Isla Genovesa Things to Do Tips by MalenaN
Isla Genovesa Things to Do: 22 reviews and 93 photos
View at El Barranco, Isla Genovesa
In the morning after breakfast we took the panga from Cachalote to visit El Barranco, where there is a dry landing at the base of the steep cliff. A stairway with railing take you up on the cliff edge. Here a 1.5km long trail begins and first it passes through dry forest vegetation with Palo Santo trees. In this area there is an abundance of nesting Nazca-boobies, Red-footed Boobies and Frigatebirds. It is amazing how close they are to the path. After the dry forest the trail reaches a lava field with lovely views over the open landscape, thousand of Storm-petrels in the air and the sea beyond. Erosion in the lava rock have created crevices and holes that are perfect places for nesting Storm-petrels. With many Storm-petrels present the chance to see their main predator, the Short-eared Owl, is also large. We saw one owl, but only through the binoculars.
The birds we saw at El Barranco were: Nazca Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, Great Frigatebirds, Sharp-billed Ground Finch, Warbler Finch, Galapagos Dove, Wedge-rumped Storm-petrel, Madeiran Storm-petrel, Short-eared Owl and a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-heron.
El Barranco visitor site is also called Prince Philip’s Steps after Prince Philip who visited in the 1960s.
El Barranco is situated on the south side of Darwin Bay.
The beach at Darwin Bay
In the afternoon we visited the second visitor site on Isla Genovesa. It is called Darwin Bay, and here there is a wet landing on a small white coral beach. On the cliffs above the beach there are some graffiti made by visitors long ago.
We walked the trail, which is around 1.5km long, up on a cliff edge and back. First we followed the beach to some tidal pools surrounded by black lave rocks. It is a beautiful landscape and here we saw a few juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-herons. Among the mangrove patches and Salt Bushes there are nests of many Frigatebirds and Red-footed Boobies. The trail continues over the lava rocks, where it grows a lot of Lava Morning Glory and some Opuntia cactus. The trail ends high up on the cliff from where you will have a beautiful view over Darwin Bay and where there are many Red-footed Boobies. Then we walked back to the beach where we spent some time before going back to Cachalote.
Darwin Bay is a great place to see nesting Frigatebirds and Red-footed Boobies just next to the path. Besides Great Frigatebirds and Red-footed Boobies we saw these birds at Darwin Bay: juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Swallow-tailed Gull, Lava Gull, Brown Pelican, Wandering Tattler, Sharp Billed Ground Finch, Galapagos Mockingbird and Nazca Boobies. On the beach there were a few Sea Lions and in the tidal pools we saw Mullets.
The spines of the Opuntia cactus on Isla Genovesa are softer than on other islands. It is believed that it is so because on Genovesa the cactus didn’t have to develop hard sharp spins for defence, as there have never been any tortoises inhabiting the island.
Nazca Booby with two eggs
The Nazca Booby (Sula granti) used to be seen as a subspecies of the Masked Booby, but it is now known that it is a species of its own. In Galapagos Islands the Nazca Boobies are quite common with a population of between 25 000 - 50 000 pairs, spread out in different colonies.
With a length of 81-92cm the Nazca Boobies are the largest of the three species of boobies presented in the Galapagos. They have a white plumage with a black tail, black ends on the primary feathers and a black band at the base of the bill, which looks like a mask over the eyes. The large bill is orange.
Like other boobies the Nazca Boobies feed at sea and catch fish by plunge-diving from high up in the air. They often feed long distances from land.
The Nazca Boobies build their nest on the ground. They lay two eggs, several days apart, but even if both eggs hatch only one chick will survive. When the second egg hatch the older chick will push the newly born out of the nest. There it will be left to die, because the parents will not pay any attention to it. This might seem to be cruel, but by laying two eggs the chance to get a chick to raise will increase, in case the first egg doesn’t hatch or the chick die very young.
Pushing out the second hatchling of the nest is not the only cruel behaviour of the Nazca Boobies. When parents go away to find food chicks left alone can be harassed by boobies without children. I recently read in a science magazine that scientists who had studied ringed boobies in the Galapagos found out that the ones who had become most picked on as young also became the worst bullies when they grew up.
The photos of the Nazca Boobies are all from El Barranco on Isla Genovesa. But on Isla Genovesa there are also Nazca Boobies at Darwin Bay.
Great Frigatebird with chick, El Barranco
There are two species of frigatebirds in the Galapagos Islands, the Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) and the Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor). There are about 1000 pairs of the Magnificent Frigatebird spread in 12 colonies, and a few thousand pairs of the Great Frigatebird, also in 12 colonies.
The frigatebirds are large seabirds with a black plumage and long, pointed wings. The tail is deeply forked and the bill long with a hook in the end. When flying it is difficult to tell the different species apart, but the Magnificent Frigatebirds are slightly larger and the males have a purple shine on their backs, while the Great Frigatebird males have a green shine on their backs. Female Magnificent Frigatebirds have a white breast and a blue eye-ring while the female Great Frigatebirds have a white throat and breast and a red/pink eye-ring.
The males have a very characteristic red chest pouch which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. They build a nest , blow up the pouch and call out to attract a female. The males also flap the wings during the courtship. I would have loved to see that while in the Galapagos.
Even tough the frigatebirds are considered to be seabirds they can’t dive or swim. They don’t have enough oil gland to make their feathers waterproof. They can pick up food from the surface, but very often they steal food from other birds, mostly boobies.
The frigatebirds are beautiful to see either when they fly above the boat or when they are in their nest, maybe with a downy little with chick next to it. On Isla Genovesa we saw frigatebirds at both visitor sites, El Barranco and Darwin Bay.
Red-footed Booby, El Barranco, Galapagos Islands
The Red-footed Boobies (Sula sula) are the most numerous of boobies in the Galapagos Islands. There are around 250 000 pairs, and as much as 140 000 of those pairs can be found in the world’s largest Red-footed Booby colony at Isla Genovesa. Even though they are common they are rarely seen in other areas than where they breed. They breed on Isla Genovesa, Wolf, Darwin, Floreana (the small island Gardner) and on Isla San Cristobal (at Punta Pitt). I only saw Red-footed boobies when I was on the cruise with Cachalote and we visited Isla Genovesa, and there they were present at both visitor sites, El Barranco and Darwin Bay.
As the name indicate the Red-footed Boobies have red webbed feet. The large bill is blue with some red at the base. 95% of the population in the Galapagos Islands are of the brown form, which means they have a pale brown plumage with darker brown wings and back. The rest have a white plumage. The Red-footed Boobies are the smallest of the boobies in the Galapagos Islands and they became approximately 66 - 77cm long.
The Red-footed Boobies feed mainly on fish which they dive to catch, and they often do so very far from land.
Unlike the other boobies the Red-footed Booby builds its nest in trees. Even the courtship ritual, which resembles the one of the Blue-footed Booby, is performed in the trees. They breed throughout the year and the females lay one egg which is incubated for 45 days by both parents. The birds live for around 22 years.
Marine Iguanas near El Barranco
One of the highlights of Galapagos Islands is to see the amazing Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). They are endemic to the islands and they are also the only lizards in the word that swim in the sea. The Marine Iguanas spend most of their time on land, but they feed on algae and seaweed. There are seven subspecies of Marine Iguanas in the archipelago and they can be found on all islands, often in the shore zone, on the lava rocks.
During millions of years the Marine Iguana has evolved to be well adapted to its environment. With a flattened snout and sharp teeth they can effectively feed on the algae on the rocks. Their tail helps them swim under water and with their long claws they can stand firmly on the rocks. Sometimes you can see the Marine Iguanas snort, that is when they get rid of excess sea salt with help from salt-eliminating glands in their nostrils. Most Marine Iguanas are black or dark grey in colour but on some islands the male can have a red or green colouring, a colouring that becomes brighter during the mating season.
Males become around 1m long, but some subspecies become longer and others shorter. The females are shorter than the males, and the spines along their back are not as large as on the male.
Females and young iguanas feed along the shore when it is low tide. It is mostly the males that feed in the sea and they can stay up to an hour under water. As the water is cold the iguanas must get warm when they come up on land, and then you can often see them basking in the sun with their face to the sun and their body raised from the ground (they must get warm, but not too warm so by raising the body they will allow the air to circulate under the body).
The Marine Iguanas are funny to see in the water. Twice when I snorkelled I saw them swimming. At Sullivan Bay I saw a Marin Iguana just as it took off from the bottom and swam up to the surface. As it reached the surface a sea lion got hold of the tail and played with it. Great for me to see, but I don’t think the iguana appreciated it that much. While snorkelling near Puerto Villamil I saw a whole group of iguanas swimming at the surface and just past me. It was wonderful.
The breeding season is from November - March. The females will then lay the eggs in an underground nest where they are incubated for three months. The baby iguanas are small and are therefore vulnerable to predators. They risk getting eaten by owls, hawks herons or mocking birds.
Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Darwin Bay
The Yellow-crowned Night-heron in the Galapagos Islands is an endemic subspecies, Nycticorax violaceus pauper.
I saw juvenile and immature Yellow-crowned Night-herons during my visit to the Galapagos Islands, but I didn’t see an adult one. The juveniles have a dark brown plumage with white or buff spots and streaks . As it becomes older the spots and streaks becomes fewer. The black bill is long and sharp and the unwebbed and long legs are yellow green. The adult Yellow-crowned Night-herons have a dark grey plumage with paler colour on the edge of the wings and feathers on the back. They have a black head , white cheeks and, as the name indicates, a yellow crown. They become around 60cm long.
It is often around rocky shores in costal areas that you find the Yellow-crowned Night-heron. They are a quite common resident but as they are mainly nocturnal they are not so easy to see. They feed especially on crabs and crayfish, but also eat fish, mussels and small reptiles.
The Yellow-crowned Night-herons breed all year round and they often build the nest in mangrove branches above water, but also among rocks. The eggs are pale blue-green.
The first four photos are of Yellow-crowned Night-herons at Darwin Bay on Isla Genovesa and the 5th photo is of a juvenile just next to the steps at El Barranco, also Isla Genovesa.
Swallow-tailed Gulls, Darwin Bay, Isla Genovesa
The Swallow-tailed Gull (Creagrus furcatus) is endemic to Galapagos Islands, well almost endemic, as there is a small colony on the Colombian island Malpelo too. The population of Swallow-tailed Gull in the Galapagos Islands consists of 10000 - 15000 pairs, spread in 50 breeding colonies throughout the islands (but not on Fernandina and the west side of Isla Isabela).
The breeding adults have a black head and a red ring around the eyes., whereas the non breeding adults have a white head and are dark around the eyes. The Swallow-tailed Gulls have white underparts and grey neck and upperparts. Their bill is black with a grey tip. The legs and webbed feet are red. The tail is forked and white. Sometimes you can see Swallow-tailed Gulls with white patches on their back. The white patches will help them camouflage in their environment.
The Swallow-tailed Gull is the only nocturnal gull in the world. They feed mostly at night and can then fly several miles from land to catch fish and squid from the surface of the sea, as fish and squid come to the surface to feed on plankton. Sometimes the Swallow-tailed Gulls follow boats at night-time.
The Swallow-tailed Gulls nest in small colonies and they make their nest next to the shore, usually on a small platform on a cliff above sea. They lay only one egg which is incubated for 31-34 days. They breed all year round.
All four photos of the Swallow-tailed Gulls are taken at Darwin Bay on Isla Genovesa.
Lava Gull, Isla Genovesa, Galapagos Islands
The Lava Gull (Larus fuliginous) is endemic to the Galapagos Islands and it is considered to be one of the rarest gulls in the word as there are only about 400 pairs of them. In the Galapagos Islands they are widely distributed and can be seen on many islands.
The Lava Gulls have a dark grey plumage, with a paler belly. The head, bill and legs are black. The upper and lower eye-lids are white.
The Lava Gulls are omnivores and scavengers. They can feed on seabird eggs, newly hatched turtles and lizards, but sometimes they also catch fish.
Lava Gulls nest in the shore zone on sheltered beaches and they are solitary nesters. They female lay two olive-coloured eggs which are incubated for 30 days.
The photos with the Lava Gulls are taken at Darwin Bay on Isla Genovesa.
Red-billed Tropicbird, Isla Genovesa
The Red-billed Tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus) are beautiful seabirds with a long narrow tail. They are around 50cm long plus another 50 cm with the tail feathers. Their plumage is white with some grey barring on the back. The primary feathers are black, which can be seen when they fly. Over the eyes there is a black mask. They have a bright red bill and yellow short legs with webbed feet. The male and female look alike, but the males have longer tails.
The Red -billed Tropicbirds plunge-dive to catch their food, which consists mainly of squid and fish. They are not good swimmers though.
The Red-billed Tropicbirds breed throughout the year and nest in crevices on cliffs, but also on bare ground. The female lay one egg which is incubated by both parents. There are around 30 colonies of Tropicbirds in the Galapagos Islands and altogether a few thousand pairs.
They fly gracefully and are not easy to photograph when they fly back and forth along the cliffs. The birds in the photos were all seen near El Barranco on Isla Genovesa.
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