Blog Post

Day 9: Sea-sickness, red-footed boobies, and appreciating the natural world

Published: Jan 6, 2023

Right. New discovery: Early warning signs of sea-sickness should very much be listened to. 

Today started beautifully, with my head bent over the toilet. I don’t know why I very arrogantly assumed that sea-sickness wouldn’t apply to me. Last night’s journey to Genovesa island, which included crossing the equator, was very fast and very bumpy. We woke up many times just laughing out loud about how sick we felt; we were awakened frequently during the night by doors suddenly opening, possessions crashing to the floor, and, in my case, a suitcase that had fallen and turned upside down. We could hear the incredibly loud engine and the huge, cutting waves below us all through the evening. It was a strange contrast: feeling so horribly sick, yet seeing the most overwhelming natural beauty through my window in the morning, the blue-footed boobies flying just outside as though it were the most casual thing in the world…

The crew members offered me all the travel sickness tablets they owned (which wasn’t very many as they don’t get sick, obviously), and after my second encounter with my head bent over a toilet, I was well enough to explore Darwin Bay – the only sandy beach found in the caldera of Genovesa, which is the only Galapagos Island inhabited by red-footed boobies! We saw Galapagos mockingbirds, Galapagos doves, baby sea lions feeding, herons, Darwin finches, male frigatebirds protecting their babies, and Lava gulls: one of the rarest birds on the planet, with only 800 left. We also saw many swallow-tailed seagulls, all at different stages of life. They’re the only nocturnal seagulls in the world, and we learned that the males attract a mate by giving the female regurgitated squid as a present (!) The bigger the pile, the more likely he is to be accepted…


Red-footed boobies

The most awkward bird


Before lunch, Juan-Carlos gave us another briefing about snorkelling gear – I think he thought we needed a refresher. The main focus of the talk was peeing in a wetsuit — I’m not entirely sure why. We then went kayaking inside the crater of the caldera, although at that point I was very dazed and drowsy because of the sickness tablets. Which was when I realised I should probably rethink my dream of becoming a Galapagos tour guide…

Next up: across Darwin Bay, we visited El Barranco (Prince Phillip’s steps) which were a set of steep stairs that led to a wide plateau. There, we saw Nazca boobies jumping off cliff edges (as they’re too heavy to take off from a standstill), mockingbirds fighting by throwing sand at one another, and fur sea lions, who almost became extinct at one point because of pirate hunting. Twigs seem to be of great significance for these animals: we witnessed a male Nazca booby giving twigs to a female in order to build their nest (she had high standards, rejecting all three twigs he brought her), and we saw a different pair of birds fighting and making up by using twig offerings. “Promises, promises”, a sceptical Juan-Carlos said. We also learned that the Nazca booby has recently evolved as such from the Masked booby species, which is a perfect example of what Juan-Carlos meant when he told us he’s actually seen evolution happen right in front of him. We then crossed a small Scalesia forest, which was when we saw two short-eared owls sitting amongst the dried lava bubbles. Lava last erupted on this island around 60 years ago, and there’s still a fiery smell in the air…it’s crazy to think that every single mountain and valley on these islands are of volcanic origin – we’re constantly walking over old explosions.


Nazca boobies

Sea Lions


Our tour guide talks extensively about showing respect to nature, and all of us have felt our perspective shift a lot already. As he says, they belong here and we don’t, and that kind of attitude is sure to change the way we view animals back home as well. 


Sunset on Genovesa


Other than that, we’ve been warned tonight. The navigation is apparently going to be even choppier than yesterday’s…