Published: May 18th 2012May 7th 2012
Today we arrived in one of the moere remote islands, Genovesa, known for its massive bird colonies. The island is crescent shaped, the bay (called Darwin Bay, despite the fact he never visited) being the sunken part of an ancient collapsed caldera. Very visually stunning.
After breakfast, we walked around for quite some time. The sheer numbers of the birds was breathtaking -15000+ great frigate birds alone on the island, and a great deal of red-footed and Nazca boobies, all of which were insanely unafraid of people. There is a set distance of 1 metre away from any of the animals, but they were far more likely to 'break the rules', so to speak. Several wandered near us, out simple curiosity. Some of the most stunning are the male frigate birds, who squawk and inflate the crimson red neck pouches, and sit immobile, hoping to attract a female wit their balloon necks. Their back and wing feathers are largely glossy black, with green iridescence on the back of neck feathers, with long curved beaks and beady eyes. The females look similar, but lack the neck pouch, having white feathers in their place. They are beautiful, but they are basically the pirates of the avian world. Lots of animals prey on others, but it usually isn't vindictive, just a kill to survive kind of things. These 'great' frigate birds are honestly mean-spirited and lazy, surviving mainly on stolen food from other birds, stealing from the nests of the boobies to construct their nests, harassing them for no particular reason. They have even been documented to kill the babies of other birds for sport. Yikes! The males are also ridiculously vain, flapping around and showing off for the females. I quite liked the swallow tailed gulls, though, smaller than gulls back home, rhey have white and black feathers, orange-red feet,and red rings around their large eyes. Endemic to the Galapagos, they are the world's only nocturnal gulls. At night, they fish by putting their red ringed eyes near the surface of the water. Fish, intrigued by the color, swim up to investigate and are promptly eaten. Nom nom. Quite quiet birds, a little more unassuming, but interesting, definitely. The boobies were interesting, as well, both red-footed boobies and Nazca boobies. The red footed boobies nest in shrubs, whereas the Nazca boobies nest of the ground, on carefully arranged twigs and small stones, which the males gather as part of the courtship ritual. A.bit creepy, though, when we found out that almost all of the Naza boobies once had a brother or sister. Most of the time these birds lay two eggs. If both hatch, at the age of 3 weeks, the larger, older one will peck the smaller sibling to death. The parents help. As a younger sister, all I can say is eeep! Evolution is rough. Also saw more sally light foot crabs and galapagos sea lions. One was sunning himself on the jagged lava rocks (their blubber protects their bellies.) right beside a pool full of fish, which was easily accessible for a quick snack and cool down. Pretty great life. After lunch we climbed Prince Phillip Steps to another part of the island, where there were more red-footed and Nazca boobies, as well as frigate birds and some marine iguanas. Less algae rich water make the race of marine iguanas on Genovesa the smallest. Got to watch part of a Nazca booby courtship ritual. The male dances around the female, and places small stones and twigs on the large, grey green feet of the female. If she likes the offerings, she adds it to her nest, and eventually chooses the male as her mate, if he keeps it up. Surprising amount of trees here to get the twigs from... Mostly fragrant incense trees. Another short dinghy ride alongside the volcanic cliffs, where we spotted more Galapagos sea lions and swallow tailed gulls, as well as one lone blue footed booby, and several of the shyer fur sea lions. Then it was back onto the boat, and more snorkeling. We snorkelled three times that day... Once from the beach, once off the dinghy, and finally directly off the beach. Even more fish here, and the colour of the waters was amazing. Turquoise by the beach, shading into darker blue and the deep colour of nephrite jade closer to the middle of the caldera, with depths over 150 feet. The first snorkeling session by the beach was a bit of a bust, as my breathing tube was cracked, but switched it for a new one for the next two snorkelings. Warm, clear waters, with the frigate birds continuing to circle overhead as we snorkelled. The sky dwellers watching the land dwellers watching those of the ocean, so to speak. Fish large and small, from blue or black and orange striped ones as long as my forearm, at least. Brilliant, electric violet coloured fish darting past rays and angelfish (watch out for them, they can bite if they feel territorial) and tiny, translucently diaphanous krill, which were entrancing to watch. One major highlight was the hammer-headed shark we spotted moving directly below us, before dissapearing into the gloom. A bit nerve wracking, but I'm told they have better things to eat than skinny tourists. Later, a sea lion shot past, very close by! Paid a price for the great snorkeling though... Was stupid and got distracted, and didn't reapply sunscreen the final time we went snorkeling. We were only out for about 40 minutes, but I've got a bit of a bad burn on the back of my neck, shoulders, and legs. Unholy combination of equatorial sun, the refractory properties of water, and the sensitive skin that comes with being a redhead. The other guy who burned the worst was also a redhead, big surprise, eh? The day finished as we began the all-night sailing to the next island. A bit of a rough journey, stronger wind and waves compared to the previous night. Still... Lying on the deck chairs at the front of the boat, in pitch darkness, watching for shooting stars across the expanse of the milk way? With the swallow tailed gulls flanking out our boat like sentries in the night, looking out and not being sure where sky stops and sea begins? Worth a bit of nausea. Still, will try out the sea sickness patch I brought. See if scopolamine is any better than gravol or ginger.