Waking up on Saturday morning I headed off with some other IOI volunteers to explore the lava tunnels on the south west side of Isabela. This is one of the many tours you can book and do during your free time on the island. This is a full day tour and allows you to travel an hour around the coast to see some spectacular wildlife.
Heading out for the day we get on the boat and we are excitedly scanning the water in the hope to spot some wildlife, before we had even left the dock we saw a ray swimming past - surely this is a good sign for the day ahead. Our journey took us around the coastline of Isabela, we sailed relatively close to the shoreline for about an hour with incredible view of the Volcan Sierra Negra and Volcan Cerro Azul on the horizon. Just over half way we reached the enormous rock called Roca Union, where we spotted our first Nazca Boobie, one of the famous inhabitants of the Galapagos. Other than the birds living on the rock the surrounding area is nothing but deep sea, there were a few sea lions napping in the sun but this sight was like something from a movie. The azure blue ocean was crashing on the rocks and we circle the rock a few times enjoying the picturesque views. The water is a mix of aqua marine, blue, white and the Nazca Boobies perched on the top seem oblivious to the treacherous waters below - it seemed like a setting from Homer’s Odyssey.
We reached the lava arches of Los Tuneles, and our captain navigated carefully through the shallow lava tunnels. Inside the breakers the water is calm and clear, a near reflective surface was created due to the cloud morning the view was spectacular. We spent some time cruising slowly through the arches watching blue footed boobies, iguanas and the occasional sea turtle the views are unparalleled. Hopping off the boat we began to explore the maze of lava tunnel arches, and spotted some Blue Footed Boobies, we were incredible lucky because it was mating season and the male Blue Footed Boobies were putting on a show to impress the females. To attract the female they show off their blue feet by strutting from one side to another, and begin their mating ritual dance by “sky-pointing” which involves pointing their beak to the sky and raising their tail and wings to impress the female.
Jumping back onto the boat we head to our first snorkelling spot, the water was calm and still with the waters being protected by lava formed tubes and rocks, even looking from the boat you can see wildlife in the crystal clear water. Our first snorkel took us through the arches, duck diving through the underwater tunnels our guide showed us some incredible views and wildlife - it was spectacular. Being passed by sea lions, they were twisting and twirling through the water like acrobats exploring the rocky landforms.
Back on the board the boat took us around the coastline to a snorkelling site near a mangrove forest - we weaved through the rocky coves and shallow tunnels which allowed us to see schools of fish and sea turtles. It was exciting to see the green sea turtles which are impressive due to their size and gracefully movements in the water. Diving down to the bottom we were able to see a seahorse camouflaged by the sediment. The guide finally asked us if we wanted to see some “big fish” and of course the answer was yes! One by one we ducked down and under a rock and saw a massive group of sharks swimming in the cave - the sight was incredible and I soon forgot about holding my breath and watched in awe as the sharks swam around the enclosed area not even bothering to acknowledge the swimmer peering into their underwater world.
The whole day was unbelievable and I arrived back at the dock exhausted from an amazing day snorkelling and exploring the island. This tour was one of the best ways to spend a day on the Isabela. Where else in the world can you snorkel in shallow waters with white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, sea horses and so much more!