London | Spain | Ecuador | Galapagos Islands
The journey to Isabela was long, and albeit the planning complicated, as I flew into Baltra it somehow seemed worth it. Flying over the ocean from Guyaquil I was greeted by the mythological Archipelago of the Galapagos, the azure ocean waves break on the arid rocks. The landscape on Isla Baltra makes you feel as if you are on another planet, the cactus’ growing high in the orange, red sand is a stark contrast to the blue ocean. The animals on these remote islands can’t always be found anywhere else, and the isolated group of volcanic lands are a wonderful showcase of vast ecosystems and biodiversity.
Although the flight might have amassed over 25 hours that is only half the journey (and perhaps on reflection it was the easiest part), upon arrival in Baltra, there’s a bus and boat to Santa Cruz a taxi over the island to the port and then the 2 and a half hour boat trip to the sandy town of Puerto Villamil, on Isabela Island.
Puerto Villamil sits on an island shaped like a seahorse. Formed by an amalgamation of six large volcanoes, one ofmost volcanically active place in the world - a contrast to the otherwise calm and peaceful day to day life on the island.
However remote you may think Isabela is, the population is bigger than we first expected and as I washed up on the shores of the island on my first day, overwhelmed by the accomplishment of getting there, I was aware of just how lucky I am to have the chance to live here for the next few months. I met up withtwo other volunteers Kiki and Sara on the way and we were greeted by Amanda on the dock. No sooner had we stepped of the boat but we found a few Iguanas lying in the sand, basking in the heat - it became quite clear that the animals are free to do as they wish. We were greeted by sandy streets, swaying palm trees, exotic wildlife and incredible people - we quickly realized that this island is pretty much paradise.
A tour of the town and swim in the ocean confirmed we had arrived in a rarely discovered haven and as the warm salty waves lapped on the sand it washed away all thoughts of the journey that had come before.
The volunteer house is next to the IOI building in Puerto Villamil and a short walk into the town, we soon found ourselves sitting in a bustling restaurant on our first night enjoying the island’s buzz, discussing our plans for the trip and all the tours we wanted to do.
From the enormous tortoises, and endemic penguins to lava lizards and a large population of cormorants the inhabitants of this island are remarkable. Among the immense flora and fauna the archipelago is known for being the place where Darwin began to formulate his groundbreaking theories of evolution. The Galapagos Islands are living proof to this theory, the ever-changing landscape, the birth of species and adaptation in these extreme conditions illustrates just that. The islands are filled with hope that, despite the odds being less than favorable on this planet, anything can happen.
As the sunset on our first evening in Isabela we sat on the beach gazing at the clear skies and twinkling stars, breathing in the salty air we all knew that our time in Isabela would be something we won’t ever forget.