Galapagos – Isabela

Galapagos – Isabela

Written by: Jessica
Captions by: Diego

On our second morning in the Galapagos, we again woke up early as our ferry to the other island was slotted to leave at 7 a.m.. At the port they checked through bags and then zip-tied them to prevent people from sneaking anything contraband, such as seashells, plants, and fruits, on or off the island. Despite being one archipelago, the islands often have different plant life and endemic species and cross-contamination is not allowed.  We had pre-purchased our round-trip ferry tickets, with the help of our hotel, to ensure we got to Isabella island and back to Santa Cruz later in the week, in time for all of our flights and booked activities. It was about $30/way/person ($120 in total).  What we had not been informed of was the need to pay a water taxi to take you to the ferry. I believe that was $0.50. After a couple hours on the ferry in the open ocean, you had to pay another taxi to take you to the dock, at $1 each. After that, another previously unstated event: $10-person port tax.

The dock was pretty in the morning, lots of people around too.
This guy just waddled up to the dock and found a bench to take a nap.

If you ever venture to the Galapagos, and Isabella Island in particular, bring cash, and have those expenses budgeted. Most places on the island are cash only, and if you run out you may be in hot water. The only ATM on the island only accepts local cards, your debit card will NOT work here.

After our arrival on the island, about 10 a.m., we walked to our hotel and checked in.

 

Very pretty entrance
The shade is your friend here – our room was in the red building.
View to the back – leads right into the beach!
The back side is pretty nice, walk right up to the beach area – great view!

We then swung by the company (Pahoehoe) we had booked our activities with to ensure all was squared away before a 1:30 p.m. Tintorerras tour.

“Safety? What’s that?” This is a shower, by the way.

That afternoon, we were picked up and taken by boat around the harbor to Tintorerras (which means shark).  Tintorerras is a small islet in the archipelago that is located within minutes of Isabella.  As we drove to the area where our tour was located, we saw Galapagos Penguins and a local species of sea lion (smaller than those found on the West Coast of the US). They are very small! Upon arrival at the small islet, we found that it appears to be an island of lava rock, with a few shrubs, cacti, and mangroves scattered about. Our guide had us take a 30-minute walk around the island. The area is known as a place where Marine Iguanas breed. They must do pretty well for themselves, because I think we saw more iguanas than any other animal in the Galapagos! We also saw, in the watery crevasses in the rock formation, sleeping sharks.

That day was hot – REALLY hot. Bring a towel to cover your body up with otherwise you’ll be lobster’ed.
More sharks – they were napping.
A sea turtle! This one was REALLY small as it was very young. Sea turtles can get into the 100+ year age.
These iguanas are EVERYWHERE in the Galapagos.

After our walk along the volcanic rocks, they pulled the boat around to another spot on the island, where we climbed in to snorkel. Diego and I had been given shorty wetsuits though the rest chose not to wear them.  The water was plenty warm to not need them, but Diego and I wanted the protection against sunburns.  The UV rating was 11 that day (extreme), it was 80 some degrees Fahrenheit, and horribly humid. On the walk, everyone had slung towels over their heads and backs, or an extra shirt, to protect themselves.

The snorkeling was amazing.  We saw sea turtles! They were playful and interested in us, and came close enough that we could easily reach and out touch them, if we had desired. Of course, doing so would be against the rules of the Galapagos National Park—look, stay 2 meters away (unless they approach you/enter human areas), and do not touch.  Sadly, no photos of the sea turtles on this day.

That night, we lay in hammocks on the patio of our hotel. The view of the beach from there was beautiful. Unfortunately, we discovered that, despite protestations from others to the contrary, there are mosquitoes here. And, as usual, they sample Diego and then ignore him—and feast on me! I ended up running inside to protect myself, while Diego continued to take photos.

Sunset was really great to see. Too bad there were a ton of mosquitoes – poor Jessica got some 20 bites, I got 3.
Night shots are hard! I should have practiced more at home.

The next day we again went snorkeling, this time at an area known as Los Tuneles. It was a 45-minute boat ride to the area, past an impressive rock formation, and then over a very rough area where the boat had to surf the wave to make it over a rocky area. Once inside, the waters were calm.  Los Tuneles is an area where lava tunnels met the ocean, and formed arches. Some have fallen into the sea in the millennia since the formations were born.  We enjoyed a walk along the top of the arches, and got to see Blue-Footed Boobies. It was past mating season but we saw a male put on a mating show for us, dancing and whistling, despite the season. We also saw a mother nesting on her eggs. It was amazing.

Our luxury car to the docks. It was surprisingly stable for a pair of outdoor benches.
This is the boat we were on – it’s also how you get ferried from one island to another.
Saw this island on the way there, it looked really cool.
It was difficult getting in, several sharp rocks along the boat’s path.
At the top, several cacti and a few boobies
The mythical blue-footed boobies!! This is a couple that laid some eggs, mamma is nesting and papa is getting ready for his turn (they alternate).
A closer shot of another bird, he was dancing in efforts to find a mate. They waddle when they walk.
His dancing normally ends with a squawk and a wing-spread. A rare sight, according to the guide.
A 3-month old bird. He’s full-sized but still looks dorky and can’t fly.

Afterward, we went for another snorkel, and saw probably 6 or 7 sea turtles! They were not as interested in playing, but were not scared at all, either. We floated over, watched, or swam alongside them for a while. Some of the turtles were almost 6ft long and wide all around, weighing probably 300 pounds and well over 100 years old.  This time, we have photos! We also got to see more sharks and sea horses on this snorkeling trip!

A seahorse! They tie themselves to mangroves to remain stable against the heavy currents. The ones here are MUCH larger, about 8 inches.
White tipped sharks – there were several hiding in the small groves and caves. Contrary to popular belief, sharks don’t like the taste of people, they just want an easy meal and we taste disgusting to them.
A spotted ray, there weren’t too many around.
A sea turtle! This one was probably about 100+ years old due to its size, our guide guessed it weighed about 300lbs.
Another turtle, there were several around us.
Coming up for a breath, they need air every few minutes for air. Fun fact: males have long tails, females have shorter ones.

On our final full day on Isabella, we went for an early morning hike up Sierra Negra volcano. It is an active shield volcano on the island, and last had an active lava flow in 2005.  However, it is gearing up and on ‘yellow’ notice that an explosion is likely in the next few weeks or months.  We saw an active vent, releasing sulfur into the air. A little later into the walk, we noticed a second vent, something nobody had seen before.

A quick stop before hiking up the volcano.
At the rim of the active volcano. It was incredible to see. Though the floor at the bottom is solid, the sharp rocks will feel like walking on glass. Even with heavy-duty hiking boots, you will still sink due to the fragility of the rocks and your legs will be shredded.
At the other end of the volcano. Though difficult to see, there were two smoke stacks behind us. Our guide said the volcano was predicted to bubble up sometime in the near future (days, weeks, or months).

After our hike, we had to transfer to a different hotel, as we had ended up on Isabella longer than originally anticipated when we booked our hotel. (We did that before the flight.) Afterward, we had a relaxing afternoon and an evening spent walking around and seeing the Carnaval festivities.  The next morning, we again relaxed a bit and enjoyed watching some flamingoes. After lunch, we caught another ferry back to Santa Cruz.  We again had to pay the water taxis, but no port tax at Santa Cruz.

These guys were taking a nap near us during dinner.
Walked up to the hotel balcony and took this photo during Carnaval.

After checking in to our final hotel in the Galapagos, we walked around, bought some souvenirs, and enjoyed dinner. Dinner was delicious and the location was gorgeous.  However, unlike our previous nights on the island, mosquitoes came out. More bites for me, since we hadn’t seen any previously I hadn’t thought to put on spray. The waiter brought some Off! out and provided some to afflicted guests.

View from our hotel, it was very nice to see the sunrise from here. I also learned that Expedia apparently handles rewards points for credit card companies.
Partying going on , lots of people.

The next morning, we went for a walk to Charles Darwin Research Station. There we got to see Giant Tortoises! We got really lucky in our timing, and got to watch them be fed.  One of the staff showed us a tortoise named Diego, which had been an inhabitant at a zoo, but was brought back to the research station, which functions as a breeding center, and is now the forbear to hundreds of Giant Tortoises.

A whale skeleton – it wasn’t as big as I thought.
Several tortoises. Unlike sea turtles, tortoises CANNOT breathe underwater.
The support staff feeding the tortoises. We lucked out in seeing this. Tortoises are territorial and will stick out their heads up some 2 feet due to their long neck and attempt a biting motion against others that try to get in their area.
Diego (seriously) is apparently the oldest, biggest, and the alpha male of them all. He apparently saved his species by fathering some 800 offspring. When the Galapagos was first discovered, pirates and sailors hunted them to near-extinction.

Afterward it was time to check out of our hotel, catch a ride to the airport, and leave the islands. The Galapagos is an amazing destination, and Diego and I are both very glad we went (humidity, intense sun, and mosquito bites and all)!

And we’re off to Iceland – a very drastic change.

 

 

2 Replies to “Galapagos – Isabela”

  1. Beautiful pictures (I loved the stars shot) ! These Islands are incredible ! and a tortoise named ‘Diego’…hehehehe .
    I liked the design of ‘pick-up-cabs’ passenger bench seats…..super ecological-aerodynamic and ‘safe’…and also the electric-heated ‘energetic- shower’, what a design! Maybe Bruno could use this idea….
    “Boa Viagem”….Next Stop Iceland ! (the land of volcanoes, glaciers, and ‘very-mucho -expensive’ restaurants)

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