From Santa Cruz we took a rather bumpy ferry to Isabela. The largest island of the Galapagos, it has particularly dramatic landscapes due to its recent volcanic activity. Interestingly, on the map it appears to look like a seahorse. With much less infrastructure than Santa Cruz, its main town Puerto Villamil had a sleepy feel, with beautiful beaches right next to the port.
Our first stop on the island was Concha Perla, a well-known snorkel spot. A natural closed bay with differing wildlife depending on the tide, we were lucky to spot marine iguanas swimming. Surprisingly elegant, they appeared prehistoric as they glided through the water. Although we saw countless fish, unfortunately we didn’t see any penguins, despite them being regularly sighted in this spot.
In the afternoon we headed to the nearby set of pozas (lagoons) to see the greater flamingos and other freshwater birds, such as the black-necked stilt and white-cheeked pintail. We continued to walk along the trail that ran through the lagoons until we arrived at the Centro de Crianza de Tortugas (Tortoise Breeding Centre). Here we could see different breeds of giant tortoise from babies to full grown adults. It was fascinating to see Darwin’s theory of evolution in action as we could see how tortoises from each of the islands had notably different characteristics, in particular shell shape and size. This is a result of evolving to meet the needs of their environment.
The following day we took a snorkelling tour to Los Tuneles, a nursery for marine life. Consisting of convoluted lava formations standing between mangroves and open sea, it was the perfect place to see white-tipped reef sharks, turtles and seahorses. After snorkelling between the lava formations we were able to walk across them, enjoying the different perspective of the wildlife from above.
In the afternoon we rented bikes and cycled to the Wall of Tears, a huge wall constructed between 1945 and 1959 by prisoners in the island’s penal colony. Supposedly thousands died in its construction. On the way we were treated to fantastic views of the island and of Volcan Sierra Negra, a volcano with the second largest crater in the world.