Isabela Island is the largest island of the Galapagos with an area of 4,640 square kilometres (1,790 sq mi), and length of 100 kilometres (62 mi) almost four times larger than Santa Cruz, the second largest of the archipelago. It was named after Queen Isabella of Spain. It was originally named Albemarle after the Duke of Albemarle. The island strides the equator. One of the youngest islands, Isabela is located on the western edge of the archipelago near the Galapagos hotspot. At approximately 1 million years old, the island was formed by the merger of 6 shield 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 volcanically active places on earth. Two of the volcanoes, Volcan Ecuador and Volcan Wolf (the island’s highest point with an altitude of 5,600 feet or 1,707 meters), lie directly on the equator. The island is primarily noted for its geology, providing excellent examples of a geologic occurrence that created the Galapagos Islands including uplifts at Urvina Bay and the Bolivar Channel, tuff cones at Tagus Cove, and Pulmace on Alcedo and Sierra Negra, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Isabela is also interesting for its flora and fauna. 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 Volcan Wolf and Cerro Azul; these volcanoes loft above the cloud cover and are arid on top.
Isabela’s rich animal, bird, and marine life is beyond compare. Isabela is home to more wild tortoises than all the other islands. Isabela’s large size and notable topography created barriers for the slow-moving tortoises; apparently the creatures were unable to cross lava flows and other obstacles, causing several different sub-species of tortoise to develop. Today, tortoises roam free in the calderas of Alcedo, Wolf, Cerro Azul, Darwin and Sierra Negra.
Introduced goats multiplied to over 100,000 but were eradicated by the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Foundation.
Other noted species include penguins, cormorants, marine iguanas, boobies, pelicans and Sally Lightfoot crabs abound. Galapagos Land Iguanas and Darwin’s finches, Galapagos Hawks, Galapagos Doves and very interesting lowland vegetation. The west coast of Isabela in the Bolivar Channel is the best place in Galapagos for viewing whales and dolphin.
Special moments: Elizabeth Bay panga tour; deep water snorkelling with flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins and sea turtles; beautiful Tagus Cove hike with views of volcanoes Isabela Island; and, most notably an evening baptism ceremony with King Neptune and his minions awarding each tour group member a special Galapagos name (mine was Frigate Bird)!
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