English Name: Tower
Ecuadorian Name: Genovesa
Total Area: 5.4 sq miles
Population: Zero (uninhabited)
Genovesa lives up to it’s reputation as the Bird Island of Galapagos, both in diversity and numbers! Due to its remote location far to the north of the archipelago, few land species ever arrived here, but the cold nutrient-rich waters do provide the perfect conditions for marine birds and animals to thrive. So bird watchers, do try to include Genovesa Island into your itinerary – you won’t be disappointed!
The island of Genovesa is the remains of an old shield volcano. A long and flat crater was built up slowly by successive lava flows, until one side of the caldera collapsed letting sea water in. So what we see today is a pretty bay protected by horse-shoe shaped crater walls of the submerged volcano. The calm waters of the protected bay make for fabulous snorkeling or kayaking, cliff walls provide nesting sites for seabirds, and two visitor trails walk you through huge colonies of red footed boobies and frigates.
The sites of Genovesa are named in honor of several famous people. The name of the island itself comes from the Italian city of Genoa – birthplace of famous explorer Christopher Columbus. The two landing sites derive their names from Prince Philip (the British royal who visited the island in 1965 and 1981), and from Charles Darwin (who of course need no introduction).
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How to visit Genovesa? This island is far away to the north of the archipelago, too far for a day tour visit. It is accessible only aboard Galapagos Cruise Itineraries that operate a loop of the northen islands.
Visitors to Genovesa can enjoy a wonderful variety of activities: treking along two diverse and interesting trails, snorkeling in the collapsed crater, or kayaking to explore around the bay. Read on for more information.
Landing Type: Dry, sometimes with choppy water.
Trail Length: Aprox 2 hour hike (2km).
Terrain: The trail starts with steep, challenging, rocky steps, which level out to a flat plateau with sandy / rocky trail.
After landing at the dock, you are immediately faced with the toughest part of Prince Phillip’s Steps – the steep climb. Steps ascend 8 meters, with a handrail for balance – just take it slow, or ask your guide for assistance if this part worries you. At the top of the steps, a plateau opens out, straight into colonies of Red footed boobies and Nazca boobies. Genovesa is home to the largest colony of Red footed boobies on the planet, and is one of the few sites at Galapagos where you can find them. It’s easy to tell the nests apart – Nazca boobies nest on the ground, while their Red footed cousins build nests in the Palo Santo trees or shrubs. Keep an eye out for mockingbirds and finches here too.
Further along the trail we enter a different habitat of dark petrified lava flows – a harsh landscape, but home to more interesting bird species. This is the best spot at the Galapagos Islands to find Short-eared Owls, wonderfully camouflaged against the brown/black rocks. They hunt Storm Petrels by keen observation and stealth, waiting to catch Petrels unaware as they fly out from their burrows.
Impressive panoramic views can be enjoyed from this high point of Genovesa, where Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels swarm in their hundreds, with Galapagos swallows and Galapagos doves.
Landing Type: Wet.
Trail Length: 1-2 hour hike (aprox 1.5 km).
Terrain: An easy trail along the beach.
Darwin Bay is Genovesa’s other visitor site – a beautiful white coral sand beach, home to sea lions, marine iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, and great frigate birds. After a wet landing, a short trail heads inland to a todal pool, for our first view of beautiful Swallow-tailed gulls. These elegant and beautiful seabirds nest in lava cracks, and have developed night vision (unique for gull species) to be able to hunt squid and small fish nocturnally, without risk of predation. Endemic species of Lava Gull and Lava Heron are also common here, as are playful sealions swimming in the pools or shallows. Another curiosity of Genovesa island to look out for is the smallest marine iguana at Galapagos, the only reptile on the island.
The trail continues through Palo Santo and Opuntia forest – nesting sites for Great Frigatebirds and Red-footed Boobies. Frigate mating season begins in March, with males aiming to attract a mate to their nest by puffing out their red, balloon-like throat pouches – a very impressive spectacle!
At the end of the trail, enjoy the picturesque cliff-top view, and keep your eyes on the skies for the lovely red-billed tropic bird, flying with graceful tail streamers.
Finally, visitors can enjoy free time to relax on the beach, snorkel in the calm, clear waters, or kayak. Darwin Bay offers some of the best Galapagos snorkeling at the islands, sharing the bay with sea lions, green sea turtles, sharks, Manta rays, and schools of colorful fish such as surgeon fish, butterfly hogfish, unicorn fish, king angelfish & parrot fish. But the real bucket list highlight is the opportunity to cross paths with Hammerhead sharks that sometimes frequent this tranquil bay.
Contact us for a FREE TOUR QUOTE for Galapagos Land Tours or Cruises, or for more information to plan your Galapagos vacation.
Note: All wildlife sightings are by their very nature unpredictable, and activities may be subject to change by your guide or the National Park Authority.