Hammerheads and Birthday Celebrations

Trip Start Dec 29, 2012
Trip End Aug 15, 2013

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Flag of Ecuador  , Galápagos,
Friday, February 1, 2013

Upon arriving at Genovesa Island, I knew it might be one of my favourite places in the Galapagos.  Besides from being so far away from the other islands, it has a unique shape of a "c" and the sides of the island descend under the ocean in a cone shape, a volcano under water.  The boat was moored inside the "c" and we used the panga to travel to a steep set of stairs along a cliff.  At the top of the stairs, there were scores of boobies.  In trees and scattered around the ground in their nests.  Nazca boobies were on the ground with various ages of chicks all over.  Some females were sitting on eggs and little chicks as well.  Red Footed Boobies were nesting in trees - again with chicks and eggs at various life stages.  The birds were so oblivious to humans on the trail.  At some points we had to step around the birds on the trail as they just didn't move away to avoid us.   We took many close up pictures of these interesting birds!  The Nazca Boobies make their nests on the ground laying bits of sticks and grass in a circle, and then they sit in the middle and poop all around the circumference.  The chicks grow large quickly and are fluffy white.  They have huge webbed feet which make them wobble awkwardly around the island.  We heard this is one of the features that led to their name "booby"  because they look ridiculous as they walk - and their fearlessness make them booby-like too as they would be easy for predators to catch.  Luckily they have very few predators on this desolate bird island.  I loved the colours of the red-footed boobies though.  Baby blue beaks and bright red feet.   They perched all over the trees on this island, some sitting on nests and others carefully watching us.  I think it's fascinating how two similar birds have evolved with such different nesting skills.

We walked around the curve of the "c" shape along a trail close to cliffs searching for little owls along the ground.  I spotted one quite early on in our hunt.  Just a little owl who as we watched, reached into a hole and pulled out a little mouse to eat.  We watched it use it's talons and beak to rip apart it's meal and then the left over bits were scavenged by a few smaller birds waiting in the sidelines.  We saw another owl who was also eating and it swooped away with prey in it's claws. 

There were frigates on this island as well, some males beginning to puff up their red chests to ready themselves to find a mate. After our walk we readied ourselves for yet another snorkel. And what a snorkel it was!  We saw an octopi that shimmered iridescent blue and green, Hammerhead sharks, and then the usual - sea lions, turtles, fish and penguins. It's too bad we had no working underwater camera!

On the way back to the boat, Joni who shares my birthday on February second, talked about jumping off the top of the catamaran to celebrate her birthday.  After seeing the hammerhead shark, I had enough adrenaline in me that had me thinking that I too could jump of the boat.  So I told Joni that if she could do it, then I could too.  Upon arriving on the boat, we were informed that swimming off the boat today was at our own risk, as the crew had seen Galapagos Reef Sharks circling the boat that morning.  I must admit I was a little worried - but Joni was so enthusiastic.  We headed up to the sun deck and she didn't hesitate to jump.  I, on the other hand, did hesitate and waited to see Joni and ask how it was.  She said it was great and would do it again, if I wanted her to jump with me.  And of course, I did!  So she climbed back up the stairs and we counted down a few times before I decided the time had come and we counted to three and jumped!  Joni's husband was using their underwater camera to photograph the event, but unfortunately it had gone the way of Jim's underwater camera and so we have no physical evidence of our jump (except for the slight bruise along my thigh that I landed on).  Thirty-five feet up is a high jump!  I do have several witness though.  So now all the Bamfords had jumped off the sun-deck, just as Edwin predicted a few days earlier.

After lunch, we had a long journey cruising back to Seymour island, which is very close to Baltra Island where the airport was.  We passed the time by playing cards and learning magic tricks from one of the other passengers.  After a few rousing games of spoons we were called to the bridge if we wanted to see the crossing of the equator.  And so the bridge filled up with several people and we watched the instruments count down until it read "0.00".  The funny part was one of the crew was hanging around on the deck outside the bridge and when we were on the equator, he snapped a rope across the bridge window.  An unexpected joke that had us all laughing to be sure!  So we can say that we actually saw the equator!  In the evening, Joni and I were presented with a sparkling birthday cake.  Although it was a day early, it was a birthday to remember for sure!
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