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Galapagos Cruise – Day 7: Genovesa Island (Tower)

June 14, 2012

We left Santiago island straight after we got back on board for the longest cruise of the trip. We were crossing the equator and heading for Genovesa Island. The water was pretty rough and no-one onboard slept very well until we arrived at the safe harbour of a collapsed volcano crater at the island.

In the morning we woke to a cacophony of sea birds. Genovesa has millions of birds nesting, courting and living here as a result of the absence of any land based predators.

Our first excursion of the day was a wet landing on the beach at Darwin’s Bay. As soon as we landed we could see Great Frigate birds nesting, courting and flying around. The male frigate birds inflate a red pouch on their throats to attract females and this is very striking. The pouch can take 20 minutes to inflate and they can keep it inflated all day even while flying around.

We walked a rocky trail along the sea shore and in the trees around the path we caught our first glimpse of Red Footed Boobies who were nesting.

We also saw Egrets along the edge of a small brackish pool, Sealions lazing in the pool and Vampire Finches – a type of finch that has been known to suck blood from where the wing meets the body on Nazca Boobies. This type of activity has only been seen on Wolf Island though.

The walk ended at a point high up on the cliffs where we could watch the sea birds flying all around us, including hundreds of swallow tailed gulls that were nesting in the cliffs here.

Once we’d returned to the boat it was time to head out for the last snorkelling trip of the expedition. We were dropped along one side of the crater where the water was fairly rough and visibility wasn’t great. However there were Fur Seals resting on the rocks above the waterline.

It wasn’t long until we encountered a Fur Seal in the water. You can see how different they are to Sealions as they have much bigger eyes and more fur. This was lucky as the seals tend to hunt at night and spend most of the day resting on the rocks.

Soon after encountering the Fur Seal most of the people got out of the water as it was so rough however I kept going and was treated to a group of 5 eagle rays swimming underneath me.

The afternoon excursion at Genovesa was to a landing spot called Prince Philips Stairs. Here a steep staircase climbed from water level up to the crater rim. When we reached the top we encountered hundreds of nesting Red Footed and Nasca Boobies. Many of the Nasca Boobies had chicks which were not so little balls of white fluff.

As we moved along the path we saw Frigate birds and many more Nasca Boobies (sometimes known as Green Footed Boobies).  Across the flat top of the island we also saw thousands of Audobon Shearwaters, this is the only place in the world where they are known to fly in the day to avoid their main predator which is the Galapagos Short Eared Owl.

 

We spent most of the walk looking for an owl but despite seeing evidence of them, i.e. dead shearwaters, we were unlucky, making this the only creature on the whole trip that we missed seeing.

We did however see the Genovesa Marine Iguana which is the smallest species of marine iguana in the Galapagos.

The Beluga was steaming towards us as we got back to the stairs and we made the quick transfer back to the boat on the RIBs. We started the long journey back to Santa Cruz straight away and fortunately it was less rough than the previous night.

At around 8pm we reached the equator and everyone gathered in the bridge to watch the GPS countdown to zero. Juan celebrated the occasion with a song and we all had pictures with the captain. Back in the saloon we had a longer sing-song with Juan and some of the crew accompanied by a special equator cocktail produced by Jorge, the steward who was excellent and looked after us really well.

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