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Travel Isabela, Galapagos Island on a Budget

travel-isabela-galapagos-island-budget

By Hobo Ventures

What so special about Isabela?

Isabela Island is the biggest island in the Galapagos. It was formed by lava joining 5 young volcanoes. Here, you will see the flamingos, tintoreras sharks, ‘tabletop’ shell of giant tortoises blue-footed boobies, and penguins. All I really wanted to see on Isabela island was Flamingos & Penguins. I had seen everything else on the other Galapagos Islands.

What do you need to know about Isabela?

This island has no ATM Machines, so remember to withdraw money from Santa Cruz & San Cristobal Island before arrival.

How to travel to Isabela Island?

First, make your way to Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos (or San Cristobal Island). Thee are no direct international flights to the Galapagos. All the flights have to transit through Ecuador, either Quito or Guayaquil.

Inter-island Flight: If you are worried about ferry motion sickness, you are lucky! There are flights inside the Galapagos between Santa Cruz, Isabela & San Cristobal island. One way USD 150 per person by Emetebe Airlines. About the reviews for this airlines, hmm… I better let you google that by yourself.

Boat: The cheaper way to travel between islands is ferried, but it takes 2.5 hours. One way tickets cost USD 25 to 30.

Water Taxi: Keep some coins with you because you need to pay USD 0.50 – 1.00 for the water taxi* to bring you from the dock to the ferry. (*Ferry ticket does not include water taxi)

Ferry Schedule: From Santa Cruz – Isabela: 7 am & 2 pm
From Isabela – Santa Cruz: 6 am & 3 pm

Entry Fee: You will have already paid $120 Galapagos entry fees by the time you board a ferry to Isabela. But when you arrive in Isabela, you will pay another USD 20 per person for foreigners. This only applies to Isabela Island and they will collect it when you arrive at the dock before you enter the town.

Water Taxi: Taxi from the dock to the town is per person USD 2. Slightly more expensive than Santa Cruz island water taxis.

Where to STAY in Isabela?

 

Hotel Albemarle : Beautiful hotel right on the Playa Grande.  This is the best place of watching Isabela sunsets.

Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel : Modern hotel with glass view of Pacific, right next to the trail to watch Flamingos.  Quiet beautiful area.

Posada del Caminante : Cheap budget hostel with free laundry service, shared kitchen, drinking water and season fruits.

 

What is FREE in Isabela?

1.Centro de Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza (Giant tortoise Breeding Centre)
Fee: FREE
Time: 8am – 5pm
How: Bike 10 minutes. Walking about 25 mins but in good shape trail.

 

Just follow the trail beside the beautiful Iguana Crossing Hotel. Just keep walking all the way. You will pass mangroves, Poza Baltazar, swamps, salt lagoon, and you will see lots of wild animals. We saw the flamingos, the famous animals in Isabela! Besides that, we also saw ducks, and marine iguanas on the way.

What makes me laughed is the flamingos sweeping their heads back and forth motion with their bills in the water as they search for their favourite food – brine shrimp!

As you get closer to the tortoise reserve side, you will pass through low mangroves that make you feel like you are entering a witches house or forest.

You must see because all the tortoise breeding centres in the Galapagos have different species of tortoise. Especially the Sierra Negra tortoise. The shape is extremely saddled back and it look likes a very flattened ‘table top’.

I visited this tortoise centre twice when I was on Isabela because of the cute ’table top’ tortoises.

 

2. Muro de las Lagrimas (Wall of Tears)
Fee: FREE
Things to bring: plenty of water, snacks, swimsuits, and sunblocks

 

 

The wall of tears was built between 1946 – 1959 by the prisoners, stone by stone. This is the reason it caused thousands of deaths. It also only remaining evidence of a prison camp where the abuse of power finished with the lives of many prisons. Locals claim it is surrounded with heavy energy and cries are emanating from the wall. So, we headed out there to see what is going on!

There is a beautiful 5 km trail from Puerto Villamil town to the wall, that is good to walk/run/cycle. On the way to Wall of Tears, you can visit beautiful beaches Tunnel del Estero, Playa Del Amor, La Playita, Pozas Verdes, amazing viewpoint like Cerro Orchilla, Cerro Radar and many more. There are signs along the way.

This trip will take about 2.5 hours if you visit all the beaches and the viewpoints. So, better start in the morning time so you don’t get too much sun. Plus there are fewer cries emanating from the wall in the morning. Just joking.

We rented bikes for a full (USD15) to ride to Muro de las Lagrimas (the Wall of Tears). Remember the Spanish name, because when you get to the end, the sign is only written in Spanish. No cars are allowed after the first km. Cycle in the middle of the path as there are sharp thorns on the sides that will puncture your tires. Dan’s bike got a flat from it so we had to walk all the way back to town. It is a beautiful trail with many beaches and lagoons. We saw lots of wild giant tortoises, finch, and iguanas along the way.

One of the attractions is El Estero. It like a small magical forest because of the 4 different species of mangrove trees joined together. At the end of the magical forest, we saw the tranquil private paradise, at low tide, forms a river that flows into a sandy bay.

When we arrived at the wall, Dan suggested we follow a path leading up the Mountain on the left side of the wall. It was steep but well worth it! We got amazing views at the last look-out point when you can see the beautiful ocean with the forest. The joy of sunshine and the music of the ocean whispered to me from the top of this mountain.

This Wall of Tear’s trip is just like life. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

 

3. Concha de Perla  (Pearl Shell)
Fee: FREE
Things to do: Snorkeling/Swimming

 

 

This is a secret snorkelling paradise beside the harbour. It was short walk minutes through the beautiful mangroves forest with the company of marine iguanas. In the end is the tranquil crystal clear water that you can snorkel.

Sometimes, sea lions will join you in the water to explore the underwater world. There are many colour fishes around, some different than I saw snorkelling in Santa Cruz. The cool thing has I spotted the Chocolate Chip Starfish. Yea, same as the name, it looks like chocolate chips on top of the starfish, so cool.

It depends on your luck whether you can see turtles, stingray and octopus snorkelling in Concha de Perla. This is a really cool spot for snorkelling and swimming!

 

4. Playa Grande
Fee: FREE

 

 

The main and the only, 3 km long white sand beach lined with the hotels ranging from budget to luxurious. You won’t missed it at all!

You won’t see many sea lions here but many ‘white sea lions’ are suntanning. Plus, sometimes tourist will join the locals playing international volleyball.

I walked there everyday while on Isabela. We enjoyed happy hour cocktails while we waited for gorgeous sunsets.

For our favorite sunset spot, follow Playa Grande in the direction of the Wall of Tears. You will find Bar Atardecer. This is just west of the Iguana Crossing Boutique in front of La Jungle. This bar is the best for romantic sunsets. It is more romantic because it is at the edge of town were fewer people attend happy hour sunset. You can get two Mojitos here for $8 at sunset.

 

5. Iglesia Cristo Salvador Church
Fee: FREE

 

This is the unusual church I would love to share with you. The stained glass is all about the native wildlife (Flamingo, blue-footed boobies, marine iguana and penguin). The altar shows Jesus Christ amidst coconut trees, penguins, frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, and a giant tortoise above the pulpit.

 

6. Habour / Isabela dock
Fee: FREE

If you wanna play with sea lions, here is the place!

My Favorite Tour in Isabela –

Los Tintoreras Tour
Agency: Galapagos GPS Diving Center
Contact: Kathia +59.399.026.7579 (Spanish)
Price: USD 35 ( added wetsuit USD 5)
Wild animals: Blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, sea turtle, sea lions, seahorse, golden stingray, eagle stingray, white-tip reef shark.

 

We saw a group of golden stingray swim along the boatside and walked around on lava formations with lots of marine iguanas all over! The attraction is the ‘Shark Alley’ water canal where the Tintoreras Sharks (White-tip reef Shark) resting place. We are just 1 feet with the Tintoreras sharks, golden stingray, and the sea turtles, how amazing as we not even inside the water yet and we are so close to the sea animals.

After the walk, the best way to cold off yourself is snorkelling by the Tintoreras bay. Beware the water is really cold. So, rent a wetsuit. It was the best deal for me so that I could stay longer in the water and swim with the sea turtles, eagle stingrays, and tintoreras shark.

It was the wrong time of year to see penguins, but this is a great tour for seeing many wild animals.

 

Los Tuneles Tour
Agency: Galapagos GPS Diving Center
Contact: Kathia +59.399.026.7579 (Spanish)
Price: USD 105 with wetsuit, mask, fin and photos
Wild animals: Blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, sea turtles, sea lions, seahorse, stingrays, white-tip reef shark, black-tip reef shark.

Bonus: Bring your USB/Pendrive/memorycard as you can load the pictures after the tour for FREE!

 

 

The interesting thing about this tour was the geological lava formations, now flooded by the sea to create bridges and walkways in the ocean, and the 45 mins boat ride to the tunnels is a very exciting ride into the area on the waves. The tour guide said that these sharp rock formations sank 2 boats before.

Our tour guide was great. He made sure everyone got to see the wild animals: seahorses, sea turtles, sea lions, white-tip reef sharks. Plus he helped take pictures of everyone and made sure everyone had a happy tour. Only three of us lost limbs to sharks. Just kidding.

If you ask me which one is the best. I can’t make the decision as both tours have their own different charm.

Hobo Ventures is a travel blog created by Qiang Hui from Malaysia who quit her runway modelling job to travel the world. Fascinated by her lifestyle, I interviewed her to find out more…

So what made you decide to quit your career to travel the world in the first place? Traveling the world was my childhood dream. Haha. I met Dan and he has been a digital nomad for 11 years. It delighted me to learn about his nomad life, so I jumped into the abyss with open eyes.

How do you manage to travel and live a nomads life? I am creating a fashion travel brand that integrates fashion with a growing international digital economy. Basically, you create interest and intrigue about yourself and a lifestyle without boundaries and that snowballs into media collaborations and extends your reach.

Where is the most beautiful country you have visited? This will sound like marketing, but is true at the center of my heart. Every country, like every child, has its own authentic beauty. Discovering and showcasing that is the soul of my purpose. Labeling beauty and favoritism is a quality I chose not to bring to the party. I want to open eyes not focus them.

Where is next on your bucket list? Africa & Seychelles.

Do you think you will eventually settle somewhere or keep travelling? It is hard for me to settle down for long. Three to six months in a place is long enough to discover its eternal beauty. I love to see endless beauty in the world.

Where is the most fun place you have visited and why? The Galapagos Islands is the place I love the most because you are closer to the wild animals (Sea lions, Pelicans, Blue-Footed Boobies, Sharks, etc.) Swimming with sea lions is the most fun I ever had. Animals have an innocence that touches me deeply.

What is your favourite thing about being a nomad? What is your favorite thing about being a nomad? A: Freedom to live or die from your own creation calls me. I love waking in the morning and asking … what will feed my soul and my body today. There is endless truth in that intersection.

This 6-foot Malaysian fashion runway model is not just another pretty face. Follow her as she explores our world, digs deep into a new culture, sniffs out the best street food, struts a fashion catwalk, or shares her world with you.

Instagram: qianghui

Facebook page/youtube: Qiang Hui – Hobo Ventures

Blog: hoboventures.com

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