Santiago was originally named James Island, after King James II, and was the second of the Galápagos islands to be visited by Charles Darwin. In Darwin’s accounts of this island, in The Voyage of the Beagle, he states that there were so many land iguanas that they had trouble finding a spot to pitch a tent.
When Darwin first arrived on this island he found a party of Spaniards who had come from Charles Island to dry fish and salt tortoise meat. During the 1920s and again in the 1960s companies extracted salt from the Salt Mine Crater and constructed roads and buildings at Puerto Egas, named after the owner of a company that worked there in the 1960s. In the 1930s a small group of people tried to colonise the island but failed, however they released goats, pigs and donkeys onto the island, which caused havoc for the ecosystem and many of its native species.
Today the island is uninhibited and has visitor sites at James Bay on the northwest and Sullivan Bay on the southeast. The rocky shoreline at Puerto Egas, at the south end of James Bay, is teeming with wildlife and is a favourite spot of the Galápagos fur seal.
One of the most well known spots on Santiago island is Darwin’s Toilet at Puerto Egas. This rock formation is similar to a blow hole, but with less pressure. A vertical chute lets the water rise up when the wave comes in and drains the water away again when the wave goes out.