Sunday, February 24, 2013

Isla Isabella

Bella Vita at Isla Isabella

A Great Visit to Isla Isabella

Blue-footed boobies
After a fairly uneventful crossing from Bahia Los Muertos towards the mainland, we made a stop at the famous Isla Isabel (shown as Isabella on the charts) – sometimes referred to as the “Galapagos of Mexico”.  It’s a very small island about 18 miles off the mainland coast – but about 2/3rds of the way from Muertos to Chacala – which makes it a great place to break up a long crossing when you head directly to Banderas Bay like we did.  Unfortunately it’s also known to eat anchors because of its very rocky bottom – so many cruisers do not risk a stop.  Since we are not going to the real Galapagos, I pretty much insisted that we stop so that I could see the famous blue-footed boobies and the rest of the wildlife said to cover the island. 

King Iguana
In 1981 Isla Isabella was given national park status and in 2003 it was deemed a World Heritage Site – so it is now protected on an international level.  What that translates to is a safe haven for huge quantities of birds, including blue-footed and green-footed boobies, brown boobies, frigate birds, brown pelicans, sooty terns and many other types of seabirds.  As we approached the island we were amazed to see 1000’s of birds circling in the air above the rocks.  After we carefully put down our anchor (and trip line with float!) we started looking around and were stunned to see that every rock and every tree on the island is literally COVERED with birds!  I thought we had seen a lot of birds in other places, but it was nothing compared to this.

Fish Camp at Isabella
Since we arrived at sunset, we had to wait until the next day to go to shore.  There is a small active fishing camp here along with an abandoned research station that is sometimes used as a camp for visiting researchers and eco tours.  Other than that, the island remains fairly untouched and is a huge showcase for the vast bird population.  We landed the dinghy near the fish camp and then basically explored about 80% of the island – which only took about 3 hours as it’s not very big.  

Lots of nesting boobies!
A brown boobie with a new addition!
The boobie population is mostly concentrated in two areas – the tall hill to the west (where the light tower is located) and near Las Monas – the two towering rocks on the east side of the island.  I am not exaggerating when I say that we saw 100’s of boobies!  It was amazing – there were nests every few feet in some areas – all with boobies of various types guarding an egg.  It was so much more than either of us had expected – absolutely stunning.  And since they are protected here, all of the birds are not afraid of people – so you can get within feet of them.  That said – if you do get within about 2-3 feet of the boobies they kind of bark/quack at you and it’s very clear that they would like you to go away.

Female Frigate
At one point we were standing at the top of the west hill below the light tower, just kind of looking around and taking pictures.  There were birds all over the tower and one obviously REALLY wanted us to leave as it took very careful aim and let loose a large amount of bird doo – and scored a DIRECT HIT!  Yes, we were officially christened on the island.  But it was totally worth it to get to see so many nesting boobies of all kinds.

Male Frigate Mating Display
To top it off, there is also EXCELLENT snorkeling to be had here.  We explored the rocks in the southeast portion of the anchorage (about 300 feet from where we anchored) and there were 1000’s of fish of all types and sizes – fantastic!

Watch your step!
All in in, I would highly recommend a stop at this wonderful place if you ever have the chance to go.  It was an incredible experience that was every bit worth the risk of having to deal with a stuck anchor.  Best of all, our anchor pulled right out!

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