Isabela Island

Nov 01, 2017 - National Geographic Islander


Today we are at the west side of one of the most beautiful volcanoes found in Galapagos. I am talking about Alcedo Volcano, the one with the biggest population of giant tortoises in Galapagos. Isabela Island is a young island formed by several active volcanoes and wherever you are you see the enormous shield shaped volcanoes. The ecosystems are different and change with the altitude of the giant mountains. Close to the shores we typically find green coastal plants. A few feet above sea level we have a vast dry thirsty forest waiting for the annual rainy season.

This morning we are at Urbina Bay with its black sandy beach at the foot of Alcedo Volcano. This is a little beach frequented by sea turtles during the breeding season. We are reaching the end of the year and it is time to have the first sea turtles crawling up the beach looking for a nesting spot. All this area was uplifted in 1954, 5 kilometers of the shoreline was thrust a few feet above sea level, leaving visible to us all kinds of benthonic life that grows under water- coral heads, sand dollars etc.

Now is the end of the dry season and in few weeks the rain will come. Right now the vegetation is still dry with a bit of green. As we explored the forest it was suddenly so obvious that there were some special creatures there! We started to find burrows all along the path and many of them are new ones…this is the territory of the Galapagos land Iguanas. They are getting ready for the nesting season and male iguanas are guarding their territories. We could hear and see them as they walked and collected juicy berries. Also we spotted a couple of giant tortoises eating plants and falling fruits. Many varieties of finches and land birds were also found here. After a warm-weathered walk we cooled off in the ocean water. Some of our intrepid guests went for a mega swim, one kilometer from the black beach to our ship. What a great adventure!

In the afternoon we anchored at the legendary Tagus Cove. Many seafarers throughout the centuries have visited this place and they all have left their signatures carved on the steep cliffs that protect the cove. Here we can see names of ships everywhere! Some of them were carved on the rock in the 1800s.  Tagus cove was one of the places visited by the H.M.S Beagle. The naturalist on board the ship was Charles Darwin. This great naturalist took part of his collections from here…the place we just visited!

Regarding the marine life… this place is spectacular! As we explored the snorkeling site we spotted penguins, cormorants, sea turtles and lots of fish.

As the sun was disappearing below the horizon, we came back on board. What a great day we’ve had. “Every day is great in these enchanted islands!”, one of our guests exclaimed. It is a fabulous place.

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About the Author

Christian Saa

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Christian was born on the island of Isabela in the Galápagos archipelago. He grew up on a farm and had a magical childhood devoid of cars, electricity, telephones—just pure nature and playful sea lions along the beach. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to Santa Cruz Island, the economic hub of the Galápagos Islands. His father began to work in tourism and took Christian around the islands during school vacations. It was during this time that Christian learned to love and understand the real value of this unique archipelago, and he decided to devote his life to its stewardship. A lifelong passion for nature and its creatures took root in his heart, and he eventually decided to become a naturalist, which he has now been doing for 18 years now.

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