Now, Santiago is an interesting island. If you visit Galapagos, this is one island you'll definitely need a guide for. Crowded marine iguanas, hawks, and small sharks in the water, it's definitely the place to get your first taste of Galapagos wildlife.
However, you'll need a guide for two reasons:
#1, I'm pretty sure it's illegal to go alone. But maybe you're just that big of a rebel.
#2. There are hikes you won't be able to do without a guide.
One of these such hikes was one I got to experience. On the way up, it was rather peaceful. Guided quietly near the beach edge, we saw the nest of a sea turtle and the broken egg shells left after the hatching. Silver trees rustled in the wind, having lost their leaves. An abundance of lizards scurried over the rocks, and the sea shone like a mirror with the dying sun.
On the way down, however, it was slightly less peaceful. As we tromped through the dry brush, a black blob lay in the middle of the dried river bed.
"It's a turtle!" Someone from the back said. Our guide looked worried, and said that if it was a turtle it didn't have much time left. When we got there, however, we realized it was just the shell, long worn away and eroded.
As we stood on the riverbank, looking at the husk of the turtle, we were all silent. The sand around it had been displaced, where is had struggled, and a somber mood settled over our group.
'What do you think happened to it?" someone asked. Our guide shrugged.
"Maybe it was the tides, or maybe this riverbed just dried up. You know, this whole place used to be like an oasis. However, with global warming, it's all dried up. There used to be flamingos feeding in this very spot."
And so, though this island was depressing in the way that we saw a dead turtle (yeah that was certainly depressing), it is an island you must visit. Not only does it give you the first real taste of Galapagos wildlife in it's beauty, but it further opens your eyes to how bad climate change is. I talk a lot about climate change on this blog. However, having visited both the steamy equator and frigid glaciers, I have seen evidence of climate change all around, and seen with my own eyes how bad it is getting. Take it from me, it's happening. This is why, though Santiago island is depressing, it is a must-visit when going to Galapagos.