Isla Isabela

 Superted V

Blog & Photos - Feb 2012

1st February – in Contadora spending the time making up our grab bags and doing last minute checks before the first leg of our epic journey.

2nd February - set off for the Galapagos – see flotsam for our daily blog with photos added. We crossed the equator on 8th February at 03.20am and paid tribute to Neptune as we went from being ‘Polywogs' to ‘Shell backs'.

10 th February – After 1086 miles we dropped anchor in the most westerly of the Galapagos islands – Isabela. The rules for entry into the Galapagos are quite strict – we had the choice between visiting 3 islands for 60 days or 1 island for 20 days. We chose the latter and Isabela as we had heard mixed reports about the other islands (busy, commercialised and rolly anchorages). We chose well. Although Isabela is the largest of the islands it is the least populated with only one small village and a very comfortable small anchorage in a natural harbour surrounded by lava islands.

Although not at all commercialised, Isabela is very well organised for visitors. A wooden walkway from the dinghy dock leads down to the snorkelling area of Conchez de Perla where we swam in the lava pools with sea-lions and large turtles. The sea-lions are so ungainly when out of the water but fabulous to watch below the surface. Graceful and speedy they were quite happy to swim amongst us and play. 

As all of the Galapagos is a national park, most of the trips have to be undertaken with a guide. Our first trip we took with Fabricio to the Lava tunnels. This involved a 30 minute fast boat ride along the coast.  As we approached our destination, we saw that we had to make our way through the roaring surf – Fabricio slowed the boat down and once he was happy with where we were all seated, he watched the waves and then at the right moment and with such expertise he gunned the boat through the surf and into the lava tunnel area – he'd obviously done it before! Once inside the lava tunnels, we anchored the boat and went ashore to appreciate the incredible formations – some so regular in shape they could have been built by the Incas. Tall cacti clung precariously to the lava. We snorkelled nearby amongst turtles, colourful reef fish and a couple of white tip reef sharks.  Many Galapagos penguins strutting about the lava rocks!

A short boat trip from the anchorage, we visited the area known as ‘Los Tintoreres' - a lava island where many of the marine iguanas have their nests. Our guide led us along the trail explaining how, in the previous couple of months, the male iguanas spend time sitting in the sun, tanning themselves to make themselves more attractive to females. During the mating season, they mate with as many females as possible and then leave them to dig the nests in which to lay their eggs, whilst they go off for a well deserved rest in the shade of the mangroves! It was certainly a hive of activity with females digging and fighting over holes made in the lava ‘soil'. Here we were also able to snorkel and to our delight had several white tip reef sharks cruising around with us.

Our final organised tour was a trip to a volcano. Isabela is a relatively young island with a chain of 5 mildly active volcanoes – the last eruption was on the Sierra Negro in 2005. We took a bus to the start of the trail which led us to the steaming caldera of Sierra Negro (reputedly the 2nd largest in the world) and then along the edge of the caldera to a smaller lava strewn volcano – Volcan Chico. Unfortunately the weather closed in as we walked so we didn't see much along the way. It did clear when we stopped for lunch at Volcan Chico and we were rewarded with great views across the island – the whole area covered with fissures and black lava. The colours of the extruded lava ranged from purples to pinks and oranges – fabulous. Even in such a short time after the last eruption, there were a couple of signs of ferns starting to sprout out of the inhospitable rock. Our trip culminated with a visit to a farm to buy fruit – we chose a large bunch of bananas to share amongst us and watched as the farmer hacked down the tree with his machete to get at the bananas and then plucked sweet pineapples from the ground!

Apart from the organised tours, we did a few interesting walks – one with some Dutch friends - John and Monique from yacht Victory, to the Wall of Tears. A 100 metre long wall of lava rocks built by prisoners. The plaque reads: where strong men cry and weak men die…..The prison housed men from mainland Ecuador from 1946 to 1959 and was built in the area of a disused US base. We were disappointed with a couple of very expensive dives – hoping to see hammerhead sharks and manta rays – instead we saw very few fish and a couple of seahorses! That's wildlife for you!

A visit to the giant Tortoise breeding centre showed us just what damage we humans (Charles Darwin included) had done to the indigenous creatures. Whilst on passage I had read Charles Darwin's account of the voyage of the Beagle and learnt of them riding, slaughtering and eating the giant tortoises – hundreds of them were taken aboard ships and stacked in the holds to provide fresh meat for the journeys. Darwin also spoke of grabbing iguanas by the tails and throwing them into the sea just to see if they would swim back to land (which they did). Not a good example of scientific research!

Carnival was celebrated whilst we were there but not much of a ‘do' – just a lot of beer tents on the beach and horse racing and Carnival Queen parade (both of which we missed due to the time delay – mañana!)

At anchor, we got accustomed to hearing weird noises under the boat – the seals and penguins chasing schools of fish! Several times we got back to the boat to find a seal lounging on the aft platform or relaxing in the dinghy! I was entertained one morning by a seal and a couple of penguins chasing a school of small fish around the boat. A young pelican came to see if he could get some of the pickings – only to be chased off firstly by the seal and then the penguins!

27th February – after a hassle-free check out we left Isabela for our onward passage – 3000 miles to our next port of call – the French Polynesian islands of the Marquesas.

                             Lat and Long 29th February:

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