did not feel before.  Celso believes education is key to preservation. After graduating from the Naval Academy at the age of 17 he moved to New York to continue his education.

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