Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 3: Isabela Island

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Backpacking the Galapagos:

  1. Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 1: Introduction
  2. Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 2: San Cristobal Island
  3. Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 3: Isabela Island
  4. Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 4: Santa Cruz Island

Our journey to Isabela Island started early in the morning. I call it a journey because there is no direct ferry from San Cristobal to Isabel. The trip consists to 2 ferries, a two hour boat ride to Santa Cruz Island, then a 6 hour “layover” in Santa Cruz, then another 2 hour boat ride to Isabela. Beside the journey being long, thanks to the two worst travelers and a mix up with our ferry tickets, this travel day was one of the longest of our whole trip.

We were surprised when we boarded our first “ferry.” Typically, ferries we have traveled on fit 100 people or more. Imagine our surprise when we had to take a special water taxi (not included in ticket price) out to our “ferry,” which was a catamaran that fit about 25 people! On top of our tight fit, we were seated across from Jared the Canadian (name not redacted). Jared proceeded to spend the next 2 hours reliving his Tucker Max-like conquests, complaining loudly about how hung over he was, and how he wished one of the other passengers would give him water, while staring at our 5 liter jug of water, all at 7AM. Needless to say, we would have shared our water if he would just asked us instead of talking openly about us in a passive aggressive manner, but instead no water for him.

After arriving safely in Santa Cruz, we got away from Jared as quickly as possible, and relaxed in a café until our next boat ride.  While at the pier waiting for our next ferry, we discovered even though we had a ticket for the 3pm boat, the last of the day, we were never added on the “list,” and the boat was full.  Luckily, the guards and two nice Peruvian girls advocated for us in Spanish and after about 30 minutes of arguing, finally convinced the boat company to allow us on a boat for locals that left at 5pm.

This boat was even smaller than our previous boat, and the waters were even choppier.  Kyle and I were sitting inside in the cabin with a family of locals and one boat worker. About half way through, I went outside and Kyle took a nap. A few minutes later, I heard Kyle yell for me.  When I went inside, the mother of the family was screaming in Kyle’s face in Spanish.  I tried to intervene with the little Spanish I know.  With some pantomiming, we figured out the lady had her wallet stolen and was blaming the boat worker.  They proceeded to go through the whole cabin without finding the wallet. The boat arrived at the port of Isabela around 9pm, and the lady called the police. We found out the lady was an important lawyer in the region and was making us all wait until the police arrived to search the boat for her wallet. Right before the police arrive, the lady found her wallet….. in her husband’s bag.  Thanks, lady. Kyle and I had never been so happy to arrive at our destination.

Just hanging out at Concha de Perla

Just hanging out at Concha de Perla

Lucky for us, Isabella is a beautiful island. It is actually the largest island of Galapagos, but has the smallest population of the inhabited islands. The main town, Puerto Villamil, has a handful of restaurants and shops, and is much less touristy than the other two islands. There are 2 main attractions to visit independently. The Cerro Negro volcano is the 2nd largest crater in the world, and has a great view of the island, but getting there involves a 10 mile hike in 90°F heat with 90% humidity.  Kyle and I opted out due to the weather, and spent our first day relaxing. After a short walk through an ocean-swamp like area, we arrived at Concha de Perla, a nice swimming area with plenty of animals to see. The beach in the town of Puerto Villamil was not the nicest to swim in, but was still beautiful.  We found a great bar with 2 for 1 mojitos to watch the sunset – just what we needed after our long travel day.

The second main attraction on Isabela is Los Tuneles, arches both under and above water formed by lava where many animals live.  Snorkeling at Los Tuneles was highly recommended by everyone we met, and it did not disappoint. The only way to reach Los Tuneles is on an organized tour, which we booked through our hotel. The water must be calm to reach the area so we ended up having to wait an extra day, which was worth it. On the boat ride to Los Tuneles, we saw several manta rays in the water, which are so impressive and can grow up to 23 ft long. While snorkeling, we also saw several sharks, Galapagos turtles, and a seahorse. The highlights were playing with a sea lion and snorkeling with penguins! After lunch, we were able to walk around on land, and saw blue footed boobies, one of the iconic Galapagos animals!

Los Tuneles

Los Tuneles

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Blue-footed boobie

Penguins

Penguins

Sea turtle

Sea turtle

Our time in Isabela was cut short due to the travel delays from the first day so we had to leave without seeing some of the tourist sites, including the Wall of Tears, built by prisoners on the island. However, we enjoyed our time in Isabela and would recommended it to independent Galapagos travelers.

<< Backpacking the Galapagos, Part 2: San Cristobal IslandBackpacking the Galapagos, Part 4: Santa Cruz Island >>
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