ARRIVING ON ISABELA ISLAND - THE GALAPAGOS
If you were to ask me what I was most excited about before boarding the plane to the Galapagos, I would have told you swimming with sharks. I had heard so many stories about this incredible experience within the islands and was so ready! To be honest, I’ve always been super afraid of sharks. Even while living in Hawai'i, I would go out for a morning standup paddle or surf session before work and the thought of sharks never left my mind. When we decided to jump over to Isabela Island after spending over two weeks on the islands, I still hadn’t swam with them!
We spent the first several days soaking up the extremely peaceful vibes of the island. This was actually my favorite of the three main islands because the streets were still unpaved, cozy restaurants were scattered throughout, and a stunning beach over a mile wide was within five minutes walking distance from the town center. Corinne and I loved this beach because we could spend hours reading, running, and playing in the waves without seeing another soul in sight.
BICYCLE CRUISE TO STUNNING VIEWS
On our second morning, we rented bikes ($10 for a half day) and cruised the path along the ocean. It was great because there wasn’t much elevation change. We peddled along side vacant beaches, stunning vistas, and giant Galapagos tortoises soaking up sun rays beside the path. After about three miles of riding, we reached the end of the trail, locked up our bikes and hiked up to the Mirador up the nearby mountain. It was incredible to see the entire coastline under the clear blue sky.
BEST TOUR IN THE GALAPAGOS - LOS TUNELES (THE TUNNELS)
The following day, we booked our final tour: Los Tuneles. This is the most popular tour on Isabela Island and I begged Corinne to give it one last shot to swim with sharks. We boarded a small fishing boat with eight other foreigners and cruised the coast for about an hour North.
[TIP:] Book the afternoon tour because it’s hotter in the day and more likely for the sun to peer through the clouds. Also, there’s a lot more stress in the AM tour because most often guests need to be back at a specific time to board their ferry boat back to San Cruz Island. Everyone is on cruise-mode for the PM tour and the actual tour is usually longer and more enjoyable.
We squeezed into our wetsuits, strapped on our goggles and jumped in above the shallow reef system. Our guide, Enrique, first took us over to swim under the mangroves and within minutes he spotted a sea horse. It was so much different than I ever imagined! It was about the size of my hand, and the tail was gripping onto the mangrove plants while swaying with the current.
The group then swam with our guide to another reef system with tons of underwater arches. We spotted massive Galapagos sea turtles floating by, huge schools of fish shimmering in the sunlight, and suddenly we came across a sting ray relaxing on the ocean floor. As we circled around him, the sting ray didn’t move a centimeter. We couldn’t believe how much marine life that we had swam with in just thirty minutes of snorkeling!
EXPLORING DARK CAVES WITH ABUNDANT MARINE LIFE
Finally, our guide took us to a dark underwater cave. Because I was the closest to Enrique, he gave me the signal to join him. We both took a deep breath, dove deep into the cave, and instantly saw FIVE white tip sharks hovering beside each other just a few feet from us! I was so stoked!! I popped my head out of the water and yelled to Corinne “Come, come, come!” Together we held hands, dove down, and peered into the cave. We were so excited to experience this incredible moment together.
I then swam around spotting other dark caves and diving down into them finding more sharks sleeping below. I felt as if I were a four-year-old riding a bike without training wheels for the first time. One of the sharks darted out of the cave right past me and I followed him for another fifty yards until he did a complete 180 and stared directly at me. I freaked out and scurried back to join the rest of the group.
LAVA ARCH PARADISE
We finished the tour in this incredible eerie paradise of cactus, black lava rock arches, and bright blue water below. Exploring Isabela Island was a similar to adventuring around the Big Island of Hawaii. The landscapes here are remarkable and unlike anything that I’d ever seen. There’s a lot less tourism here and the tranquil energy resonates all around you. This island cannot be missed while taking a trip to the Galapagos Islands!