So, January 14th marked our first full day on Isla Isabela. Why did we choose to stay on Isla Isabela you ask? Well, there were a couple of reasons. First, for me I had read about a couple of good snorkelling spots, and there was a beach nearby. Tom was interested in biking to the "Wall of Tears" - a wall that was built by convicts for no purpose other than to punish them and finally we both wanted to hike to one of the volcanoes on the island. Needless to say, Tom and I experienced all of the above and many more things on this island...even on our first day!
Isla Isabela (which when looking at a map is shaped like a seahorse) is the largest island of the Galapagos and is the home to 5 active volcanoes. Puerto Villamil is the main town on Isabela and has a population of 900. Compared to Puerto Ayora's population of 12,000, Villamil is small. Tom liked Villamil better than Puerto Ayora because it was more peaceful, I preferred Puerto Ayora because it wasn't so peaceful. Although, I must admit having a beach nearby was nice, but I did miss our nightly marine watching on the pier at Isla Santa Cruz.
To give you a sense of the distance between the islands, when looking at a map of the Galapagos you will see that Isla Fernandina is to the left on a map. Isla Fernandina may look to be nearby, but to get to Fernandina from Isabela is an 8 hour boat ride. So, if you were a person wanting to see something of interest on Fernandina, then the only way you could do so would be by boat; hence why many people do overnight cruises while in the Galapagos.
We woke up refreshed and were happy that we hadn't slept in as we would have missed breakfast which was served from 7:30 - 9:30 a.m. Breakfast was served outside of the hotel in their garden area with individual tables and chairs. For breakfast we had a choice of scrambled or fried eggs, yogurt, fruit, juice, coffee and a variety of breads. Each day's breakfast varied, so, for example one morning we would have cheese and the following day some jams instead of cheese.. The portions were generous and we never had lunch because we were full. Like the other places we stayed at, water was free and believe me, I took advantage of it.
Right after eating we decided to go and investigate the island. We started down the main road, which we learned took us directly to the pier which was where we landed the previous night. Ahead of us while we were walking were the group of kids who had been on the boat ride with us the night before. They were wearing their swim attire and had snorkelling gear...which I did not have (and later I regretted that I was not wearing my swimsuit....you will find out why). Recognizing each other, one young woman from the group who spoke some English told us that when we were being transported to the pier on the smaller boat they had told the crew members that they felt it was unfair that we had to pay for the boat ride to Isabela and that the passengers shouldn't be charged the $2.00 transport fee (versus $1.00 rate for the daytime) because it wasn't our fault that the boat arrived late. They were told that the best thing to do was to launch a complaint with the owners of the boat. The crew members told the kids that complaining to the crew members wouldn't have any impact. The young woman who spoke English told us that a friend of hers recommended that when we book our boat back to Santa Cruz we should book with a company who had a boat called "Elizabeth". We were told that this company and the boat was reliable. Thanking them for their information, we continued our walk.
It took us about 20 minutes to walk to the pier, and that's because I like to walk slower than Tom and take in the scenery (in my opinion). Most of the road was paved except when we got closer to the pier. We passed an old boat on the side of the road, and never did find out how or why the boat was placed there. We also passed several tour agencies and a few hostels but other than that, there wasn't much else. The landscape was dry and the greenery was minimal. As we continued our walk, we passed a huge archway with the welcome sign. As we approached the pier we saw off to the side a boardwalk and a sign mentioning not to feed the animals. Hmmm.. we knew then that the chance for us seeing some wildlife was pretty good. Since he group of kids had gone along this boardwalk, we decided to do the same. Following the boardwalk we manoeuvred around a couple of sea lions. Each side of the boardwalk consisted of thick mangroves which made viewing beyond their borders impossible, but that did not stop us from hearing the barking of the sea lions who were being camouflaged by the mangroves.
At the end of the boardwalk was a pier and several people, including the group of travellers we had spoken to earlier gearing up to go into the water. A young woman and her friends were already in the water close to the dock and I couldn't believe it, swimming and frolicking in the water were two sea lions. Clearly they were enjoying the squeals of delight and a bit of fear from us humans. One woman in the water screamed a couple of times, but luckily she was not alone and was with a friend. Later on when I snorkelled at this pier I appreciated the fact that these animals are big, and weighing up to 500 pounds, they could choose to become aggressive, even unintentionally and we as humans would be at a huge disadvantage. Imagine being under water and unexpectedly having a sea lion's face only a few feet away from you; probably a feeling of excitement and being scared. Of course, I was not wearing my bathing suit, otherwise I would have been in the water in a flash. In spite of me coming to this snorkelling spot the following two day, there were no sea lions to frolic with. We later learned that this small bay was called Concha de Perla.
After leaving the pier we went to the nearby beach and walked along the shoreline. "Wow! what's that in the distance?" "No, it couldn't be, yes it is, wait a minute there's more.".sea lions in the fishing boat. What a a magical adventure we are on! To be experiencing this; really, how can we even begin to explain what we were seeing, what were feeling, what we were learning. All we can do at best, is share our pictures and tell you a bit about our adventure in Ecuador.
So, our first full day on Isabela comes to a close. We end the night by going to our new found restaurant for dinner and a brew and discussing what should we do the next day....and enjoy the luxury of an air conditioner. once we enter our room andonce again we do not watch TV.