Darwin Lake, Isabela Island
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
15 Days In The Galapagos Islands
Day 6 - Tintoreras, Sierra Negra Volcano, Tortoise Breeding Center, & Flamingo Pond - Isabela Island
After an overnight trip from Puerto Ayora harbor at Santa Cruz Island to Puerto Villamil harbor at Isabela Island, the largest island of the Galapagos, we anchored around 5:30 a.m.
The lowering of the anchor woke everyone up. Out on deck, dark clouds were hanging over the interior of the island, but the sun illuminated the town.
Breakfast was at 6:30, and then we boarded the Zodiacs at 7:15 for the short ride to Tintoreras Islet. Tintoreras is known for a small canal where White-tipped Reef Sharks often come to rest.
Before we exited the Zodiacs, we saw Blue-footed Boobies, a Galapagos Penguin, and a Green Sea Turtle.
We had a dry landing and walked up onto the lava-covered islet. The little island was created by volcanic uplift, and the jagged aa lava we learned about on Day 4 was prevalent.
As we moved along the designated path, there were Marine Iguanas along the way. Some of them were in the trail making it tough to keep our six-foot spacing.
Continuing, we started seeing smaller iguanas on the path.
As we got closer, there were hundreds of baby iguanas.
Then, below the rocks in the narrow, shallow, clear canal known as the Tintoreras Fissure, we could see the resting White-tipped Reef Sharks.
As we had already been snorkeling with a few of those harmless sharks, the thrill of getting such a good look at them wasn’t as strong for us as for the newer guests, but it was still interesting. Moving on there was another group behind us checking out the sharks.
We proceeded past a couple of lagoons where we saw another penguin, more turtles, sea lions, and more iguanas, including our first swimming iguana.
There was a lot of wildlife in this little protected area just offshore from Puerto Villamil, and it was the first real opportunity of the new passengers to get a look at animals in their natural environment.
After Tintoreras, we took the Zodiacs directly to the pier at Villamil where a sea lion was blocking the ramp. It eventually waddled up the ramp and climbed up on a bench to rest.
A huge sea turtle was swimming in the crystal clear water near the small boats.
We walked past a small park that had several benches which were all occupied by sea lions.
After our short walk from the pier, we boarded a bus which took us up into the center of the southern part of the island. It took about 45 minutes to get to Sierra Negra Volcano, our second excursion for the day.
After the longest hike of our trip so far, we reached the edge of the caldera, one of the largest in the world.
This is one of five volcanoes on Isabela Island and it is still active, with the last eruption in 2005.
It’s almost nine miles around the edge of the caldera. Here's a video scan to show the scale.
While there, we saw a few Galapagos Martins (endemic) flying around. Of course, other than our guide, it appeared we were the only ones in the group that cared anything about the small birds.
The size of the caldera was impressive, but I would have rather gone on another excursion that was more interactive with the wildlife. I don’t think I was alone as the other guests seemed to be getting impatient.
Eventually, we headed back down to the valley to catch our bus.
We took the bus back to the pier where we were picked up by the Zodiacs and taken back to our ship.
After lunch on the yacht, we took the Zodiacs back to the same pier where we walked and boarded another bus for a short ride to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center.
It was actually a little better than the Charles Darwin Research Station we visited yesterday, but it was still viewing animals in captivity.
Some of the other guests commented that they were disappointed to have visited two “zoos” and a volcano (no wildlife) in the first three out of four excursions. We concurred that we would have also been very unhappy had our trip started this way.
Again the breeding center was somewhat interesting, and it gave us perspective on the size of the tortoises as they grow. We got to see them in different stages, and the highlight was probably seeing a six-month old specimen.
It was also interesting to learn that the Galapagos Giant Tortoises are separated mainly into “dome-shelled” tortoises and “saddleback-shelled” tortoises, but they are further separated and have evolved based on individual islands and volcanic regions.
For example, Isabela Island has five volcanoes, and each has its own population of tortoises as their travels are restricted by lava fields. So each volcano has tortoises with slightly different characteristics.
From the breeding center, we walked to a nearby Flamingo Pond.
Apparently, this is one of the best places in the Galapagos to consistently see wild flamingos. The pond is shallow and contains tiny shrimp that the flamingos feed on. Myra said that there are always flamingos there, you just never know how many you might see.
We watched them feed for awhile, and I took a little video of their filter feeding dance.
After the flamingos, we had an hour to spend in town or at the beach. Most of the guests opted for the white sand beach at Puerto Villamil, but Linda & I went back to the ship.
While the other guests were off the boat, Linda got a shower and washed clothes in our sink, hanging them up on the provided rope on the sun deck to dry. As a side note, with sixteen people on board all taking showers after the day’s last excursion, the hot water is limited, so we didn’t always get the hot showers we had when there were only six of us.
The others returned around 6:00 p.m. and were greeted with the usual post-excursion water and juice and snacks along with wet washcloths handed out by Andres.
At 6:45 p.m., Myra gave us the briefing for the next day’s activities, and we had dinner at 7:00 p.m.
We had been moving around for meals trying to get to know everyone, and we consistently heard that the new folks were disappointed with the excursions to that point. We tried to reassure them that it would get better, but we were on a 15-day itinerary so a couple of “dud” excursions wasn’t as big a problem for us. If we had been on their six-day trip, we certainly would have been more than just “disappointed”.
So, while the last two days weren’t our favorites, they had their moments, and we expected to get back to the thrills of our first few days the rest of the trip.
We were still loving the Galapagos, but we loved it more when we were away from the towns.
Nature Travelers • Howard & Linda Payne • Howard@NatureTravelers.com • www.NatureTravelers.com
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