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Puerto Villamil, Isabela, April 2003

By doina — last modified Apr 14, 2003 05:05 PM

Published: 2003-04-14 17:05:26
Countries: Galapagos

The entrance into Puerto Villamil is not easy as it is encumbered with reefs, so make sure you arrive with good light and keep a good lookout for reefs in the approaches to the anchorage. A recommended arrival waypoint by GPS is at 0 deg 59.12, 90 deg 57.30. This is just south of a reef and there is clear water all the way to this waypoint if coming from the east. From there you turn NW, pass some more reefs on your starboard, then turn north. Go to the light at the end of reef (leave to starboard) and then go east into anchorage. The water in this protected area is quite shallow - 3 to 4 metres. There are large coral slabs on the bottom so it is easy to foul the anchor, but the anchorage is well protected from the swell. Take the dinghy to the quay you see to the very east of town. Land at the small yellow pontoon east of the quay, or on the beach west of the same quay - go the western end of this small beach where there is less breaking swell. A local fisherman, Henry Segovia, runs a small bar and restaurant on this beach – The Little Yacht Club.

The Capitania is in the settlement, about 1 km to west. All boats must report here, but tell the Captain that you have an emergency, and you will be allowed to stay. Do NOT say in Puerto Ayora or Baquerizo Moreno that you plan to stop at Isabela as they may not allow it. There are some fees to be paid: anchorage, exit permit (zarpe) as well as overtime at weekends, but the total rarely exceeds $20.

As Isabela is not strictly within Galapagos National Park, the atmosphere is much more relaxed and very laid back – as it may have been in the other populated centres in the Galapagos shortly after the war. There are several excursions that can be made into the interior – usually with a local guide. There is a horse trek to Sierra Negra – reputed to be the second largest crater in the world. A two hour walk will take you to the so-called "Wall of Tears" built in the 1950s by the convicts of a penal colony. On the outskirts of Puerto Villamil is a tortoise regeneration and breeding centre. Giant tortoises are brought here from other islands to regenerate, then returned to the same place, and some are also bred here.

There are several shops with basic food stuffs and some vegetables and fruit, some imported from the mainland, some local. The fresh produce market is quite disappointing bearing in mind how lush some of the island’s interior looks. The selection is generally poor – except local produce such as bananas, watermelons, grapefruit and oranges, also eggs and some doubtful looking meat. Diesel (in jerrycans) from the one and only fuel station in town (approx. $1.30 per US gallon).

Dan Roman on S.Y. Danera.

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