Isabella Island Travel Blog› entry 15 of 17 › view all entries
An overnight sailing takes us to the western side of Isabella Island. The largest of the Islands at 4588 sq km, Isla Isabela was named by Christopher Columbus, in honor of Queen Isabela of Spain, who had sponsored his voyage.
The seahorse-shaped Isabela Island was originally named Albemarle Island for the Duke of Albemarle by Ambrose Cowley, one of the first men to ever set foot on the islands, in 1684.
Tagus Cove on the northwestern side of the island provided a sheltered anchorage for pirates, buccaneers, whalers, and others. Darwin visited Tagus Cove in 1835. In 1893, Antonio Gil, a well-known Guayaquileño, arrived in Galapagos and after visiting the other islands, colonized southern Isabela, founding the town of Puerto Villamil on the southern coast and later Santa Tomás in the highlands.
The name Tagus comes from an English war ship that passed by the islands in 1814 looking for giant tortoises. A short, steep hike takes us passed Darwin Lake, which sits within a tuff cone. It is approximately 9 m deep and filled with salt water. This site is an excellent place for viewing landbirds.
Although most land birds in Galapagos are still relatively abundant, the Mangrove Finch is considered one of the rarest birds in the world, with less than 100 individuals in existence. It inhabits two small sections of coastal mangrove forests at Playa Tortuga Negra and Caleta Black on the northwest coast of Isabela Island.
We also visit the tortoise Centre. Completed in 1994 and houses tortoises from the populations of southern Isabela, many of which have experienced relatively high levels of poaching within the last 10-20 years. We see both hatchlings tortoises and the older breeding animals.
The on-going, collaborative penguin- cormorant project is crucial for the long-term conservation of these vulnerable, flightless species. Their inability to move easily within the archipelago and their vulnerability to predation and global climate change make them excellent indicator species for ecosystem health. Annual censuses on Fernandina and the western coast of Isabela provide essential data to determine whether the populations are stable, increasing, or decreasing, and to diagnose the causes of changes in their populations.