We left Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz at 7:30 this morning for a 2.5-hour cruise to Isabela. The seas were relatively calm and no one experienced any seasickness.
The south end of Isabela has a quite different appearance than the other islands we have visited. This area receives a bit more rain than most islands and the vegetation is distinctly greener. The ocean water is the blue-green.
As we were waiting for our luggage to be unloaded, we watched several Galápagos Penguins chasing fish adjacent to the dock. A nice welcome to the island. Several Lava Gulls and lots of Blue-footed Boobies added some variety.
After getting settled in our hotel, we returned to the dock for a short boat ride to a large marine iguana colony. Large males were aggressively warding off other males with distinctive head bobs. We also saw many Galápagos sea lions, including many quite young ones. We saw Galápagos Penguins and Blue-footed Boobies as well.
We then motored to a protected embayment for snorkeling. Sightings included several white-tip sharks, sting rays, black sea turtles, an octopus and a variety of bony fishes.
After a late lunch at the Oasis Restaurant, we boarded a bus to a local tortoise rearing facility. This institution is important in maintaining the populations of the five distinctive tortoises on Isabela. High mortality of tortoise eggs and their young occurs on Isabela, primarily because of the impact of introduced species (ants, rats, dogs, pigs and goats). At this breeding institution, eggs are incubated until hatching and the young tortoises are raised to the age of 10 years before being reintroduced to the part of the island where they were from.
From the breeding facility, we took a walk through some wooded areas and alongside a saltwater pond system. Three American Flamingos were spectacular. Other birds seen included a couple of Common Moorhens, several Whimbrels and a couple of White-cheeked Pintails. Fiddler crabs were common in sandy areas with males waving their one out-sized claw to attract a female.
We walked all the way back to the hotel, gathering again at 7:30 at the Oasis Restaurant for a hearty meal of a vegetable soup followed by a main course of swordfish, rice and fried plaintains, finished off with flan.