GENOVESA Island, GALAPAGOS
Named after the birthplace of legendary explorer Christopher Columbus, Genovesa Island is a Galapagos Island crown jewel. This horseshoe-shaped island is also known for its diverse population of birds and distinct shape. Those characteristics are where Genovesa draws its two nicknames from: Bird Island and Tower Island. And you’ll likely notice both as you step off your zodiac.
You’ll walk up the same rocky path Prince Phillips did when he visited the Galapagos Islands in 1965 and 1981. As you scale the cliffs, you’ll make your first encounter with the colonies of colorful seabird. You’ll disperse into the thin Palo Santo forest where your path inland is a birdwatcher’s dream. Flocks upon flocks of birds nesting in their natural habitats. Swallow-tailed Gulls. Red-footed Boobies. Nazca Boobies. Blue-footed Boobies. Storm Petrels. Galapagos Mockingbirds. Galapagos Doves. Great Frigate Birds. Lava Gulls. Fiddler Crabs. And that’s not all.
And as you press further, you’ll see why Genovesa Island earned the Tower Island nickname. The eruption of a shield volcano created a miles-high protrusion at the center of the island. The event horizon, or tower, where the eruption took place is easily seen standing at sea level. The eruption also caused the wall of a volcanic caldera to collapse. The collapse is an interesting feature of Darwin Bay. The site of the collapse is encircled by treacherous cliffs, which helped create a 6,000-year-old crater lake, known as Lake Arcturus.
From here, a short walk takes visitors along the coast. You’ll encounter more seabirds and possibly some sea lions. And if the conditions are right, there are even opportunities for snorkeling and swimming. An island like no other, Genovesa Island is the perfect destination for the precocious.
Darwin Bay is the site of fascinating historical tidbits. It’s named after Charles Darwin, the scientist who conducted groundbreaking research in the Galapagos Islands. This distinction has made it an attractive destination for travelers and world dignitaries alike. That includes Prince Phillip, who visited the island in 1965 and 1981. In fact, the rocky steps you trudge through when you step off your zodiac are named after him. Prince Philip’s Steps take you into the Palo Santo forest, where there’s plenty of unique vegetation. But none more interesting than the famous Brachycereus. Also known as lava cacti, Brachycereus plants are peppered along the island’s main path.
El Barranco lies on the southern end of Darwin Bay. And it is right off the path to the Tower Island’s plateau. While the climb up may be taxing, you’ll certainly enjoy the pay off. At 210 feet high, the view at the summit is stunning. And you’ll be greeted by nesting booby colonies as well as other fascinating wildlife. You’re also likely to see short-eared lava owls, finches, mockingbirds, Galapagos swallows and the Galapagos doves. However, you’ll have to count yourself among the fortunate to see the short-eared owl. Endemic to the Galapagos, they are unique in that they hunt during the day.