Isla Isabela is the largest island of the archipelago, with its 7 volcanoes. One of them, located above the main city Puerto Villamil, erupted last year.
As we didn’t want to spend one night over there, we went to different tour operators to see which excursions were available, and more important : the prices. Everything can be bargained, even more while you are going to the Galapagos during the low season (try to avoid Christmas break and summer). The tours we booked was called Tintoreros Tours, including the ferry to Isla Isabela, the guide and the entrance for the Giant tortoise reproduction center as well as the Laguna where we’ve seen flamingos, a specie which only lives in the Galapagos. It also includes the lunch in one of the restaurants of the city, and before taking the ferry back, a snorkeling session, penguins and the Tintoreros (sharks which live on the reef and won’t eat humans).
The ferry from Puerto Ayero to Puerto Villamil was about 2 hours. It can take longer depending on the weather conditions and how big are the waves. Even tough the weather was pretty nice, it has been a bumpy ride. Once again, when you arrive in the harbor, a boat taxi will pick you up to bring you to the shore ($1) and you will have to pay an extra $10 fee to enter the island. The fee wasn’t included in the price of the excursion.
The first activity we have done was the reproduction center of the Giant turtles. There you will be able to see 2 types of turtles: the ones who live next to the main volcano, and others which have their shell more flat. These turtles can only be seen on Isla Isabela. If you are lucky enough you might assist to the process of reproduction of the giant turtles, which takes up to 3 hours. The male chases the female and clim on her, before doing his affair.
The second activity before lunch was a little hike through the bushes towards the flamingo lagoon. There live the local species of pink flamingos. When the flamingo is getting older, he turns pink, thanks to the small shrimps he eats in the lagoon. When they are just born, they color is a bright white.
After lunch, another guide takes us to the harbor where we get into a boat for the snorkel. It stops next to a reef which we had to walk trough because of the low tide. It leads us to a large lagoon where we could swim with small sharks, iguanas who are crossing to the main land for food, and marine turtles. It was by far the best part of the tours.
After an hour or so of snorkeling, back on the boat to a small island where we could observe local penguins, which only live on Isla Isabela. We took a little walk on this same island towards a small (faille) in which we could observe the famous Tintoreros: a species of sharks which only leave next to the shore, where they can easily find food. They are not interested in humans, nor in sea lions from which they are afraid. It is also the only species on shark which can breath while not moving (all other sharks have to constantly keep swimming in order to be able to breath).
The island is also full of baby iguanas, 2 weeks old, laying under the sun and above the sharks. The guide told us that the main hike was close due to the reproduction season of the iguanas which will use the path to put their eggs, as the rest of the soil is only composed of rocks.
1:45pm, it is time to go back to the harbor to take the ferry back to Santa Cruz Island.