Galapagos Cruise Day 2 - Genovesa

Published: May 30th 2012
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With thousands of birds flying overhead
At 5:30am the boat engine cut off and I could see out the port window that we had arrived in Genovesa and the sun was just coming up. I went up to the uncovered deck to get a look. Everybody else was still asleep. There were thousands and thousands of birds in the sky hovering over the fairly small cliff edge. Three other boats had arrived as well and were anchored nearby, Genevieve (a large sailboat), Daphne, a first class boat we had been offered and knew this week it was a designated charter, and Comorant, what looked to be a luxury catamaran.

After a few photos I went back to the room hoping to get back to sleep. No luck, 6:40 rolled around and we were getting ready for breakfast. All the meals are group meals and we have been trying to sit with different people every meal so we can meet all 16 passengers. This morning was breakfast with Josh and Carly, an Austrailian couple who are doing an 8 month trip around the world. They had been in the Galapagos a few days before the cruise and went diving at Gordon Rocks, a dive off of Santa Cruz. They saw all kinds of sharks, manta rays, other rays...very jealous. They said within 10 minutes of their dive they had seen all they came to the Galapagos to see. Dad, I gave them the advice you would give yourself on a good start to a Barrens trip, should have just left then (fortunately for them and us it would have been very bad advice).

At 8 we boarded the two dinghys and set off for shore, to Darwin Bay Beach where we had a wet landing to start the day (aka the dinghy gets close to shore, but your legs get wet getting off the boat). The first thing we saw on the beach, and something we got a whole lot of amusement out of, was a baby sea lion in search of his mother. He kept crying out and waddling along. Our guide said his mother was probably out hunting, but the pup did not seem to know that as he went from sea lion to sea lion sniffing them and getting snorted away, "Go away kid, I´m not your mom." Apparently sea lions have horrible vision outside of the water, so the pup had to go up to other sea lions and smell them to figure out whether or not they were his mother. Smell is also how the mother tells which pup is hers. And this is why it is very important not to touch the pups because if you get your scent on them their mother may abandon them, not recognizing the smell.

Next we went on a short walk amongst tons and tons of nesting and mating birds. Apparently we came here at a good time. The male frigate birds were all on the ground doing their little song and dance, with red sac inflated, hoping to score with a female flying above. A super fluffy white baby Nazca Boobie was nearby and although it looked dead or dying, it moved a bit and was apparently waiting for its mother to come back and feed it. There were tons of Red Footed Boobies, an endemic species to the Galapagos and only really seen on cruises going to Genovesa. The Red Footed Boobies had nests created or were creating nests. In one nest we could see the egg.

Blue Footed Boobies have 1-3 eggs, Nazca Boobies have 1-2 and Red Footed Boobies have 1. All three species are endemic to the Galapagos. And this sort of makes sense why the Red Footed Boobies seem to have the smallest populaion.

There were Swallow-tail gulls that had crazy looking eyes with the red circles around them. They are an endemic species and are the only night feeding species of gull in the world.

We saw small marine iguanas which are smaller on Genovesa due to warmer waters and not as many upwellings to cause as much algea growth on rocks as there is on other islands. They were so much smaller, not much bigger than the lava lizards.

There were nocturnal egrets and Yellow-Crowned Night Herrons, a sub-species of similar herrons found in North America and elsewhere.

After checking out the birds we snorkeled for about an hour. Sarah saw a spotted tiger snake eel, very cool. I saw a school of fish being hunted by a bigger, maybe 3 foot long, makeral type of fish. Much of the group was fascinated by the sea lions, especially the pup, swimming in the water, but having swum with sea lions a bunch of times already we set out in search of sharks and bigger fish. Unfortunately none were to be found but we saw a ton of cool smaller fish.

Post snorkel we were back on the boat for lunch and a very brief break. At 2 we headed for another snorkel spot on the east side of Darwin Bay, and at the base of the hike we were going to go on later. There the rocky cliff face of the island dove in to the water and it was much deeper. Again no sharks, but we saw a couple different kinds of blow fish, some big grouper-like fish, a very large trumpet fish and others.

Other fish we saw: Guineafowl Puffer of the black and yellow variety. Orangeside triggerfish, Mexican goatfish, reef cornetfish, trumpetfish, a school of Moorish Idols, King Angelfish.

In that spot I often dove down as far as I could hoping to see a shark (to the displeasure of my head and ears). The visibility was not the best so I figured it may have been difficult to see them from the surface. No luck.

We took the dingys back to the boat briefly before heading back for our 4:00 activity, Prince Phillips Steps, or El Barranco. From the boat we saw an eagle ray. Before the dry landing we got a look at the fur sea lions, an endemic species to the Galapagos. They are much smaller than the other sea lions and are nocturnal so most of them were sleeping on the rocks.

Next up, a 1 km trail that wound through Nazca Boobie nesting grounds to the other side of the island. We saw Nazca Boobies with eggs, some with young only a week or two old, and the super fluffy young birds about a month and a half old. Below in the photos you can see the entire process of finding a mate, to laying eggs, to hatchlings, to adolescents, to trying to learn to fly. Amazing. We saw a parent Nazca Boobie vomit up a fish to feed to an adolescent, careful not to have the lazy frigate bird snatch it away despite their best efforts. There were many Frigate birds and Red Footed Boobies here too, but the main attraction was the Nazca Boobies.

Another big attraction at the end of the trail was the short-eared owls, who waited patiently on the lava rock for a Storm Petrel to fly too close. We saw one owl catch a petral and eat it.

Back on the boat we were on the move at 6:00, heading towards Bartolome. Typically the captain would drive the boat at night, but we had picked up a small boat of fisherman who had run out of gas and needed a tow. Motoring during dinner time really messed a lot of people up. Out of the group of 16 probably 8 were feeling sick and one person got sick. I couldn't believe it, even with the patch on I felt awful. Myself and others got fresh air on the upper deck while those who could hang, like Sarah, enjoyed dinner. The guide decided to postpone our normal evening briefing since he knew bringing us sick ones in to the dining room would be a disaster. I, and others, ended up sleeping on the upper deck, although I was the only one who lasted til morning. The upper deck was very nice with a great view of the stars, cool breeze and the Swallow-tail gulls flying beside the boat. About 1:40, I awoke, we had arrived in Bartolome, we were anchored and the seas were calm. I was able to make my way down to the cabin to sleep a few more hours before breakfast.

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