Many of the islands in the Galapagos can only be explored by taking a cruise. We decided to go with Yate Floreana, an economic cruise line that goes to Genovesa Island in addition to the western and central islands. We met our group at the Baltra airport and from there, we boarded our home for the next 8 days. The boat was small and the cabins were tiny, but we knew that at the time of booking. There was a total of 16 passengers onboard and a large group of them were biology students. They were studying abroad and part of their curriculum is to go to the Galapagos; how cool is that.
Day 1 – The first day was essentially a half-day. After having lunch on the ship, we explored the Santa Cruz Highlands. Here we found large tortoises grazing on the grasslands. I was impressed how fast they could move. Next we found ourselves walking inside a lava tube that was large enough for us to traverse a good part of it. It started to get dark fast so we made a quick visit to the nearby Twin Craters and called it a day.
Day 2 – We took a seasickness patch for the first night and it helped with the overnight bumpy ride to Genovesa Island. In the morning after having breakfast, we did a wet landing onto the beach in Darwin Bay. We were surrounded by bare trees and exotic birds. It was very important for us to stay on the walking path, as there were bird nests scattered all over the grounds, in the trees, and perched on the rocks. Boris and I chose this island specifically because we wanted to see lots of birds, but we couldn’t believe how many species there were in this one area and how close we were to them. My favorites birds on this island included the super fuzzy babies and the red-footed boobies.
Just when I put my camera down, one pelican was feeding another and it was such a bizarre scene. It looked as if the pelican was going to swallow the other.
Before we knew it, it was time to get off the island and go snorkeling. I was feeling a little sick so I opted out and of course I missed out on an incredible school of rays. Luckily Boris and the other shipmates captured the moment for me.
After lunch, we headed to El Barranco (a.k.a. Prince Phillip’s Steps), which is another part of Genovesa Island. Again, there were massive amounts of birds hanging out in their natural environment. The Nazca boobies (or Masked boobies) were making so much noise with the females quacking and the males whistling at each other. When the day couldn’t be any better, our guide was relentless about looking for a Galapagos owl. I badly wanted to see one and when our guide finally found one, my heart stopped beating. Staring right at us and well camouflaged against the brownish-orange volcanic rocks was a short-eared owl resting by its hole. Twenty pictures later, I still did not want to leave.
If you are a bird lover, Genovesa Island is worth the long boat ride and the money. With each snapshot we took, it was sad to realize we were never going to see these birds anywhere else.
More to come …