Dry landing at Prince Philip Steps
Our afternoon landing was at Prince Philip Steps (also known as El Barranco), where a steep but short climb leads to a trail across the cliffs. On the way there we took a panga ride along the cliffs that surround the caldera. We saw a Lava Heron poking around among the jagged rocks, and some Galápagos sea lions sleeping here, but the most exciting sight was of a small group of Galápagos fur seals who make their home here. This was our first clear sighting of these and a good chance to appreciate the differences between them and their cousins, the sea lions. It was hard though to get good photos as the panga was bobbing up and down on the swell.
Arriving at the foot of the steps we made the usual transfer from panga to dry land – life-jackets off and passed to the stern, step off one at a time, from alternate sides of the boat to maintain balance, and move forwards quickly to let the next person off behind you. The slight challenge here was the last part of the operation. We were faced with the steep and uneven stairs cut into the rock, and although there was a (slightly wobbly) hand-rail to grasp, the large size of a couple of the steps meant that some of us took them a little slower than our usual pace. Add to this the wish to stop and take photos as we climbed, and you will understand that Fabian had to chivvy us along at this point!
Just the same, we were all soon at the top, 25 metres higher than the landing point, and ready to set out on the trail.
- National/State Park
The furthest island
The downside of a visit to Genovesa is the long voyage needed to reach the island, as it lies at some distance from the centre of the archipelago. The Angelito sailed here overnight from Bartolomé, a journey of around seven hours, and the return trip to St James’ Bay, Santiago, was eight hours. The sea between the southerly islands and Genovesa is more open and exposed, and therefore can be rougher. We had been warned to expect this and to take seasickness precautions. I did take a pill before going to bed on both these nights, and whether because of this, or because it was not as choppy as it can get, had no problems at all – indeed, I rather enjoyed the rocking of the little boat when I woke in the night. Others in our group did suffer a bit however, so if you are prone to seasickness (I am not, thankfully), you will need to decide if the attraction of Genovesa outweighs the risk. I believe even the queasiest of our party felt that it was!
Genovesa is also one of just three main islands in the group that lie north of the Equator (the others being Marchana and Darwin, neither of which can be visited). Although we have crossed the equator many times, it has usually been in the air, so it was quite fun to think that we were doing so at sea level – but of course, being an overnight journey, none of us was awake and on deck to appreciate the moment!
We also missed our 6.00 AM arrival at Genovesa, which I would like to have seen as to moor here boats need to cross a shallow and narrow channel into the caldera in order to anchor at the base of the steep crater walls. And I missed our departure through the same channel too, as it was early evening and dark by the time we left.
The bay formed by this caldera is Darwin Bay. Both visitor sites are found here, and the one we went to first, in the morning, was a wet landing on the small beach that bears the same name. My next tip describes what we found there.
- National/State Park