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You are here:7.4. Isabela Island.

7.4. Isabela Island.

Arid zone

Isabela Island

The biggest island of the archipelago, Isabela´s land surface is 4.588 square kilometers and highest elevation of 1.707 meters.  This island accounts for half of the archipelago’s total land area.  Isabela is composed of six main volcanoes (Ecuador,Wolf, Darwin, Aledo, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul) and despite its big size and diversity of habitats, all the sites I recommend to visit are right at the shoreline.

The one exception will be the recommendation to visit the Volcan Sierra Negra crater and rim for it is the best place to look for the Galápagos Martin.



Playa Tortuga Negra or Punta Tortuga.

Located on the west coast and slightly north of Tagus Cove, Playa Tortuga Negra is a  dark sand beach with a trail that borders an extensive Mangrove swamp.   This is the best site for the ultra rare Mangrove Finch. A few Mangrove Finches have recently been found again at Punta Espinosa, apparently having dispersed from Fernandina.  The restriction of the Mangrove Finch is to the Playa Tortuga Negra site with its tiny population of no more than a few dozen birds, shows this species to be at great risk.  This is especially true because it is located in an area of great volcanic activity facing lava flows and tectonic uplift, as well as predation by introduced feral cats and Smooth-billed Ani.

(Click here to download Map of Playa Tortuga Negra)


Birds to look for

Playa Tortuga Negra (Punta Tortuga).

Arid Zone   (AZ), Sea shores (SS), Mangrove Forest (MF).

Common: Small   Ground-Finch (e) (AZ, SS, MF),   Medium Ground-Finch (e) (AZ, SS,   MF), Galápagos Mockingbird (e)   (subspecies parvulus) (AZ, SS, MF).

Uncommon:   Galapagos Hawk (e) (AZ, SS, MF),   Galápagos Penguin (e) (SS),   Flightless Cormorant (e) (SS),   Smooth-billed Ani (AZ, SS, MF).

Rare: Mangrove   Finch (e) (AZ, MF), Large Ground-Finch   (e) (AZ, MF).



Tagus Cove.

Tagus cove is a small U-shaped cove that is formed by a flooded valley between two large tuff cones.  This is an excellent site for a dingy ride along the coast, as it is deep close to land.  The north side of the cove is flanked by a sheer cliff that is a good place to look for the Galápagos Martin (e).


Birds to look for

Tagus Cove.

Arid Zone   (AZ), Sea shores (SS).

Common: Common   Noddy (subspecies galapagensis) (SS).

Uncommon:   Galápagos Penguin (e) (SS), Flightless Cormorant   (e) (SS),

Rare: Galápagos   Martin (e) (SS).


(Click here to download Map of Tagus Cove.)



Elizabeth Bay.

It is marine site where landing is not allowed. The small Marielas islets in the middle of the bay usually have resting Galápagos Penguins.


(Click here to download Map of ElizabethBay)

Birds to look for

Elizabeth Bay.

Arid Zone (AZ), Sea shores (SS), Mangrove Forest (MF).

Common: Brown   Pelican (endemic subspecies urinator) (SS, MF), Galápagos   Mockingbird (e) (subspecies parvulus) (SS, AZ,MF), Yellow Warbler   (SS, AZ,MF).

Uncommon:   Galápagos Penguin (e), Flightless   Cormorant (e), Striated Heron,   Smooth-billed Ani.



Punta Moreno

Located southwest of Elizabeth Bay, Punta Moreno is a unique lunar landscape dominated by the typical pahoehoe lava flow.   At first glance the visitor site looks like a barren lava field, but the place is dotted with many oasis of brackish ponds where the lava surface has collapsed into the lava tubes beneath.  These ponds are particularly attractive to water birds.

Planning to arrive to Santa Cruz in the early morning of the next day will require that you start the navigation in the mid-afternoon.  Then passing around the southernmost corner of Isabela Island, near Cerro Azul volcano, is a great time to be looking for a fly- by of the uncommon Galápagos Petrel and the majestic Waved Albatross.

(Click here to download Map of Punta Moreno)


Birds to look for

Punta Moreno

Arid Zone (AZ), Brackish Lagoons (BG), Mangrove Forest   (MF), Sea shores (SS).

Common: Brown Pelican   (endemic subspecies urinator) (SS, MF), Greater Flamingo (endemic subspecies  glyphorhynchus)   (BG), Common Gallinule (BG), White-cheeked Pintail (BG).

Uncommon: Great   Blue Heron (MF, BG), Lava Heron (e)   (BG, MF, SS).

Rare:   Pied-billed Grebe (BG), Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (endemic subspecies pauper)   (BG, MF, SS), Galápagos Martin.

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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.


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