Darwin, our guide on board the Beluga, had talked a lot about Genovesa Island a lot during the cruise. Many times he had said: “don’t worry you’ll see that on Genovesa.” And he was right. It was superb, utterly spectacular and a great final full day for our cruise to finish on – this isolated island way up across the equator in the north of the archipelago is a real highlight of your Galapagos Islands cruise.

The shape of the island was formed by a huge collapse where alot of the island disappeared to form Darwin Bay. In the middle it can reach depths of 300m. The bay sometimes has whales, orcas, hammerhead sharks and dolphins in it, and a ridge across the entrance means yachts can only enter and depart through a small gap at certain times of the day. The mooring is a great vantage point for spotting bird and marine life in the bay and on the cliffs.

male frigate birds

We had a wet landing at 6AM. I’ve never seen birdlife like it. Frigate birds, which has been elusive on the ground until today, were nesting everywhere, Nacza and a huge colony of red footed boobies nesting sites aswell. Sea lions were of course roaming the beach we landed on. The noise was unbelievable from the frigate birds and red-footed boobies.

Many of the male frigate birds were courting with their chests puffed out and wings spread trying to attract females flying overhead – an incredible sight. The trail takes you incredibly close to the nests and the birds but of course they just don’t mind at all and barely acknowledge your existence. The abundance and density of birds in such a small area was just breathtaking. It is definitely not just for bird lovers, although they will of course be in heaven here. This is an amazing landing site and totally unique. Rare lava gulls, yellow crowned herons and tropic birds are also spotted here. I saw a nazca booby knock a juvenile frigate bird off its nest, only for the mother frigate bird to swoop down to dismiss the nazca booby.

Red footed Booby (Genovesa)

Where you snorkel in the bay here it is very reliant on visibility and sea conditions. We tried a couple of areas in the panga and ended up at the site best for spotting hammerhead sharks. I was lucky enough to see a beautiful hammerhead shark, three metres long, in crystal clear shallow water near the surface just a couple of metres away. We saw many Galapagos sharks from our yacht aswell. Our time here had been so incredible that we all expected to see Orcas in the bay. This was not to be, but it shows how high your expectations can be in Darwin Bay on Genovesa.

After snorkelling we followed two hammerheads that were feeding in the bay from the panga. A red booby dived right on the hammerhead and it nearly was eaten in retaliation. Wildlife behaviour is just incredible here. Darwin Bay and Genovesa Island maybe a long way from Santa Cruz but it is definitely worth the trip. Even for the Galapagos Islands, the close encounters with the birdlife here were unique and unforgettable.


Simon travelled to the Galapagos Islands in March.  He’s still got other things to write about this experience, so look out for the next installment.


Guy Marks

Guy first caught the travel bug (amongst other things) when he drove from the UK to Cape Town in the early 80’s. His early career saw him involved in agriculture and culminated with a stint in the city as a commodity broker before he threw in the towel and made travel his life.