Galapagos and Beyond: day 10 - Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove on Isabela

Published: June 28th 2018
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The yacht had not moved very far since yesterday. Both excursions this morning and afternoon were to areas on the northwestern side of Isabela Island, opposite Fernandina.

The morning destination was Urbina Bay, featuring a black volcanic beach. So far I (Lesley) had avoided 'wet landings' and continued doing so. Don, Caroline and Max boarded the Zodiac to hike around a flat-ish rocky area and then to spend an hour snorkeling. Don describes here what they saw.

After wading to the beach we donned the hiking shoes we had carried. Our snorkling gear we left in a cluster in the beach - it wasn't as though people were going to meander by and plunder our stuff!

We wandered the trail following the guide, who highlighted plants and birds that we passed. This guide also pointed out the tree with little green apples which we had been shown two days previously. The tortoises eat these manzanillo de la muerte (little apple of death) and are able to obtain some food benefits, but other animals including humans find them fatally poisonous. Subsequently we found the remnants of what a tortoise ate ('Poos of the World' alert!) little balls hardly digested, after the tortoise had extracted whatever nutrients could be gained.

Continuing our trek through the greenery we came upon several brightly coloured Galapagos land iguanas. Some crossed our trail path and stared at us as if to challenge our presence in their domain. Others were wandering or dining in the brush. One lazy specimen simply lay partly in the sun and partly in the shade having a break from such furious activity on a warm morning.

One interesting aspect of the Urbina Bay area was caused by seismic activity in 1954. It raised an entire 6km section about 5 metres higher..

We walked back to the beach and it was time to snorkle for a while. It seemed like each swimming session replayed many of the same underwater sights, but with somewhat varied terrain and fish. In a sense this also proved true of the walks and Zodiac rides we had later in the week, since the overall variety of plants and animals around the Galapagos was limited by the islands' isolated climatic evolutionary conditions.

The dark volcanic sand on the Urbina Bay beach was not very nice for walking. The Zodiac took us back to the yacht for lunch.


The afternoon destination was Tagus Cove to see volcanic formations including a crater lake and then to do some deep water snorkeling. This involved a hike up a fairly steep uplifted semi-rocky area, and by this stage of our trip just looking up at the trail made my body (Lesley) say 'no way!'

So I sufficed with the Zodiac ride along the coast line of Tagus Cove and then back to the yacht. Even so I enjoyed quite a few sights. I saw a magnificent display of seal pups playing in the surf. Many blue footed boobys watched us bobbing up and down in the waves as we coasted along the shore. Then a very rare sight - a flightless cormorant on the same rock as the little penguin. The rocks were dappled red from the red crabs taking in the sun. Every now and then an iguana would creep across the rocks. And of course we saw many sea turtles who can swim safely in the shallows. They are the natural prey of sharks but the water here is too shallow for sharks. Out at sea the mantra rays were jumping up and down. Apart from the waves, the occasional revving of the motor, and the call of the wild there was complete silence. It was a truly healing experience.


Don, Caroline and Max all disembarked the Zodiac to follow the ranger up the path above Tagus Cove. The protected cove was a significant landing spot for sailors who came into the Galapagos islands. They could anchor and rest easily here. Many of the vessels recorded their visits by painting on the steep rock sides of the cove - giving another meaning to the phrase the Writing on the Wall. The most famous of these was HMS Beagle which brought Charles Darwin to the area in 1835. Although their 'sign' was more faded than some, it was still possible to make out their 1835 landing graffiti.

Among the birds along the path we saw Darwin Finches. Ultimately we climbed to a viewpoint looking down across Darwin Lake. This salt water lagoon was documented by Charles Darwin in his diary. And then back down the way we had come up.

On the Zodiac ride back to the yacht Don saw much of what Lesley described above during her Zodiac ride along the coast line of Tagus Cove. Additionally he witnessed one particularly interesting episode. He watched Flightless Cormorants building a nest on the rock ledge. The male gathers bits of seaweed or other stuff floating in the water and brings it up to the female. She weaves the material into a nest above the high water mark. Don managed to capture a picture (shown on this page) just as the male passed seaweed to the female.


Tonight was Friday night - erev shabbat. We had some challah left over from Quito - it had been held in the yacht's freezer for us - and another bottle of Israeli wine we had brought from home. There were two other Jewish couples on the boat and Don made kiddush and hamotzi for us all in the lounge. It was a beautiful experience.


After dinner we went to bed - another early night.


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