Islands of Uruguay on the River Plate and Atlantic Ocean
Uruguay has several islands nearby, all along the River Plate up to the Atlantic Ocean and all of them have stories to tell. During Carnival 2014 plenty of excursions are exploring these wonderful islands of Uruguay.
Isla de Flores is an Island with History
The island of Flores located 21 km from the shore of Montevideo can be visited twice a week.
During high tide the island gets divided into three parts, the first, second and third, numbering from west to east. In its highest points, the first island measures 17 meters.
In the early twentieth century, the military set on the island. The maritime route was extremely important, the trade, transport and even the news depended on it. Between the island of Flores and the English Bank were several major ship wrecks and this caused great concern to the residents of Montevideo. The first lighthouse was inaugurated on January in 1828, which ensured entry and exit to the Rio de la Plata 11 miles south from the island.
On the third island the sick would stay in quarantine in a hospital which was built in 1865. Often passengers were located in different areas according to their health. Also the food received depended on whether the passenger traveling in 1st, 2nd or 3rd class. In 1935 it closed down and almost nothing remains today.
There is a doubt whether the name of the island is taken after a Portuguese captain whose name was Flores or was it due to the varied amount of vegetation on the island.
The island of Flores has plenty of frogs and rabbits that initially were brought for consumption but there are over 20 other species recorded on the island. 90% of seabirds nest in colonies and it is the biggest center of nesting kelp gulls.
The Island of Lobos
Just 8.5 km from the coast and 30 minutes from the Peninsula in Punta del Este, the Isla de Lobos has the largest colony of sea lions and sea wolves, the most important worldwide.
20 thousand sea wolves and 12 thousand sea lions, of different sizes and ages cohabit peacefully in the 41 hectare rocky mass of granite that has no vegetation.
The island has a tall lighthouse and its beam on the sea level is the most powerful in all South America.
It really pays to do a boat ride around the island which lasts about 2 hours to admire how these animals live. They were often killed in the past to use and sell their leather. Juan Diaz de Solis set base on this island to hunt 66 sea wolves so they could make supplies to return to Spain in 1516.
Boats leave the port of Punta del Este and sail and stop at the south side of the island to give a chance to swim with the sea wolves. Then they show visitors around the island, without actually getting off the boat. It is not allowed to set foot on the island in order to preserve the animals´ habitat.
Island Gorriti witness to Punta del Este’s transformation
The boat ride to the island Gorriti is one of the most traditional and a must ride when visiting Punta del Este. It is located at the junction of the Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic – It is only 2 km off the port of Punta del Este and it is visible from the Mansa beach of Punta del Este.
Island Gorriti remains untouched with vast amount of vegetation and trees. It was declared a National Historic Heritage since it has been the scene of important moments in history. It was first visited in 1514 by Juan Diaz de Solis, Seville navigator who discovered the Rio de la Plata that year.
In the early nineteenth century, the English fleet tried twice to keep control of the legal and informal trade to the port of Buenos Aires and the rest of the Rio de la Plata. On the island Gorriti defensive cannons helped repel the powerful fleet and fortresses settled.
Today the defense ruins can be visited while admiring the beautiful scenery of forests and beaches. Several paths guide visitors around the island.
The island is small, less than 2 kilometers long and 700 meters at the widest part. It is ideal to go for the day and explore on foot. While it is not allowed to camp or spend the night on the island, visitors can picnic and barbeque in a special area.
Vessels connecting the mainland with the island Gorriti leave from the port of Punta del Este and reach the small pier Puerto Canyon. The trip takes about 25 minutes.
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Mary Ann Thompson