Located on the western edge of the archipelago near the Galapagos hotspot, Isabela Island is the largest island of the Galapagos with an area of 4,640 km² and length of 80 miles (100km), nearly 4 times larger than Santa Cruz, the next largest of the islands. Isabela was named in honor of Queen Isabella of Spain who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. By the English, it was named Albemarle after the Duke of Albemarle.
Approximately 1 million years ago, the island was formed by the merger of 6 volcanoes - Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra and Wolf. All of these volcanoes except Ecuador are still active, making it one of the most active volcanic places on Earth.
The young island does not follow the vegetation zones of the other islands. The relatively new lava fields and surrounding soils have not developed the sufficient nutrients required to support the varied life zones found on other islands. Another obvious difference occurs on Wolf and Cerro Azul volcanoes, due to the fact that these volcanoes rise above the cloud cover and are arid on top, with the highest point located on Wolf volcano at 5600 feet above sea level.
It is a small village located on the southeastern edge of the island. Of the 2,200 people residing on Isabela, the majority live in Puerto Villamil. The harbor is frequently crowded with sailboats, as Villamil is a popular stop for private yachts making their way to the Marquesas Islands, being the westernmost town in the Galapagos Islands.
Traditionally, residents of Puerto Villamil have earned a living either through agriculture or fishing, the latter one being now the main activity.Over the years, the government has tried to move the population away from fishing and into tourist-based activities, which has been hotly debated by the locals.
On the southwestern edge of the town, a boardwalk was created leading through mangroves and passing by saltwater lagoons where flamingos, common stilts, whimbrels, and Bahama pintails come to sweep the mud in search of brine. At the end of the boardwalk , you’ll find the Tortoise Breeding Center which was built in order to help preserving the many species of Isabela Island.
On the northern edge of the town, near the dock, are series of small islets including one known as Las Tintoreras where a colony of white tip sharks can often be seen resting in the lava canal.
Sierra Negra Volcano
It is located 22 km away from Puerto Villamil and has the second largest crater in the world with a diameter of 10km. Although Sierra Negra is the largest of the five major Isabela volcanoes, it has the flattest slopes, averaging less than 5 degrees and diminishing to 2 degrees near the coast.On this site you will have 3 options to visit La Bocanilla, The Chico volcano and Azufre volcano.
It is a lagoon where white tip sharks come to rest (tintoreras means white tip sharks in Spanish). They can be seen from the trail, but it's not allowed to go snorkeling in the lagoon. The snorkeling at the beach behind is excellent however, and eagle rays and sea turtles can be seen here.
El Muro De Las Lagrimas
When the island was a penal colony between 1.946 and 1.959, prisoners had to build a huge wall with big lava blocs as a punishment. It is 100 meters long and 7 meters high, and is now considered as a historic place.
It is located at the southeast of Isabela. From this place, you can get great views of the Alcedo, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul volcanoes, as well as lagoons with several species of birds like frigatas and pelicans.
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