DAY 6

Puerto Villamil Isabela Island

Today you will travel by speedboat to Isabela Island, the largest in the Galapagos. roughly 2-2.5 hours away.

Puerto Villamil is a small port village on the southeastern edge of Isla Isabela the largest of the Galápagos Islands. Of the 2,200 people who live on Isabela, the majority live in Puerto Villamil. The harbor is often full with sailboats, as Villamil is a popular stop for private yachts making their way to the Marquesas Islands as it is the westernmost town in the Galápagos Islands. Puerto Villamil was founded in 1897

Our journey will take you to visit the famous Las Tintoreras which is a combination of land and sea habitats and the only place to see the Galápagos baby marine iguanas as a colony.

Hiking among the mangrove forest we come upon a channel where with low tide can be seen White-tipped Reef Sharks sleeping which sometime number in the hundreds along with sittings of Tiger Sharks. As a coastal site, there is also small colonies of Sea Lions which provide incomparable interactions with these tame but wild animals. The extraordinary size of the Marine Iguanas here will allow you to follow the process of Evolution as in no place in this in the World.

 

 We go snorkeling along the coastline and it is quite possible to see Galápagos Penguins.  We have optional kayaking for you or even biking along the coast.  Later in the day we will hike to the Breeding Center from the Galápagos National Park.

The famous Tortoise Breeding Center of Isabela is located 1.5 km from Puerto Villamil and is accessible by walking or driving.

In this Breeding Center populations from South Isabela Island (Sierra Negra Volcano, Cerro Azul): Cazuela, Cinco Cerros, Roca Union, San Pedro, Tables and Cerro Paloma have been reproduced in captivity. In total there are 330 between juvenile and adult tortoises.

From the population of Cerro Paloma, there are 4 males and two female Galápagos Tortoise, which, so far, are the only survivors. The raising of this breed of tortoise is of particular interest since genetic analysis performed in 1994 based on blood samples has determined that tortoises from this Galapaguera are different from the others. This is compounded by the fact that one of these two females is infertile, as shown by analysis of absent follicles. However, in 1998, the second female nested and now finally has 9 Galapaguitos of Cerro Paloma.

 

Cazuela tortoises are not in danger of extinction. In their home there are still adults and juveniles. The main problems we have in the field are the competition for food by feral goats, trampling of nests by wild donkeys and killing by man from many years ago.

Cinco Cerros has a giant tortoise subpopulation quite different. Locally it is known as “aplastada” (flattened} by the peculiar shape of its shell. In 1994 it was estimated that there were approximately 70 “aplastadas”. The main reason for its low population size is apparently strong nest predation by ants of the genus Solenopsis. In September 1998, the eruption of Cerro Azul Volcano, threatened to burn the Galapaguera where this very rare sub-population is concentrated. Due to the emergency of the situation, and with the assistance of the Ecuadorian Army, an evacuation of tortoises “aplastada” was carried out in the affected area. The rescued animals were moved to the Breeding Center of Puerto Villamil, bringing the number that is there now to 17 (previously 2): 7 males and 10 females. In addition to the Cinco Cerros tortoises, all endangered.


After visiting the tortoise breeding center, we proceed to the modern church Iglesia Cristo Salvador in the center of town is worth a visit because of its colorful wall paintings depicting various typical animals and landscapes of the island. The municipal market with a large relief on the wall showing birds of the island is close by.

On the southwestern edge of town, a boardwalk was created by the park with assistance of US Aid.  It leads through mangrove environments passing along saltwater lagoons filled with Flamingo, Common Stilts, Whimbrels, Bahama Pintail and Gallinules that come here to sweep the mud in search of brine.  Poza de los Flamingos is a lake in the western part of the town where flamingos can be observed