Isabela Island

Dec 11, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


Isabela is one of the largest islands of Galapagos. It is comprised of five active volcanoes, with the last eruption having occurred a year and a half ago at the Sierra Negra Volcano. This is near the area we disembarked to this morning to explore an incredible uplifted area five kilometers off the coast of Urbina bay which rose some ten feet above the water’s surface.

We disembarked around 8:00 a.m. to walk along the coast, where we soon spotted many sea birds fishing and many Darwin Finches eating seeds and worms near the bushes. We walked inland and saw many giant tortoises from Alcedo Volcano. Our highlight was a giant tortoise pair mating just at the foot of the trail, plus a battle between two males adult iguanas in dispute over territory, where they were biting and posturing for dominance – finally the lesser backed away.

Testament to its diversity, Isabela Island has near each volcanoe a different species of giant tortoises that has evolved separate from the others. The wide biodiversity of finches made our walk very interesting, getting to see what Darwin witnessed two centuries before, as we looked for variation between beaks just as he did.

Back to the black beach we disembarked, we had time to cool off in the blue ocean. In the afternoon, we moved to Tagus Cove: a very famous visitor spot for pirates and buccaneers 300 years earlier. The surrounding cliff forms the cove where you see graffiti from many past visitor ships; some of the oldest are carved on the tuff cones.

Here our intrepid guests had the choices of exploring the territory in kayak, paddling along the coast in search of penguins, cormorants nesting and other sea birds. The main attraction was the nesting area of brown pelicans, which juveniles were waiting for their parents to return with food.

A Zodiac ride was offered simultaneously, and some of our most active guests went to walk uphill to view Darwin Lake, an icon surrounded by Palo Santo trees and many mini volcanic formations.

Our day was full of surprises, and we ended it over cocktails to celebrate another fine day in this amazing paradise that remains pristine and conserved as ever – go, Galapagos!

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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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