Isabela is the largest island in the archipelago but with only around 2000 permanent residence it has a very laid back, island vibe to it. Puerto Villamil, the town itself is positioned along the coast so there is plenty of white sandy coastline to enjoy, there is also a very nice tortoise breeding centre along a nature walk where you can also see flamingos and marine iguanas. If you’re a history buff you can learn about the islands tragically mad penal colony by visiting the “Wall of Tears”. Or you if you’re like us and you love the sea lions you can just snorkel the day away at Concha Perla!
Today is our last day on Isabela, we were hoping to scuba out at Tortuga Island but there is only one dive operator on the island and he is having his boat fixed by the only mechanic on the island. It may be for the best because at $150usd each it ain’t cheap, and old Harry came with mixed reviews. Instead we decided to save our pennies and spend the day snorkelling in our favourite spot and exploring the abundant wildlife to be found out of the water.
In the the Galapagos the weather during September is right in the middle of the cold season where days are mostly dry but the skies can be overcast. While it has been warming up after lunch the sky is unpredictable, looking out one window it’s perfect and blue but when you walk out the door its grey and drizzly. We have been surprised because we assumed that being at sea level on the equator that it would be hot here. It’s very warm don’t get me wrong, but more like a winter in Brisbane. So even though we’ve found snorkelling in the mornings takes a lot of mind power, boy is it worth it! We got to Concha Perla around 9.30am and the little wooden pier was already packed with two cruises worth of people. On the bright side, one of their tour guides had spotted a school of 8 eagle rays and when I couldn’t find them he swam around with me until we spotted them again. They are very majestic creatures flapping their wings, moving gracefully through the azure abyss. This really is the best snorkelling spot we’ve managed to get to without a guide on Isabela.
After we’d reached our minimum acceptable body temperature we headed in land to visit the giant tortoise breeding centre on the other side of town. This place is amazing, they have hundreds of tortoises all at varying sizes and life stages. It is exciting because during the history of the Galapagos islands, spattered with bloodshed and tyrannical exploits the tortoises had almost been wiped out. Back in the times of pirates and explorers ship crews would hunt the tortoises and stash them away in a hole until they came back months later to a feed of fresh meat. Because they can survive for months without food sometimes they would even be stowed away onboard as live food stocks. So from the brink of extinction we have this beautiful creature lumbering back into existence. This is a wonderful place to learn all about their life cycle, the threats it faces and how man has changed roles, from biggest predator to life saver.
The walking track from the coast to the breeding centre follows a track through typical volcanic Galapagos landscape. We didn’t see this path initially and walked the 1.2km there along the road. We did however manage to take it back and were pleasantly surprised to find salty lakes with bright pink flamingos! As we met back up with the main road we also saw my favourite little friends, the sea iguanas. I will never get bored of these guys. If you’d like to learn more about them check out this interesting David Attenborough clip on youtube. They are just so freaky!
After lunch and a siesta we headed back to Concha Perla, every time we had visited we had been wowed, so why not? After 20 minutes of pristinely clear snorkelling, seeing more rays, more puffers and more outrageous schools of fish I was ready to call it a day… but as I was getting out a cheeky sea lion pup was blocking the stairs so I dived under the water and made some silly noises to see if i could interest him in playing. It worked! He flopped into the water and swam underneath me. He swam with me and Steve for about 40 minutes before we all got tired and went back to dry land to rest in the sun. Seal pups have so much energy!
On our way home we called into the market for a couple of empanadas and a warm milk and corn drink that tasted like vanilla! All totalled we spent nothing on entertainment, $5 on food and $50 on accomodation. Thanks Harry for helping us with the budget!