From San Cristobal, the oldest Galapagos island, we were headed to Isabela, the largest and youngest island (young as in 1 million years old…..) in the Galapagos chain. We heard horror stories from a few travelers on San Cristobal about the two hour speed boat ride from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz (where you then have to get on another two hour speedboat to Isabela). The seas are rough this time of year and the little boats just smack on the waves non stop for hours causing people to get sea sick. I actually like going into things expecting the worse because things are never as bad as others make them out to be (most of the time). We have been traveling for so long that it takes a lot to bother us now.
The boat rides were not great, but not the nightmare they were made out to be. I got soaked by waves, it smelled horribly of diesel on our first boat, and the seas were really rough. But it really was not all that bad and was actually fun at times. Also, I did not get sea sick!
Arriving into the harbor in Isabela made the four hours of boat rides worth it. The water was so clear that you could see down almost thirty feet and we almost immediately saw huge manta rays and eagle rays swim by us. The manta rays were enormous and seeing them glide through the clear water got me so excited I screamed out MANTA RAY at the top of my lungs like a crazy gringo tourist. And then I saw my first penguins and kind of screamed again. The Galapagos can do that to you, and I love that even after all this travel there are still things that just make me scream with joy.
Isabela is a very sleepy island with sand streets and not much infrastructure. There is not even an ATM on it! Since we were visiting in the off season, we felt like we were one of the only tourist on the island and we spent days walking on the beautiful white sand beaches alone, snorkeling, and hiking to see flamingos. One of my favorite things about Isabela is the snorkeling right off the pier. There are penguins, colorful tropical fish, sea lions, iguanas and turtles all over.
I will never forget the feeling of having small penguins dart all around me in the water chasing fish with huge sea loins following them. Also, swimming next to colorful marine iguanas as they dog paddled and used there tail to propel them through the water feet away from me was just unbelievable. I told Sam it felt like we were dropped into a tank at Sea Wolrd. We spent hours in the water (in a full wet suit) and would only get out when our teeth were chattering from the cold.
On Isabela you can also hike to lakes where there are flamingos. They are not native to the islands, but have migrated here from Colombia. They were still impressive, especially with the contrast of the bright pink and black feathers.
One of the days we spent on the island we booked an all day snorkel trip to the lava tubes. We had one of the best snorkels of our life (again). The highlight for me was laying underwater on a lava tube and watching 10 large white tip sharks file one after another out of the tube. It was so spectacular and slightly frighting (we could have reached out and touched them). No pictures unfortunately, we were so wrapped up in the moment, sometimes it is better to just experience things then to view them through a lens.
During this snorkel trip we also saw maybe 20 huge green sea turtles. Some were almost as big as me! They are such beautiful creatures and the size and number of them in the water was overwhelming. They apparently really like the sand on Isabela for laying their eggs.