We had seen white coral beaches, yellow sand and black lava ones, and now on Rabida we had a landing on a dramatically red one, surrounded by equally red cliffs. The colour is the result of a lot of ferric oxide in the lava that has been emitted from the spatter cones that form much of the island.
Rabida (English name Jervis (after an 18th century British admiral, John Jervis, the Earl of St. Vincent) is one of the smaller islands, at just 4.9 sq km. The one relatively easy trail is just 1km in length, but very varied. After spending a little time on the beach, photographing the sea lions against the strikingly coloured backdrop, we followed the path through the pale palo santo trees and climbed to a point above the beach from where we has a good view of the lagoon that lies just behind it, the red sands, the bay and the Angelito moored just off shore. From here the trail forms a loop, and led us to another even more dramatic viewpoint on the cliffs where the contrasting colours of red rock, green Opuntia , blue sky and turquoise sea made for great photo opportunities. But the highlight of our walk came when we spotted a huge manta ray in the sea directly beneath us. He stayed for a long while, turning languidly in the waves. It was hard to tear ourselves away (not for the first time on this trip) but eventually he left, and so did we.
We returned to the beach with a detour past the lagoon we had looked down on earlier. In the past this has been home to flamingos, but none were to be seen on our visit, and Fabian explained that it was likely that they’d been driven away by the groups of bachelor sea lions who have chosen this spot as a place to chill out, undisturbed by the alpha male who throws his weight around on the beach.
Disappointingly we had no time for swimming or snorkelling here, as the Angelito had to sail that afternoon for Santa Cruz, so we said goodbye to the red cliffs of Rabida and headed for our next island.
Next tip: ”Santa Cruz”
Santa Cruz, also known as Indefatigable, sits right in the centre of the archipelago. It is has largest human population of any of the islands, and is home to the largest town in the Galápagos , Puerto Ayora, on its southern shore, and to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Unlike the barren volcanic landscapes we had seen elsewhere, its interior is lush and green, with plantations growing all sorts of crops. After five days at sea without seeing a single human habitation, passing these cultivated hillsides, and even more so, walking the streets of the small town, seemed like a return to a different world.
We spent a day here altogether. In the morning we visited the research station, which offers an opportunity to get close to the giant tortoises that they breed here, and to Land iguanas (those these latter are no longer part of a breeding programme as they are no longer considered under any threat in the wild). Although, given the tameness of the wildlife throughout the archipelago, getting close is much less of a bonus here than it would be anywhere else in the world. Nevertheless it was interesting to learn about the important work carried out here, and to see the young tortoises being gradually adapted for release into the wild. But we were sadly too late to see the centre’s former most famous resident, Lonesome George, who had died about five months before our visit.
After our visit to the centre we walked into town and enjoyed the novelties of drinking coffee in a café and shopping for souvenirs. In the afternoon we boarded a small bus, driven by one of the Angelito’s owners, for our journey into the highlands. Here we had the opportunity to learn more about the giant tortoises and to see them in the wild, on one of the reserves where they are protected. Sharing a narrow path with one of these enormous reptiles really does give you a sense of their size and strength!
At the end of our cruise we saw another side of Santa Cruz, with an early morning panga ride in Black Turtle Cove before leaving for Baltra and our flight home. We were lucky enough to see White-tipped Reef Shark and Spotted Eagle rays here, as well as enjoying the beautiful and peaceful backwaters here.
Next tip: ”Española”
Española (English name Hood) lies in the far south east of the Galápagos Islands group and is fairly small, at just 61 sq km. There are two very contrasting visitor sites, both of which we were lucky enough to enjoy. In the morning of our visit we made a wet landing on the beach of Gardner Bay. This is one of the few places where it is permitted for visitors to wander without the close attendance of a guide, so Fabian left us largely to our own devices. We walked along the beach near the water’s edge, where a large number of sea lions had congregated. Several of the females had babies, mostly fairly young. One little pup in particular took an especial interest in us. He came right up to me and tickled my toes with his whiskers! He then gave my trekking pole a curious nibble, and proceeded to follow me along the beach. Lest I get big-headed with all this attention, he switched to another member of our group, Mele, and seemed to adopt her - as you can see in my short video. It wasn’t difficult to see why some tourists are tempted to get over-familiar with these young creatures and I had to resist the temptation to pat him on the head like a puppy!
We also saw a pair of Galápagos hawks here, and one of our number managed to get shots and video footage of them mating. There were yellow warblers, swallows swooping past, and various finches, among other species. Later in the morning we snorkelled here, jumping off a panga near a rock a little off-shore and swimming from there either to the boat or to the beach. I chose the latter, thinking I would encounter sea lions there, but they were mostly very close to the edge where it was both too murky and too shallow to snorkel. But I did enjoy the sight of a sea turtle at the start of my swim, though I missed seeing the stingrays that some of the others spotted.
In the afternoon we landed on the other side of the island, at Punta Suarez. Here we did one of the longest, and certainly the hardest, of the week’s trails. At 3 km and very rocky, this tested my dodgy knee and was tiring for several of us, but we all agreed it was more than worth the effort. There were a number of highlights, including a species of marine iguana endemic to this island, with red and at times green colouring – leading to the nickname of “Christmas” marine iguana. But the stars of Española, if you visit at the right time of the year as we did (late March to December) are the awe-inspiring waved albatross. My first sight of an albatross chick, five months old and already enormous, was one of the most memorable of the week.
It was here that Fabian’s relaxed approach to these excursions really paid off, as he gave us plenty of time to appreciate all that we saw. We sat and watched this chick for some time (as he sat there watching us too!) We then moved on to an open area of jumbled lava rocks, on the far side of which there were a large number of albatross, and spent considerable time here too, watching all the activity. We also had a lengthy pause when we reached the cliffs at the far point of the trail, sitting and watching the albatross and frigates flying past us and the waves crashing on the rocks below. A short walk along the cliffs brought us to another viewing point with a dramatic blow-hole beneath us.
All this meant that as we neared the end of the path back to the landing point (stopping for more albatross photos on the way, and some Blue-footed Boobies), Fabian realised that we were at risk of being still on the island after 18.15, when no one is permitted to be on shore in the Galápagos (other than the populated areas, naturally). He urged us on, and the last of our group boarded the panga with five minutes to spare after a truly thrilling afternoon!
Next tip: ”Santa Fe”
It was here at Santa Fe that I had two of my most memorable Galápagos experiences. Known also by the English name of Barrington, this is one of the smaller islands at just 24 km sq, and has a single visitor site with a wet landing. Unlike many of the other islands, it is relatively flat, having been formed by an uplift of land rather than a volcanic eruption.
It is known for its own species of land iguana, which is larger than the others and only found here, although we only saw a few of these on our walk. But by that time we had already had our (first) special moment of the morning! Landing early (at 7.00 am, well before those from either of the other two boats moored in the bay), we had been greeted by the sight of a newborn sea lion pup, the mother still blooded and the placenta lying on the sand nearby. As we looked, we saw a couple of juvenile Galápagos hawks in the trees around the site, and more soon arrived. Eventually one dived in to grab this “treat” and they were soon all fighting over it, devouring it with gusto. Watching this from such close range really was just like seeing a wildlife TV documentary, but (literally) in the flesh! After this, our short walk through the Opuntia forest, though pleasant and interesting, was perhaps always going to be something of an anticlimax.
The second part of our morning here was devoted to snorkelling. I had been in two minds whether to join the group, as I was finding getting into the panga afterwards a bit of a challenge, and there was no option here to swim to the beach. But I decided to join the party, and it proved to be a great decision! We were joined in our swim by a group of sea lions, the females happy to play with us while the watchful alpha male who patrolled among them tolerated our intrusion but disdained to join the fun. I was also really pleased to be able to capture some of their antics on my waterproof camera – just before its battery ran out! This was to be our last snorkelling session, and it was a fantastic one to end with.
Next tip: ”Plaza Sur”
TRAVEL TO THE ENCHANTED ISLANDS, THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Hello I am new to this forum, and the truth is that I'm too excited to tell my experiences in the Galápagos Islands, as you know what is the point of passing the best time of your life if you don´t share it with your friends, families and people who are interested in the subject.
6 months ago I was in a dilemma, I needed urgently some vacations, I was really really stressed because my work, I am in charge of the accounting department of a local distribution company, the urban life and routine were some of the reasons why I needed vacations. At the beginning I was not 100% sure of which destination i should choose, but one day I went through to a local travel agency, where they recommended me to visit the Galápagos Islands, a place different than any destination in the world. At first I was not sure but over time I began to investigate a little more about these islands. I talked to my wife, and we agreed to take this exciting new destination.
When we started looking for the best way to visit the Galápagos Islands, we found that there were many choices, but of course, and trust me that the best option is to take a cruise and visit the a lot places that the Galápagos islands can offer. In the search of the perfect cruise option we found the Queen of Galápagos, a catamaran yacht with very comfortable rooms and a very good itinerary. I believe that the ideal Itinerary is to take at least 8 days tour, because you would know many places!. We can say that the Queen of Galápagos was the ideal yacht for us!, Since the relationship between price and comfort was more than excellent. We found nice deals in the internet.
The first day we arrived in San Cristobal, a town called Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, a very nice place, where we found the largest concentration of people and businesses. It was full of sea lions everywhere. We got into a dinghy and we were taken to the yacht, believe me!, we were surprised how big it was. We unloaded all our equipment and a member of the crew gave us our cabin, a King size bed cabin. In the next hours they called us to give us a really nice welcome speech, everything was excellent. In the afternoon we went to the Galapaguera, where we took a nice walk, knowing the GIANT turtles, very interesting!.
The second day we visited Santa Fe island in the morning, we left the small town to connect with nature, and I can say it was indescribably beautiful! We found many types of animals, including the strange land iguana, then we did snorkeling! It was spectacular and I have to admit that the best of the Galapagos trip was the snorkeling.
The third day, we traveled to Santiago Island. In the morning we visited the beautiful beaches of Santiago, called Espumilla beach, a great place to relax and enjoy a sunny day at the beach!, We swam and did a little walk on the beach , where the sand was brown to red. In the afternoon we went to visit the Puerto Egas, great place to know the famous Galapagos pigeons and boobies, I have to say I was surprised how you can get very closet o the animals and they don't run away from us, an excellent opportunity for taking some pictures.
The fourth day, we traveled on the night to one of the most stunning and beautiful islands in the Galapagos Islands, Genovesa Island, I have to say that it was the best point of interest, and the one that most surprised me, because such beauty of the island is amazing and a lot of animals that you can know, is greater than anywhere else, starting with bird watching!. We did snorkeling in the morning and I found a Galapagos shark, my wife was very scared but the guide explained to us that Galapagos sharks are harmless, and there was nothing to worry about. The marine life is beautiful, you see animals of all kinds of colors!. In the afternoon we went to a place known as "el Barranco", the best place to see birds of all kinds, watching all the birds, you will love it!. I have to repeat it was the best experience of the whole trip.
The fifth day, we sailed to Bartolome Island, which is famous for the Pinnacle Rock, a very very nice landscape, climbing to the top of the island where we could see this beautiful landscape! On our way I discovered the Galapagos hawk, a large and interesting animal. When we snorkeling, we found the famous Galapagos penguin, we try to swam closer to reach the penguin. but they are really fast under water, at least I took a small blurry picture. In the afternoon we went back to Santiago Island to meet Sullivan bay.
The sixth day we sailed to the Rabida Island, near Santiago Island, the most surprising about this island was its beautiful red sand beach!, I had never seen anything like that, the sand was red colored!. After visiting the beach they took us to snorkel, I have to admit that I love snorkeling and on this tour there was plenty snorkeling!. Again we were surprised by the marine life you can see here. In the distance we found a sea turtle and a Ray with their peculiar swim!. In the afternoon we traveled to Santa Cruz, to a place called Dragon Hill, the home of the yellow land iguanas, I am not lying, They were yellow!, the place was full of this type of iguanas. Many photos were taken in this place.
The seventh day, I was very sad because we knew that we had only this day and the morning of the another day to enjoy the Galapagos,. in the morning we visit the famous Charles Darwin station in the Santa Cruz Island, it has the largest reserve of Galapagos tortoises. Here we explain a little bit about the evolution of these turtles and their behaviors, we were surprised how this people care them since this tortoise are eggs, a very interesting place. In the afternoon we took a bus to the highlands of Santa Cruz,
The last day early in morning we had a long trip back to San Cristobal, when we arrived they called us and tell us that we had to have all our things ready, we would go to last place, El Junco, a beautiful lagoon filled with Galapagos Ducks and frigatebirds, we found one with inflated red bag!.
I have to say, that was one of the best vacation I have ever had in my entire life, the itinerary was excellent, we met a lot of Galapagos, and I believe the the highlight was snorkeling around the trip, we loved!. The Queen of Galapagos was very good, excellent food and of course what we most liked was the accommodation and service! Excellent!. I hope you have enjoyed reading my experiences and very happy to share those and I recommend to choose the Galapagos islands as your next holiday destination if you have any questions or any comments you want to share with me, please write me an answer, Greetings! And a have enjoyable day!.
I have to thanks to Antonio to make this adventure a oncelife experience!. I contact him by visiting http://www.galapagoscruises.com/
Several months before going to Ecuador I wrote to some travel agencies to ask for ”budget” cruises. The most expensive of the cruises presented to me was an 8days/7 nights-cruise with Daphne Yacht. For June/July 2011 it was $2390, and that included the flight between Quito/Guayaquil and Galapagos Islands. Even if it was more expensive than some other boats it had the best itinerary and seemed to be the best value for the money. I decided to book the cruise with Daphne at once, the dollar rate was good at the moment and I wanted to be sure to get a cabin on the upper deck, and most important of all, a cabin which was not next to the engine room. I didn’t pay for a single supplement, so it was possible that I had to share the cabin with someone.
A few weeks before my trip I was told the cruise with Daphne had been cancelled, so I was instead offered a cruise with M/S Cachalote. First I was very disappointed, but it turned out to be very good. Cachalote is a more expensive boat so it was an update for me and the boat was very nice. Before accepting the offer I confirmed that I would not get a cabin next to the engine room.
M/S Cachalote is a 26m long motor sailor (unfortunately we never navigated with the sails up). It was built in 1971 and remodelled in 2002. Besides the crew Cachalote can accommodate 16 passengers in seven twin cabins and one double cabin. All cabins have their own bathroom and air-condition.
The first two days we were only 6 passengers, and two more joined when we came to Isla San Cristobal. Because the boat was not fully booked I could get my own cabin (cabin 5), which of course was very nice. In the shower there was hot water, soap and shampoo. The towels were changed every day. Being alone in the cabin I had plenty of space, even though the cabins are small.
There is a bar and dinning room where we ate all meals. For breakfast we always got fresh fruits, juice, yoghurt, granola, eggs and bread. Coffee and tea was available throughout the day, as well as drinking water. For lunch and dinner we got lots of food and it was good. Coming back from a visit to an island we were always offered juice and some snacks. Breakfast was served at 7, lunch at 12 and dinner at 19.
The first day of the cruise we visited Santa Cruz Highlands and Charles Darwin Research Station, and the last day we went on a tour in the panga (dinghy) at Black Turtle Cove. Besides that we visited two different visitor sites each day and we also went snorkelling. On this page I have written separate tips about the different visitor sites we went to and in my travelogue I have got the itinerary for the week.
We had an excellent naturalist guide who was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the Galapagos Islands. Besides the guide there were six members in the crew, the captain, a cook, an engineer, a bar man and two sailors.
Not included in the price of the cruise are alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, wet suit ($30 for one week), snorkel equipment ($10, but as it had been included in my package for the Daphne Cruise I didn’t have to pay that) and tip for the staff (a recommended average per person and week was $40 for the naturalist guide and $100 for the rest of the staff to share).
I can absolutely recommend M/S Cachalote and wish I could go again to do the Fernandina itinerary.
Isla Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos, and it is the most visited. Here the largest town in the archipelago, Puerto Ayora, is situated. There are many visitor sites on Isla Santa Cruz, many of them can be visited independently, and it is easy to do daytrips to some other islands from Puerto Ayora. Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora and some other visitor sites on the island are often included in the cruise itineraries.
The area of Isla Santa Cruz is 986 sq km and the highest altitude is 864m. In the costal zone mangrove is growing, in the dry zone you will find vegetation like Opuntia Cactus and Palo Santo trees. In the highlands is the humid zone with Scalesia forest and pastures. Around the villages Santa Rosa and Bellavista there are farms for agriculture and cattle raising.
During the cruise with M/S Cachalote we visited Cerro Dragon, a visitor site where you will see Land Iguanas, the mangrove lagoon Black Turtle Cove and Santa Cruz Highlands (only the farm Mariposa) to see Giant Tortoises in the wild. We also visited Charles Darwin Reseach Station. After the cruise I visited Puerto Ayora on my own and then visited the beach at Tortuga Bay and took a walk to the lovely Las Grietas.
The vegetation in the highlands is very different to the coast. It is wetter, with green pastures and forests. There are many places of interest to visit in the Santa Cruz Highlands, like the Lava Tunnels, Los Gemelos, Cerro Crocker and El Chato Tortoise Reserve.
In Santa Cruz Highlands I have only visited Hacienda Mariposa, a cattle farm owned by Steve Divine. It is situated between Bellavista and Santa Rosa, near El Chato Tortoise Reserve. In the green pastures of Hacienda Mariposa you can see Giant Tortoises in the wild. It is only during the dry season that the tortoises are present though, because during the wet season, when it is breeding season, the tortoises move the arid zone.
It was on the first day of the cruise with M/S Cachalote, before we even went to the boat, that we visited the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz and Hacienda Mariposa.
Before we started our walk around the farm to look for tortoises we heard that there was a Barn Owl in a small shed by the house. We were allowed to go inside one at a time if we were very quiet, and we were not allowed to take photos using flash. In a corner on the floor, under a chair, there was a chick, all covered in white down. It made a loud hissing sound “shrreee”. While we went inside the shed one by one, one of the women in the group had gone to the bathroom. She was all excited when she came back and told us there had been an owl in the bathroom too. Welcome to the Galapagos!
We went for a short walk to look for Giant Tortoises and luckily we saw one, a juvenile, as it wasn’t that big. Then we went back to the farm and got some juice to drink and took photos of the shell from a very big tortoise. Besides the Barn Owl and its chick we saw Cattle Egrets, Smooth-billed Anis, a Yellow Warbler and a Darwin Finch during our visit. I don’t know which Darwin Finch it was as it was the first one I saw, the photo is very dark and I have only written Darwin Finch in my notebook. When we left the farm we saw a Short-eared Owl sitting on a pole next to the road. That was good luck! Now we had seen both species of owls that occur on the Galapagos Islands even before we had got to the boat.
After breakfast on the 6th day of the cruise with Cachalote we visited Cerro Dragon on Isla Santa Cruz. The sun was shining and it was a lovely day. As we approached the landing point with the panga we saw some Blue-footed Boobies standing on the rocks. It was a dry landing, and then we walked the short path to the beach, a lovely white sandy beach. Among the lava rocks on the beach there were several tidal pools where we saw Yellow-tailed Damsel fish, Lizardfish, Mullets and small hermit crabs.
From the beach there is a 1.6km long trail going past two saline lagoons and then up on a small hill with good views, before it turns and goes back to the beach. There is a big chance that you will see several kinds of birds by the lagoons. We saw a Black-necked Stilt, a Whimbrel White-cheeked Pintails and Semi Palmated Plovers, but also Marine Iguanas.
Along the path up the hill we saw several Land Iguanas. In the 1970s-1980s all Land Iguanas at Cerro Dragón were moved to the nearby Venice Islet. This was made to protect them from introduced animals like dogs, cats and goats. Since then many efforts have been done to remove the introduced animals and now there is at least no dogs in the area, so the Land Iguanas have been returned to their natural habitat.
The trail passes through different vegetation zones. Close to the beach and lagoons you will see Salt Bushes, Leather Leaf and Carpet-weed. Further along the trail you will be surrounded by Palo Santo trees and Opuntia Cacti. We also saw Galapagos Cotton. In the Galapagos Cotton bushes we saw Flightless Grasshoppers.
Before going to the airport on the last day of the cruise with Cachalote we visited Black Turtle Cove very early in the morning, even before breakfast. The sun was just rising and the light was beautiful . It was a very calm and peaceful morning.
Black Turtle Cove is a shallow inlet surrounded by mangrove vegetation, situated on the north coast of Isla Santa Cruz. There is no landing site and it is only visited with a panga (dinghy). When we arrived into the cove we saw lots of Cattle Egrets sitting in the mangroves and as we came closer they all took off. It was a lovely thing to see. The Cattle Egrets come down from the highlands to spend the night at Black Turtle Cove, where it is warmer during the night than in the highlands. We also saw many pelicans and smaller birds following the pelicans in case it would drop a fish they could catch. In the water there were turtles, Golden Rays and also a few White-tipped Reef Sharks. The sharks were resting on the bottom and a bit difficult to see, but to my surprise you could see them better with sunglasses on.
Isla Española is the southernmost island in the archipelago, situated about 90km southeast of Isla Santa Cruz. The island is small, around 61 sq km and it is one of the oldest islands. It was formed around 3.3 million years ago by volcanic activity, but it has since than moved away from the geological hot spot and there is no longer any volcanic activity on Isla Española. Isla Española is also called Hood.
Because of its remote location there are many endemic species and subspecies on Isla Española, like the Hood Mockingbird, the Lava Lizard and the Marin Iguana (which on Española has a red colouring, that becomes more green during breeding season). The population of Giant Tortoises on the island got almost extinct because of introduced goats and hunting. In the 1960s there were only 12 females and 2 males left, but thanks to a restoration program made by the Charles Darwin Research Station, 700 tortoises could be reintroduced on Isla Española in 1995.
There are two visitor sites on Isla Española. One is the long white sandy beach at Gardner Bay where you can see Sea Lions and Marin Iguanas, among other things. The other visitor site is Punta Suárez, a highlight because of its abundant wildlife. At Punta Suarez you can see the Waved Albatrosses and Blue-footed Boobies perform their courtship ritual. Something that is amazing to see! It is the only breeding site for the Waved Albatross and they can be seen around April - November.
Isla Española can now only be visited on cruise tours. I came here on the 4th day of the cruise with M/S Cachalote. We visited Gardner Bay in the morning. After visiting the beach for 2h we snorkelled at a small rocky island off shore. After lunch we navigated to Punta Suárez where we spent 3h walking the trail. Because there were so much to see we could easily have stayed longer, but it was getting dark so we had to return to the boat.
Gardener Bay is situated on the northeast side of Isla Española and here there is a beautiful long white sandy beach and turquoise water. We visited the beach at Gardener Bay on the 4th day of the cruise with Cachalote. After breakfast we took the panga to go ashore and by the beach there is a wet landing.
There is no trail at Gardener Bay but you can walk up and down the long beach. There is a Sea Lion colony and here and there you will see Sea Lions lying on the beach. On the beach we also saw the skeleton of a Sea Lion and a group of Hood Mockingbirds having a feast on turtle eggs. From the sand dunes came creeping vines of Morning Glory with purple flowers. I walked to the rocks in the end of the beach and on the rocks, covered with green algae, there are Marine Iguanas and some colourful Sally Lightfoot Crabs.
You can swim and snorkel from the beach at Gardener Bay so I had brought the snorkelling equipment , even if we were going to snorkel more after the visit at the beach. I wanted to practice diving to the bottom and this was a good place for that.
Gardener Bay is a popular visitor site so you will probably not be alone here. When we visited there were several other boats anchored in the bay and many groups on the beach. If I compare the beach at Gardener Bay with the beach at Cerro Brujo, which we had visited the day before, I liked Cerro Brujo better. The reason is only because we were alone there and it was such a beautiful and tranquil place.
To visit Punta Suárez on Isla Española was definitely a highlight on the Galapagos cruise with M/S Cachalote, because of its abundant wildlife and breeding colonies of Waved Albatrosses (their only breeding site), Blue-footed Boobies and Nazca Boobies.
There is a dry landing at a jetty where a trail of 1670m begins. It took us three hours to walk the trail and we could easily have stayed longer, but we had to leave before sunset. In the beginning of the trail there is a small beach with a small Sea Lion colony. There are also lots of Marine Iguanas and you have to watch your step so you don’t step on one. On the stones there were a few Lava Lizards.
The trail continues to a rocky cliff where we saw Blue-footed Boobies perform their courtship ritual just next to the path (you can see my video of it here). It was a funny and amazing sight to see. Besides Blue-footed Boobies you will see other seabirds here, like Nazca Boobies and Swallow-tailed Gulls. On some rocks the Marine Iguanas lay basking in the sun and here and there among the rocks there were a few Sea Lions.
We continued further along the path and came to the colony of breeding Waved Albatrosses and to our delight we saw their funny courtship ritual too (I have a video of it here). The Albatrosses don’t stay on Isla Española all year round, but only during breeding season and to be lucky to see their courtship display you should visit in April - November.
The coast is beautiful and at one point there is a blowhole where waves presses water into a fissure and the water is spurted high into the air, almost like a geyser.
While at Punta Suárez we also saw a Galapagos Dove, a Large Cactus Finch, a Woodpecker Finch, Ground Finches, a Galapagos Hawk and a snake.
The only place the Waved Albatrosses (Diomedea irrorata) breed is at Punta Suarez on Isla Española. They are the largest seabirds present in the Galapagos Islands and they look both funny and beautiful. I was very happy to see their courtship display while visiting Punta Suárez. It was an amazing thing to see.
During the breeding season in April - November around 18 200 pairs can be found on Isla Española. When the waved Albatross is not breeding it can be found over the Pacific Ocean east of Galapagos Islands and along the Ecuadorian and the north Peruvian coast. They can stay very long at sea, without putting their feet on firm ground. In the air they are very good fliers and can glide for long periods without flapping their wings. They feed far out at sea from the surface and usually eat fish, squid and crustaceans.
The Waved Albatross is a large seabird with a length of 85 - 93cm and a wingspan of almost 2.5m. They have a grey-brown plumage with white head and neck. The back of the neck is a bit yellowish. The webbed feet are large and the yellow bill is also big. Males and females look alike, but the male is slightly larger.
The males arrive first to Punta Suárez, in March/April, but the females soon follow. Most Waved Albatrosses are monogamous, some have several partners. The egg is laid on the ground and both parents help with the incubation. Strangely the parents sometimes roll the egg about. It is believed this is done for a more successful hatching.
During the breeding season, in April - November, you can see the albatrosses perform their courtship ritual. It is a fun thing to see. It looks like the couple is fencing with their bills when they snap and rattle. They move their necks from side to side, up and down, and they raise the bill towards the sky and make some guttural noises. You can see my video of the courtship display here.
Isla Genovesa is situated far to the northeast in the archipelago. It is a long journey and it takes the whole night to go there, about 8h. During this journey the boat crosses the equator. Isla Genovesa is a quite small island, only 14 sq km large. It is round and flat with a maximum elevation of 64m. The island is a shield volcano and when the crater collapsed the big bay, Darwin Bay, on the south side of the bay was formed. It is around 600m wide and surrounded by steep cliffs. It is in Darwin Bay the boats anchor and it is here the two visitor sites are situated. There are no introduced animals on Isla Genovesa.
Isla Genovesa is considered to be one of the highlights in the Galapagos Islands, because here there are big colonies of nesting Red-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies and Frigatebirds. And it is amazing to see lots of them just next to the trail you are walking along.
We visited Isla Genovesa on the 7th day of the cruise with M/S Cachalote I. In the morning we visited El Barranco and in the afternoon we visited Darwin Bay. I have written separate tips about those two visitor sites and what we saw there (the following two tips).
We had planed to snorkel twice during the day, once on the west side of Darwin Bay and the second time on the south side of the bay. So returning to Cachalote from El Barranco we got changed and went to the panga to go snorkelling. At Isla Genovesa there is a possibility to see Hammerhead Sharks, which was high up on our list of things to see, and this was our last chance to see them. To our disappointment the conditions on the west side were bad so we turned and went to the south side instead. Here the currents were not so strong so we could snorkel, but unfortunately the water was very murky and the visibility was not good. While snorkelling we saw Giant Damselfish, King Angelfish, Moorish Idol , Bonito, a big ray, sea lion and fur seal, but no sharks
When it was time to snorkel in the afternoon we all decided to skip it because the visibility was so bad and we went on a panga tour along the cliffs instead. On the cliffs and in the crevices you can see different species of seabirds and we saw Frigatebirds, juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-herons, Swallow-tailed gulls, Red-billed Tropicbirds and a Brown Pelican. We also saw Marine Iguanas, Sea Lions and Fur Seals. In the water we also saw a turtle and a Manta Ray.
Isla Genovesa is also called Tower.
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