Isabela Island

Aug 09, 2017 - National Geographic Islander


We had yet another spectacular day today in the enchanted islands of the Galapagos! And what amazes our guests (but not me, after 40 years of working in this paradise!) is that each and every day is quite different from the last. We awoke at anchor off the coast of the large seahorse shaped island of Isabela, which is made up of 5 and a half huge shield volcanoes all stuck together by barren lava flows. These volcanoes are still active and the northern most, Wolf Volcano, erupted just over a year ago!

Today we explored along the base of the two central volcanoes of Alcedo and Darwin. We disembarked after a hearty breakfast on the steep black beach at Urbina Bay. Here there were two hike options: a two mile loop trail that involved some scrambling across lava boulders and a mile hike behind the beach. On both trails we found land iguanas (and two males that were immersed in a long and serious territorial battle!) and many finches, and we enjoyed seeing the evidence of marine creatures left high and dry after a coastal uplift back in the mid 50’s.

Back at the beach, the waves pounded the shore and swimmers enjoyed cooling off among feeding pelicans and a lone penguin. Our expert panga drivers cautiously timed their entrance to pick us up between the wave sets and everyone got safely back to the ship. Two pangas took the kids out to learn to drive the Zodiacs and then we got a chance to jump from the ship, which was enjoyed with screams and laughter by kids and adults!

In the afternoon we anchored in Tagus Cove and had several different activity options from which to choose. We took two rounds of kayakers and paddle boarders who explored along the coast and admired nesting flightless cormorants, pelicans, and the occasional penguin and sea turtle that popped up from the murky waters. The snorkelers were determined to see sea turtles, penguins, and cormorants and a couple lucky snorkelers saw the rare and endemic Galapagos horn shark.

Two groups of hikers climbed up a dusty trail for spectacular views of Darwin Crater Lake and at the end of the mile long trail, the barren slopes of Darwin volcano. The sun came out, the lighting was fantastic, and everyone enjoyed the scenery and the exercise! On our panga ride south along the coast we were delighted to find a couple of penguins. What a thrill when a downy dark baby penguin ducked out from under a ledge and approached the parent. He spotted our Zodiac full of photographers and admirers and quickly retreated back into the cave.

Tonight, no sooner had we returned to the ship, then our Captain Carlos Garcia had the boson haul up or anchor and we began our overnight navigation back around the head of the sea horse shaped island of Isabela toward the central island of Santiago where we will be visiting tomorrow. 

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About the Author

Lynn Fowler

Expedition Leader

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of seven children, Lynn grew up in various university towns where her father was a professor of physics. Lynn obtained her B.A. in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, followed by a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Florida, which encompassed a study of marine turtles in Costa Rica. She arrived in Galápagos in 1978 and became one of the first female naturalist guides working for the Galápagos National Park.

About the Photographer

Celso Montalvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Celso was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At the age of nine he arrived in the Galápagos for the first time and he was profoundly touched by nature, observation, and isolation.  When he saw the sharks, rays and turtles swimming in the bay, he was triggered by a sense of wonder that he did not feel before.  Celso believes education is key to preservation. After graduating from the Naval Academy at the age of 17 he moved to New York to continue his education.

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