3 weeks in the Galapagos! Week 2: Isla Isabela
Week 2 of Three weeks in the Galápagos Islands; a life long dream come true.
***This post has been posted using our Iridium Sat phone from somewhere in the middle of the ocean. I will add pictures when we reach French Polynesia and get sufficient wifi.
April 4th, 2018
We arrived to Isabela after a full day of motor sailing ~80 miles. We left at 4 am and arrived by 5:30 pm. I’m glad we arrived at daylight, as there were many reefs surrounding the anchorage and many that are not on our Navionics charts. As we were coming in, our agent for Isabela, James, haled us in the radio. He gave clear instructions for us to stay on the boat until we had been checked in by authorities in the morning. Wow! We had no idea we would have to be checked at every port we went to in the Galapagos. Good thing it was only going to be three ports.
So, first thing the next morning, we got cleared in. James, the port captain and immigrations came aboard for questions and a quick inspection. They were super nice, but it always feels weird having authorities come aboard to inspect your boat. There is that something in the back of your mind “what if they find something and make us leave after spending all of this money and effort to visit?” . Thankfully all was good to go.
On Isabela you are allowed to use your own dinghy to go ashore instead of the mandatory water taxi service that is on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. The other kid boats (Pelizeno, Raftkin and Dol Selene) left San Cristobal on Wednesday night making their voyage an overnighter, therefor arrived in the early morning on Thursday as we were getting checked in. We waited for all to get checked in and went to shore as a group just after lunch. The dinghy dock is new and built more for the pangas to use but suitable for a few sailing tenders. (Bring a stern anchor for your dinghy if you sail here). Oh and it’s $10/person to use it for the duration of your stay ($5/child).
The feel for Isla Isabela was different. The island itself is much dryer, with green mangroves only near the water and some green farmland in the highlands. The rest of island was mostly dirt roads (except for a few new paved roads) and lava rock and formations. Again, tons of Sea Lions and tons of Marine Iguanas. The town of Puerto Villamil itself is pretty small and a bit of a walk from the dinghy dock. Toward the end of our stay on Isabela the walk seemed further, especially heading home after a long day. That first day we just wandered up the main drag getting ideas for activities to do over the next few days.
We quickly discovered that most of the highlighted sight seeing activities that “everyone” recommends, cost a fair bit of money. We’d been told by many people to do the “los tuneles” snorkeling tour, but after finding out that it would cost ~$100 / person ($500 for our family) we opted out. To help justify not doing it was the poor water clarity reported recently. There were other activities, but most require a hired guide or tour due to the National Park regulations. Hmm, our options became limited with our budget.
After talking with some locals we found free and cheap sight seeing activities! The next few days were spent walking along paths to see birds, including flamingos and finches, iguanas and tortoise breeding facilities. We had a few beach days with time drinking coffee while the kids played in the sand and iguanas walked over our feet (literally)! Our most epic day there was when we (Pelizeno, Raftkin, Dol Selene and us on Shawnigan) rented bikes and hired taxis to drive us 1/2 way up the crater and drop us off to ride down.
We started up past Cueva Sucre lava tubes, so that we could ride down through some of the highland’s farmlands. The locals grow banana, papaya, and many other fruits along with raising chicken, cattle, and horses. Pesticides are not permitted on the Galapagos, so everything there was pretty much “organic”. Guava trees littered the roadside and were encourage by the taxi drivers to pick due to their introduced and invasive nature. The bike ride down was amazing ! We started on fairly loose gravel road. There was a few of us who took it slower along with some of the kids. We stopped along the way at Cueva Sucre lava tubes, then again for lunch at a lookout called Mango Vista. The ride was about 20K and pretty much all downhill back to town.
After an Ice Cream break we hopped back on the bikes to ride another 7K to the Wall of Tears. Not all downhill and quite a bit sandy terrain, we trudged through the additional 14K more. Totally worth it! We saw tortoises along the trail, beautiful look outs and the “Wall of Tears”. The wall was built as a punishment or rather a way for the 200 relocated prisoners to “work off” their sentence by piling heavy lava rocks up and along as a huge wall. It turned into a brutal and hostile project that cost the lives of many in the process. The day ended with our now routine coffee at the beach and later Pizza with the whole group including SV La Cigale (who has joined us, anchored in Isabela, but couldn’t join us for the bike ride).
The next morning, April 10th, we woke up early for a 5 am departure for Isla Santa Cruz. We were the only boat in our little kid boat group to leave that day. The rest would join us in a few days.