Isabela Overview

West Islands
Isabela Island, the largest island of the Galápagos Archipelago, offers a rich tapestry of wildlife, history, and geographical wonders. Spanning 120 km in length, this seahorse-shaped island was originally named Albemarle Island. It's a vibrant mosaic of six shield volcanoes: Ecuador, Wolf, Darwin, Alcedo, Sierra Negra, and Cerro Azul; with all but Ecuador still active. Making Isabela one of the most volcanically active islands in the world.

Wildlife and Biodiversity

Isabela's diverse landscapes, from extensive lava fields to lush highlands and coastal ecosystems, support a wealth of fauna. This includes more wild tortoises than all other islands combined, each volcano hosting a distinct species. The island is a haven for the Galápagos Penguin, the Flightless Cormorant, and large colonies of marine iguanas. The nutrient-rich Cromwell Current on the west coast provides a feeding ground for various species of whales, dolphins, and seabirds, making it an excellent spot for whale watching.

Conservation Efforts and Challenges

Conservation on Isabela faces unique challenges due to its size and diversity of habitats. Project Isabela, for instance, successfully eradicated goats and donkeys in northern Isabela. However, the ongoing presence of invasive species like cats and rats poses threats to vulnerable species like the Mangrove Finch, one of the rarest birds globally. Efforts are ongoing to ensure the survival of endemic species like the Mangrove Finch and the Flightless Cormorant, key indicators of ecosystem health.

Human Settlement and History

Puerto Villamil, the main town on the southern coast, embodies a blend of history and modern development. Once a center for lime production and sulfur mining, Isabela's population growth has been steady, now relying mainly on tourism, fishing, and farming. Despite modern developments, including an increase in hotels and restaurants, Villamil maintains its laid-back charm with white-sand beaches and brackish-water lagoons that attract flamingos and other migratory birds.

 Visitor Points and Highlights

  1. Sierra Negra Volcano: Boasting one of the world's largest calderas, Sierra Negra offers breathtaking views. It's a trekker's paradise, offering a stark contrast between lush vegetation and barren lava flows.
  2. The Wetlands and Wall of Tears: These areas showcase the island's history and diverse birdlife. The Wetlands are home to all four native Galápagos Mangrove species, while the Wall of Tears, built by prisoners, stands as a haunting historical monument.
  3. Tagus Cove and Vicente Roca Point: These sites are famous for their unique geology and diverse marine life, including penguins, flightless cormorants, and various seabirds. They offer exceptional opportunities for snorkeling and observing marine life.
  4. Tintoreras and Moreno Point: These areas are known for their tranquil waters and vibrant marine life. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling among sharks, rays, and colorful fish in these biodiverse hotspots.
  5. Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center: This center plays a crucial role in the conservation of giant tortoises, housing various subspecies and contributing to their survival through captive breeding programs.
  6. Urbina Bay and Elizabeth Bay: These bays are known for their rich marine life and significant geological features, like the uplifted coral reef at Urbina Bay and the mangroves at Elizabeth Bay, home to various species including turtles, rays, and cormorants.
  7. Diving Sites: Isabela's dive sites, such as Cape Marshall and Roca Blanca, offer encounters with a myriad of marine life including sharks, manta rays, and diverse fish species. These sites are renowned for their unique underwater experiences.
In summary, Isabela Island is a microcosm of the Galápagos' natural splendor, history, and conservation challenges. Its unique volcanic formation, diverse habitats, and rich marine ecosystems make it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventurers alike.

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Fast Facts about Isabela

Location: Western Galapagos
Extent of Island: 4,640 sq Kilometers / 1,790 sq Miles
Highest Point: 1,707 Meters / 5,600 Feet
Highlights: The most Volcanic Island, Wild Tortoises, Unique Flora & Fauna

Visit Points at Isabela

Animals at Isabela

*Visit point inclusion is subject to cruise programs and logistics. These are regulated by the galapagos national park.