"The black island" Isla San Salvador by toonsarah

Isla San Salvador Travel Guide: 10 reviews and 73 photos

Marine iguanas on the lava

Of all the uninhabited islands in the Galápagos, Santiago (or San Salvador or James) is the one most affected by man’s ability to destroy nature. A combination of early 20th century salt mining, a brief attempt at colonisation and the introduction of several species (goats, pigs, donkeys, rats, and mice) has meant that Santiago’s wildlife and vegetation has in the past been severely compromised. But that is no reason not to visit.

In recent years a programme of eradication has removed the goats, pigs and donkeys; the Charles Darwin Centre’s breeding programme has revived the giant tortoise population; and the vegetation is gradually being restored. But even without this good news, Santiago would still be worth visiting, I think, for the drama of its relatively young (just over 100 years) lava flows.

We saw quite a lot of Santiago as in addition to a landing here on the fourth morning of our Galápagos cruise on the Angelito, we also snorkelled and had a dinghy ride along its eastern shore when moored in Sullivan Bay off Sombrero Chino on the second morning. But it was our wet landing on the black volcanic sands of James Bay (Puerto Egas) that was to be one of my favourite island visits. The trail led to an area of black lava, where we spent some time exploring the rock pools and the larger crevices, in one of which three sea lions were playfully enjoying the in-rushing sea water. I would happily have stayed here much longer than we did!

We also had a really good snorkelling session here – the first on which I saw a sea lion under water – a super end to our time here!

This is one of a series of pages about the various islands we visited on our Galápagos cruise. In those individual island pages I aim to describe in more detail what we did on each island, the environment and landscape, and the wildlife to be found there. But for detailed descriptions of the animals and plants etc I have included links to my main Galápagos page, rather than repeat myself too much here.

To follow our time here as we experienced it, please read my tips in order, starting with a panga ride

And when you have finished your visit to Santiago, do continue to the next island on our itinerary, Rabida

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:Sitting on the jagged-edged rocks of this other-world landscape, eye-balling a marine iguana, must be one of the quintessential Galápagos experiences
  • Last visit to Isla San Salvador: Nov 2012
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
  • Add to Trip Planner (?)
  • Report Abuse

Reviews (6)

Comments (4)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Feb 15, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    This does sound like a very interesting island. Good that they have removed the goats, pigs and donkeys and revived the giant tortoise population.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Feb 15, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      (But the rats and mice are still there, I suppose?)

    • toonsarah's Profile Photo
      Feb 15, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      I think they're working on the rats at least - there is an eradication programme in place for them on several islands

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Feb 7, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    It must have been amazing to see all of those Iguana's in one place! Not too keen on their colour, perhaps it is that for camouflague.

    • toonsarah's Profile Photo
      Feb 8, 2013 at 2:31 AM

      Thay aren't pretty but I found them fascinating :-) Thanks for visiting all these Galapagos pages

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jan 24, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    Fantastic contrasts! And this cute sea lion pup is ... so cute!!

    • toonsarah's Profile Photo
      Jan 24, 2013 at 3:57 AM

      It was one of my favourite sites, especially the area around the lava rocks :-) Thank you for visiting

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Dec 23, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    Another fabulous Galapagos page! I want to be there now!

    • toonsarah's Profile Photo
      Dec 23, 2012 at 3:37 AM

      I loved this island! Spending time on those lava rocks was fantastic - so much to see and such a wonderfully weird landscape :-)

    • MalenaN's Profile Photo
      Dec 23, 2012 at 5:39 AM

      On my cruise we visited Sullivan Bay and walking an that lava flow was definitely fantastic!


“I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust (Joni Mitchell, "Amelia")”

Online Now


Top 1,000 Travel Writer
Member Rank:
0 0 0 0 7
Forum Rank:
0 0 0 6 4

Badges & Stats in Isla San Salvador

  • 6 Reviews
  • 27 Photos
  • 0 Forum posts
  • 299PageViews

Have you been to Isla San Salvador?

  Share Your Travels  

Latest Activity in Isla San Salvador

Videos in Isla San Salvador

See All Videos (2)

Travel Interests

See All Travel Interests (12)