Often one of the first stops for our guests after arriving on Isabela, settling into a hotel
and having lunch is a journey into Los Humedales, the wetlands of the island. The area is home
to each of the four species of mangroves found in the Galapagos, sandy beaches, a tortoise
breeding center and a lookout over the bay and the island. A handful of trails intertwine into
a network that reveals the wildlife and flora of the coast.
The mangroves of the wetlands play an important part in the eco-system as their underwater root
system are breeding and nursery grounds for fish, rays, green turtles, and sharks. Above ground,
flamingos and penguins use the forests to raise their young. Common sightings in the wetlands
include a variety of land birds such as black-necked cormorants, blue-footed boobies, and ospreys.
Other neighborhood residents are the Galapagos giant tortoise, marine iguanas, and sea lions.
During the visit to the wetlands, you have a chance to visit the Isabela Breeding Center, a project
undertaken by the Galapagos National Park to protect the different species of tortoises on the
island during their formative years. The center releases tortoises into the Los Humedales Reserve
where they are often seen meandering along the trails.
In the afternoon we will head to the Wall of Tears, which was built over a period of 14 years during
the 1940s and 50s when the island was a prison colony. The wall is located five km west of Puerto
Villamil, the island’s main hub. Hundreds of prisoners were forced to build the structure carrying
volcanic rock to the site from other parts of the island in blistering conditions. Although the wall
was never finished, one theory suggests that it was supposed to be part of a formal prison on the island.
Getting to the wall is an adventure. From the trailhead outside of Puerto Villamil the uphill path is
sandy at the start, and eventually turns to rough gravel as it hugs the coastline and winds through
mangroves. The journey passes beaches, scenic outlooks and a cemetery where the original settlers of
the island are buried.
The wall is a reminder of the stark difference between the Galapagos of the past and of the present.
The collection of stones piled 26 ft. (8 m) high and a 328 ft. (100 m) long is insightful for its lack
of merit. It’s an example of how the islands have changed, going from a rugged exile for prisoners to
a bucket list destination for travelers from around the world.
The prison colony eventually ended when prisoners revolted. Today, many of the descendants of those who
worked on the Wall of Tears still live on Isabela. The local folklore says that the wall is haunted and
when venturing too close one can hear the cries of the men who toiled to build the structure.
Later we will enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner at Cesar´s, a gay-owned restaurant within walking
distance of the hotel.