Arriving by boat to Isabela island is a bit like playing a game of wildlife bingo. After a two hour boat ride with some serious mind-over-matter-horizon-concentration, we arrive in a gorgeous turquoise bay.
Over the side of the boat a turtle swims by, blue footed boobies are on the rocks, penguins are ducking in and out of the water by the dock (hooray: check), sea lions are sunbathing on benches, pelicans dive for fish, we step over large black sea iguanas on the pathway… and to top it all off (I kid you not) three pink flamingos fly over head. We’re just laughing – you seriously couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s incredible.
First impressions: we like Isabela.
It’s much more chilled out than Santa Cruz and we struck a great deal at a pretty empty hotel that looks like it’s being refurbished. We’re all squeezed into one room, but it’s a nice room and feels luxurious compared to recent places we’ve stayed.
During the four days we’re booked to stay here, we plan on just one organised tour – and we chose a trip out to the Tunnels to see some amazing lava formations, more snorkelling and blue footed boobies nesting.
There’s no question – this was BY FAR the best tour we had done. We see sharks, sea wolves (we now know we’ve been calling sea lions by the wrong name), turtles, golden rays, other rays, penguins. The only thing we fail to spot from their promised list were seahorses. We look quite hard, but no luck. (Have you seen our snorkelling highlights video?)
So instead of seahorses, the guide swaps them out and replaces them with… humpback whales. Hahahahahaha. They are not usually in the waters here, but he had spotted some the day before, so he returns to the same place – and there they were. MASSIVE and blowing big jets of water from their spouts. Incredible.
We stopped to watch a colony of blue footed boobies with their day old hatchlings – about 30cm away in some instances. The boat had taken us into the ‘tunnels’, strange lava formations both above and below the water that have created a series of networked pools. The water is still and clear so you can see a long way down. We saw several fish and a beautiful turtle. It’s not possible to snorkel here and the boat had to cut its motor in places to approach slowly and quietly.
Here’s a quick and dirty video of them:
Back on land and at the Iguana Beach Bar we bump into two Dutch brothers we’d met on the boat – they are also on a South American tour, but they’re trying to couch surf most of the way. They join us for dinner and later as we head home to bed, they go back to the Iguana bar for more – they are 22 and 24 after all!
– There are NO ATMs on Isabela – bring cash.
– Restaurants will charge you an additional 22% if you pay by card – so bring cash!