Genovesa Island, Galapagos – A Birders Paradise

Genovesa Island, Galapgos – A Birders Paradise

Fiona Black – South America Travel Centre

I have never really considered myself a bird watcher and to be honest I was never very interested in birds until I visited Genovesa Island, Galapagos, where I couldn’t help but be awestruck by the size, colour, variety and sheer volume of the birds here.


Genovesa Island is a shield volcano in the Galapagos archipelago, in which part of the caldera wall has collapsed creating the Great Darwin Bay. This island is in the North of the Galapagos Archipelago and is famous for the abundance of birdlife.

Frigatebird, Genovesa Island, Galapagos Islands
Prince Phillip’s Steps

My day on this remarkable island started out by taking a Zodiac (or Panga as they are locally called) from my ship, the Santa Cruz II, to Prince Phillip’s Steps. From the panga I clambered up the 25m high staircase cut into the cliff, holding tightly onto the rail, watching each step carefully to ensure I did not plummet back into the water below taking my fellow Galapagos cruise guests with me.

Prince Phillips Steps Genovesa Island

At the top when I finally looked up I was surrounded by what looked like big red balloons. They were in fact the throat pouch of the male frigatebird which is only inflated during courtship. Well let me tell you, the courtship process was in full swing on Genovesa Island. Not only do the frigatebirds inflate their neck pouches but they stretch out their wings and sing an unusual honking song. Apparently the females are impressed by this.

Frigatebirds Genovesa Island, Galapagos

I walked with my group and naturalist guide along a designated path through the palo santo forest. The leafless trees with white twisted branches created a stark contrast to the colours of the birds and chicks nesting in and around them. Red footed boobies curiously watched us walk past as the frigate birds carried on with their courtship and we had to watch where we were stepping as many nazca boobie chicks had wandered onto the path.

Red Footed Boobie Genovesa Island

Blue Footed Boobie

Nazca Boobies, Genovesa Island

Nazca Boobies

At the edge of the forest we came to a rocky lava plain. Standing on the rocks and looking out to sea my vision was filled with what must have been thousands of birds flying, swooping and diving for fish. It looked like a swarm of giant insects but in actual fact were wedge-rumped storm petrels!

As the trail continued along, our guide pointed out a short eared owl in the crevasse between the rocks and explained that this owl is endemic to the Galapagos and is diurnal.

Short Eared Owl

Darwin Beach

The wildlife extravaganza continued into the afternoon as we spent the rest of the day snorkelling at Darwin Beach on the other side of Darwin Bay. Sea lions lazed on the white sand as the energetic pups played in the rock pools. The highlight of this snorkel for most was seeing Galapagos sharks swimming below. Even though these sharks only eat fish we made sure not to get too close to and just looked on in awe from a safe distance.

In a nearby lagoon at the end of the beach we saw more frigatebirds and boobies along with lava gulls, mockingbirds, yellow-crowned herrons, and lava herrons. As we left the beach to return to our ship we could see many of the Frigate Birds stretching out their wings as if they were waving us goodbye. This truly was a remarkable place and I highly recommend adding Genovesa Island to your Galapagos itinerary.

Genovesa Island Frigate Bird
Darwin Beach Lagoon, Genovesa Island

Santa Cruz II

Santa Cruz II

To get to Genovesa Island I travelled on the Santa Cruz II. A superior expedition cruise ship. I travelled on the 5 day 4 night Northern itinerary which enabled me to spend the whole day at Genovesa Island.

The Santa Cruz II had a complete renovation in 2015 and is modern and comfortable. She is 71.8 metres long and, with 50 spacious air-conditioned cabins located across three decks. This ship can provide families and groups of friends a wide range of cabin styles and sizes from which to choose.
The communal including the a dining room, lounge, bar and sun deck are great places to relax and enjoy the company of the other guests.  Onboard there is a fitness room for those after a bit more exercise. The ship has 2 Jacuzzi’s, as well as an observation platform, that is ideal for dolphin-spotting. Guests also have access to the bridge where they can view state of the art navigation equipment run by the experienced captains.

For ease of getting to shore and for wildlife viewing along the coast line Zodiacs are used as well as a boat with a glass bottom to view the underwater wildlife. Sea kayaking and snorkelling are also available.

Capacity: 90 Guests
Cruise Durations: 5 and 7 day itineraries

Santa Cruz II
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