Isabela is the largest of the populated islands in the Galápagos with the fewest people. It is about 10 years behind Santa Cruz in terms of tourist infrastructure and remains unspoiled. It has rugged beaches and wildlife galore with flamingos, sea lions, blue footed boobies, pelicans and giant tortoises all key residents of the island and not too hard to spot, with marine iguanas ambling past you as you sit on the beach.
Near the harbour point there was a great snorkelling area called Concha de Perla, a quick walk down a board walk, stepping over sleeping sea lions and iguanas to reach the swimming area. Alongside the sea lions that fancied a play we saw giant turtles, rays and penguins (penguins on the equator who knew)!
Isabela has a dark history. Years ago there was an infamous penal colony on the island where abuse of power was rampant. One example of this is the Wall of Tears, a 25 ft high completely pointless stone wall which was built between 1945 and 1959 by convicts on the island, a task set purely as a hard labour punishment. Hundreds of men died in the process due to dehydration, starvation and further physical punishments. Some say that strange cries are heard from the wall and that the spirits of the men that died live on there.
The walk to the see the wall was 7km from the beach and along the way there were a number of viewing spots looking out onto different wildlife. The best of these was the blue footed boobie and pelican feeding ground where we sat and watched dinner time.
In retrospect, the distance would have been better travelled by bike as once all the viewing points were covered it was a long walk to the wall and by that point the rain had started. The plus side was the giant tortoises came out and were racing across the road, the down side was that by the time we reached the wall and then climbed up the mirador to see the view across the island and beyond we were pretty wet and the view was not what it could have been!
There is a tortoise breeding centre on Isabela that is the home of giant tortoises of all sizes. Due to the precarious start that they have in life with their eggs being trampled, eaten or stolen by their ever increasing predators, the centre focuses on supporting the incubation period of tortoise eggs and supporting the hatched tortoises until they are grown up enough to stand a fighting chance of making it in the big outdoors when they are released. The slightly depressing presentation inside the centre points out that none of us will get to see the small tortoises reach maturity as we will be dead. Admittedly they live to 150+ but I never do like being reminded that I don’t!
Before heading to Isabela we had been advised to visit the pink house as we would like it. The pink house turned out to be the very last building on the beach and was a bar with hammocks,a tree house and two for one mojitos. Like it we did and made sure we supported the local economy by investing in their wares.
We loved our 9 days on the Galápagos islands but out of time (and money) it was time to leave and continue exploring the mainland of Ecuador so back to Guayaquil we flew.