Isabela Island (Isla Isabela), Galapagos Islands
The largest island in the Galapagos Archipelago at 4588 sq km, Isla Isabela was named by Christopher Columbus, in honor of Queen Isabela of Spain, who had sponsored his voyage. In the shape of a sea horse, this island measures around 100 km in length and is home to five young active volcanoes. An extremely beautiful place, Isla Isabela has a rich and intriguing past with many visitor sites on the island. A favorite hideaway for early pirates, buccaneers and whalers, there are a number of high cliffs here which enclose a protected bay.
The highest point on this island is the Volcan Wolf which sits at an altitude of 1,707 meters. A product of six volcanoes coming together over millions of years ago into one single island, Isla Isabela is undeniably one of the best places to tour in the Galapagos. Home to a huge variety of plant and animal species including the endemic Galapagos penguins, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, Sally Lightfoot crabs, boobies and pelicans, this island is also the habitat of the rare and endemic Darwin Finches, Galapagos Hawks, Galapagos Tortoises, land iguanas and the Galapagos Doves.
With a fairly large human settlement residing in Puerto Villamil on the southeastern tip of the island, some other points of interest on Isla Isabela include, the Volcan Alcedo, where large numbers of giant tortoises can be spotted from June to December. Some 1128m high with a 7 km wide caldera, till a few years back it was possible to camp near the summit of the volcan.
Another tourist hotspot here is Punta Albemarle, on the northern tip of the island. Used as a radar base by the US in World War II, this site is a great place to spot the flightless cormorant and a number of other birds. A definite must see when on Isla Isabela is Targus Cove lying east of Isla Fernandina. A former pirate haunt, this cove offers a great opportunity to take a panga ride, which not only presents some terrific snorkeling chances, but also lets you see many of the bird species here in their natural environment.
On the western shores of Isla Isabela lies Urbina Bay, where one can observe many animals as well. A nesting area for the Galapagos tortoises, Galapagos penguins, Brown Pelicans and Flightless Cormorants, this area is also inhabited by marine and land iguanas. Some other important visitor sight on the island include; Elizabeth Bay, Punta Moreno, Punta Tortuga, Punta Garcia and Villamil Lagoon.