Day 26: Uncovering the Mystical Isla Isabela
This was our first full day in Isla Isabela and we could not have been more excited to get to know the island. Due to the sheer size of our dialogue, we had to split into two groups more manageable in size. My group had the opportunity to go to Los Tuneles, a reef rich in mangrove trees, lava formations, and marine life, the latter of which making it an ideal excursion for snorkeling. We started the day off with a lovely breakfast at 7 am. From there, we went to try on wet suits and flippers imperative for long-term snorkeling in 60F water. Once given the proper attire we were off in a small motor boat, accompanied by a captain, assistant and tour guide. Our tour guide was called Juan Carlos and was an enthusiastic adventurer who had spent a lot of time in the US throughout his life. The water was choppy and the sky gray so the boat ride was anything but gentle.
Alas, the boat finally slowed down and floated through a reef, eventually docking so that we could step foot on the black lava rock that constituted land. To begin, we went on a one hour hike, scavenging through crevices of lava formations and between flourishing mangrove forests. The hike was gorgeous and was particularly picturesque due to the underlying presence of a misty fog that loomed right above the ground. During the hike we came across lizards, crabs, sea turtles that would stick their heads above the water’s surface, along with the occasional blue-footed booby.
When we returned to the boat, it was time to get into our snorkeling gear and enter the frigid water. Immediately upon entering, we came across a large sea turtle. Thinking that this was a rare sight, I spent a long time truly observing the spectacular animal that maneuvered its way so elegantly across the ocean floor. Little did I know that this would be one of approximately a dozen giant sea turtles I would witness while at the island. Along with these magnificent creatures, our group also spotted white-tipped reef sharks, several of which were hiding in cave our guide courageously entered, golden manta rays, and several tropical fish including pufferfish, parrotfish, and a long, pencil-like fish which none of us could identify. After an hour or so, we pulled our shivering bodies back into the boat and grabbed lunch in the hope that it would provide us with some warmth. The song-filled boat ride back to Puerto Villamil flew by and soon we found ourselves back at the hotel, all ready for a long, hot shower.
We had the evening free, and, as a result, I decided to do some exploring on my own in the hopes of garnering ideas for our next video project, prompted Nature as Metaphor. After discovering a board walk that traversed a flamingo-filled marsh and led to a tortoise-breeding center my mind and camera were filled with newly developed images of the biodiversity and photogenic scenes scattered throughout Isla Isabela. With some more brainstorming and video synthesis I am sure I will develop a theme for my video. Nonetheless, with a filled camera and an empty battery, I returned to the hotel and grabbed dinner with my fellow classmates. Today’s menu consisted of pumpkin soup, freshly-caught tuna, and a passionfruit dessert. These courses were followed shortly by a much-needed nap that developed into a restful night’s sleep full of dreams about the great wonders that the Galápagos have introduced me to.