Genovesa Island: What a pair of Boobies

We woke after a noisy nights sleep with our cabin next to the engine, and the boat rocking as it sailed all night long. After some cooked breakfast we got ready for our first excursion.

It was to be a wet landing: meaning swim suits and flip flops as the rib would pull up to the beach and you have to jump out in the water. It was only a short distance as the boat had anchored in Darwin bay overnight.

The sea was slightly choppier than we would have liked which made the wet landing a bit more tricky. At one point we thought we’d be up to our necks but the skipper managed to get us in close.

We left all bags and snorkelling gear on the beach and started to walk around the beach area. Genovesa Island is home to many native Galapagos species of bird. Unlike birds back home, as animals in the Galapagos have very few predators they are remarkably tame. They let you walk right up to them and don’t even bat an eyelid (if birds have eye lids?): although park guidelines mean you should be at least 2 metres away.

First there were some Frigate birds nesting on the ground. The male with his bright red neck and the female with her cream coloured chest. Nearby were Swallow-tailed Gulls with their scarlet colouring around their eyes. Just up a head a sea lion was laid on the sand asleep not bothered at all by the passers by. Many Nazca Boobies (or masked Booby) stood or were nesting on the ground looking at us. Their bright yellow eyes shining inquisitively as they protected their fluffy white chicks.

In the mangroves were many Red-footed Boobies and their chicks. Bright blue bills and bright red feet. They are the smallest of the three types of Booby and as such can sit in the trees. Their webbed feet are also not as webbed so they can grip the branches.

The island was alive with the sound of the birds, clattering and chatting. Our guide explained the difference between the male and female call signs of the Nazca Booby. The male made a whistling sound while the female a low cackle.

Another sleepy sea lion blocked the path as we manoeuvred around him and saw a colony of Frigate birds. The males were puffing out their bright red necks to impress the females. It looked like a big balloon was stuck to the front of them.

On the beach there was a dead turtle and several pilot whale bones and skulls. We then proceed to wade into a small inlet up to our thighs. Here we could see more Red-footed Boobies nesting in the mangroves and some small stingrays around our feet. There was also a lava heron looking for the right moment to pounce on some fish. A Sea Lion appeared swimming through the channel trying to catch some crabs. To fast for him he swam right towards us and barked as he swam by, making us all jump. After we waded out and walked back along the beach taking more photos of Sea Lions.

Next activity was snorkelling: I put on my wetsuit and proceeded to wash my mask in the ocean when it slipped out of my hand, and disappeared into a wave. I thought it would wash back up but it was gone. Mike helped searches but in vain. I told Rennie our guide and one of the crew began searching for it but it seemed hopeless.

I was lent a mask and went snorkelling and saw a large Marble Stingray and lots of Parrot Fish and others. One of the group saw a White Tip Reef Shark but we didn’t. We swam ashore and remarkably one of the crew had found my mask! He used to be a fisherman and dive to catch various fish and found it among the rocks. Relieved we got back on board the boat and almost immediately went snorkelling on the other side of the bay.

Here we swam along the cliff edge and saw many more types of fish and a Manta Ray. It was enormous sat on the ocean floor, perfectly still.

Back on board we had lunch and then an afternoon nap in the sun on the deck. About 3:30pm we went across the bay and climbed the Prince Phillip steps. At the top we walked among hundreds of nests of Nazca and Red-footed Boobies. But what we were really looking for was the Short Eared Owl. The only diurnal (daytime) owl in the world.

Quite rare and only usually seen at a distance we were surprised when we turned a corner and one was just sat on the path ahead of us. We crept along the path and to our amazement it didn’t move. We snapped away and were able to get within 2 or 3 feet. I was able to borrow and fellow passengers binoculars and got a shot through them with my iPhone.

Amazed we carried on our walk passed more Boobies and their chicks. They were everywhere and again right on the path and in the trees not bothered by us at all. We came to the cliffs and here spotted two more owls but they were far away and we had been spoilt by our close encounter earlier.

We headed back the same way we came and to our surprise the owl was still sat there, now even closer. We crept passed and took yet more photos of the beautiful creature. We descended the steps and took the ribs back to the boat.

On board we watched an episode of David Attenborough’s Galapagos, all about how the islands formed and the unique species came to be. It was nice to now see some of the locations we had already visited and some of species we had seen.

After dinner (and some wine) we headed to bed and watched a film but I was asleep within minutes. A busy day and more to come the following day.

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