CAMPO DURO - Isabela Camping
Location: Isla Isabela
Campo Duro in Spanish means hard country. Given the location, half way up the slopes of Volcan Sierra Negra, perhaps it was appropriate before the many years of care that has gone into making Campo Duro what it is today, a lush green retreat with grounds you might expect to find in a country club, not below a looming volcano in the Galapagos.
Wide green lawns, thick blooming hibiscus, gracious palms and an organic garden laden with tropical fruits including pineapples and towering papaya. There's even a small Scalesia garden prospering! Campo Duro is located in what is called a transitional zone, therefore is never too hot nor too cold. It truly offers the ideal climate. In addition to the indoor shared baths and showers, there are three magical outdoor showers, each built in the design of the very basis of life..a spiral. Privacy for the outdoor showers is provided by lush tropical growth, especially the flowering hibiscus. If you have never taken a shower under a million stars, you are most definitely in for a treat.
The campground offers 5 comfy tents built on platforms, each accomodating two people. A couple of the tents are perched above Campo Duro's Galapagos Tortoise reserve, a hedge rimmed 2.5 acres (1 hectare) where youngsters are placed from Isabela's successful breeding center. Below these two tents you will always find tortoises lounging.
Originally structured as a 3 year foster home for the tortoises, the National Park has discovered the tortoises grow much larger much quicker at Campo Duro, so now, it is home to 43 tortoises ranging in age from 12 years to roughly 120 years old. It is remarkable to walk through the reserve because here, tortoises not only have no fear, but they will even follow you like a litter of puppies!
Campo Duro offers a 'tortoise patronage' program that doesn't involve money changing hands. Guests have the opportunity to become a patron to their chosen tortoise at the reserve merely by choosing a tortoise (they're all numbered), naming their tortoise and then entering a story in the Patron's book such as information on why they chose the name they chose and their contact information. Then, the Patron invites any and all of their friends to go visit their tortoise and provide them with updates.
One of special note is Tortoise #72, who's patrons visited Campo Duro from Chicago in January 2008. #72 is named Barack. Seems the Chicago guests enjoyed sharing papaya with the tortoise almost as much as the tortoises enjoy papaya. Sure, papaya is an introduced species, but people do live in the Galapagos and need to eat, so a surprising amount of fruit and vegies are grown in the highlands of populated islands. Campo Duro guests will be glad to know their gardens are purely organic.
Campo Duro also has a large, social pavillion with picnic tables and a hobbit-like indoor bar as well as hammocks under the shade of very large mango trees. For special BBQ's (not to mention a great photo op), you can't help but be amused by the huge, black lava rock oven built in the shape of a tortoise.
Campo Duro is a comfortable, whimsical otherworldly paradise perfect for family outings, backpackers and anyone adventurous enough to sleep (and shower) under the stars in a world that gives you a peek inside what the earth looked like in the middle of the ocean millions of years ago.