Genovesa (Tower Island)
Things to see:
Heather does not like birds. We had learned this a few days earlier, so I was not sure what she was going to do on this island that was coming alive with avian movement. We woke up in the middle of the crater - it was eerie to look to the west and see the tips of the crater's arms close together. We were floating in one huge hole. We boarded the dinghy and motored to the edge - hoping to spot some fur seals here. One or two of them were sunning themselves on the rocks and you could certainly see a difference in their facial and body features. As we neared the wall of the crater, their color and steepness grew heavier and richer. At one point I felt like I was peering up at "cliffs of insanity" and wondered if a Spaniard would be waiting to fight me once we scaled the wall on a rope. (See the Princess Bride movie if you have no idea what I am referring to.) Anyway, there was a rope, but it was more of a handrail. the ascent was steep and slippery with salt water and bird poop, so we were all happy to make it to the top.
And the moment we go to the top, the birds started. Our old friends the Blue foots, frigate birds and any number of gulls. We walked through what looked like dead white brush, full of nests, feathers and mating birds. It was one of the wilder things I have ever seen. And then, just to mess with our minds, Victor introduced us to the Red Footed Boobies. Yes, red. And they could only be found on this island.
When we arrived at the farthest edge of the crater, the vast sight of a sky full of birds was all around us. I wondered how Heather was doing and she seemed to be holding her own. The sky was literally full of birds - diving for fish, returning to their nests, looking for mates. We had the luck of spotting a Galapagos owl - a rare find, according to Victor.
We headed back on the same path and this time to path to the dinghy was blocked - a large sea lion was dozing right in the middle of the path. Somehow Victor got him to move and within minutes we were back on the boat and I think Heather could again breath a sigh of relief.
After lunch, we were would have our last wet landing and given one last chance to snorkel. We would need to take all of our gear with us and dump it on the beach before heading on the walk to see the northern crest of the crater. Again, the paths were clearly marked and because it was the end of mating season and chicks were hatching, it was imperative that we stay within the markers. One wrong step could mean a shattered nest. We didn't have to walk far before we realized that we were indeed surrounded by nests of mostly Blue Footed Boobies. The fluffy down of new hatchlings was everywhere and it was the most amazing sight to see a little face amongst a ball of fluff. The harsh features of their developing faces was balanced by all of the snowy down and we were less than a foot away.
Back at the beach, we geared up to snorkel, but I barely made it out past the surf. The waves were rough, the current strong and the water murky - not my ideal snorkeling conditions. Instead of panicking, I just let the tide take me back to the beach. I had a few frisky sea lion pups to keep me entertained, while I waited for the dinghy to take us back to the boat.