Explore San Cristóbal and visit Kicker Rock
San Cristóbal is the easternmost island in the Galapagos, and was at one time know to the British as Chatham Island. Named after the patron saint of seafarers, San Cristóbal is actually formed from three or four fused, extinct volcanoes and is one of the oldest islands in the archipelago, in geological terms. As home to the longest permanent settlement in the Galapagos it has a fascinating history, having at one time been a penal colony for Ecuadorian prisoners, then a military base and also an export hub for products farmed on the island including sugar, coffee and cattle.
The capital of the Galapagos province, port city Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is the most populated place to visit, and there are a number of tourist attractions including a statue of Charles Darwin on the site where he is believed to have first disembarked from the HMS Beagle.
Nearby Kicker Rock – known in Spanish as León Dormido, meaning ‘sleeping lion’, thanks to the islet’s shape – is a popular dive site. The remains of a lava cone that is now split in two, Kicker Rock is most famous for its snorkelling and diving delights. Charter yachts should aim to arrive early in the day to avoid the groups of tourists who are brought to the site by boat; and you can also kayak or paddleboard around the island if you would rather stay above the water’s surface, looking out for the nesting sea birds and basking sea lions that are found ashore.
Underwater, beyond the various tropical fish you are likely to encounter species including Galapagos and hammerhead sharks as well as sea turtles, rays and marine iguanas, which use the water to cool off when the heat of the sun gets too much on the rocks.
Climb Prince Philip’s Steps on Genovesa Island
The Prince Philip’s Steps – known as El Barranco in Spanish – is a steep trail ascending to 25m above the water. Arrive by kayak or tender to the beach, where you will be welcomed by the colony of fur seals, then start your climb.
The pathway gives you a front row seat to the spectacle of various seabird colonies including blue footed, red footed and Nazca boobies, Galapagos pigeons and owls. Once you reach the clifftop you will be rewarded with superb views of the lava plains, which make for great photo opportunities. Be sure to bring sturdy hiking boots to tackle the trail.
Walk across the lava flow at Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island
The lunar landscape of the hardened lava flow at Sullivan Bay is one of the top bucket list things to do on a Galapagos Islands yacht charter. Located to the south east of Santiago Island, the Pahoehoe – Polynesian for 'easy to walk' – lava flows date back to the late part of the 19th century.
Spend the morning exploring their intriguing formations, taking photos and searching for the hardy pioneer plants that make the inhospitable rocks their home. After, head to the beach for a picnic lunch set up by your charter yacht crew at the water’s edge before you pull on a snorkel and fins to enjoy a swim with the local sea lions.
Swim with penguins off the coast of Bartolomé Island
Named after the second lieutenant on board the HMS Beagle, Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan, this somewhat barren island is found in Sullivan Bay to the east of Santiago Island. It is here that you will find Pinnacle Rock, one of the most recognised sights in the Galapagos Islands that featured in the film Master and Commander.
Bartolomé is known for its herons, hawks and penguins. These Galapagos penguins, which are the second smallest penguin species in the world, have built a breeding colony in a cave behind Pinnacle Rock. An expansive and well-known dive site off the island gives you access to seeing the marvellous penguins in the water, where they move far more gracefully than on land, alongside sea turtles, rays and sharks.
Go diving around Wolf Island
As one of the best dive spots in the world, Wolf Island is an essential part of any Galapagos Islands charter itinerary. Being located some 14 hours away from the main group of islands, it is most comfortably experienced from the luxury of a charter superyacht. With a relatively high degree of exposure to waves, surge and currents, it should be attempted by experienced divers only; but the challenges will be worth the effort.
You can expect to see breaching dolphins, turtles, rays and sea lions as well as sharks. There are three main sites to explore: Landslide starts at 10m and is home to turtles, tuna and sharks including hammerhead and Galapagos species. The Caves is more enclosed, with sharks and stingrays in abundance as well as white soft corals and many different kinds of fish.
Shark Bay has the most exciting action and is not to be missed; here, a vast school of hammerheads patrols the water with an eerie calmness. Only the bravest divers need apply!