Tower is the tenth biggest island of the Galapagos, covering 5.4 square miles (14 square kilometers). The island is relatively flat reaching only 250 feet (76 meters), compared with Rabida, 1.9 square miles and 1,203 feet. The volcanic origin of the island is evident from its outline. What is Darwin Bay today was at one time the caldera of a volcano. After the volcano became extinct, wave erosion wore away at the walls and eventually broke through forming the bay.
The island is also called Genovesa, after the place where Columbus was born (Genoa, Italy) however, the English name is more widely used. The origin of this name is not certain, but the circular cliffs surrounding the main bay are reminiscent of an ancient fortress.
Tower is the most remote of the islands with land visitor sites and few visitors make it here. However, those that make the long sea trip, an overnight voyage, are richly rewarded, as huge colonies of various sea birds provide a spectacle unparalleled elsewhere in the islands or perhaps the world.
Especially numerous are the Red-footed Boobies which make up the world's largest colony of this species. Other birds here include Masked Booby, Frigate Birds, Swallow-tail Gulls, Lava Herons, Galapagos Doves and Galapagos Owls. Two species of Storm Petrels have a vast colony on the eastern side of the island, totaling over 200,000 pairs. In recent years pairs of Waved Albatross, that normally breed only on Hood Island, have been observed courting near the Petrel colony, although they have not yet established successfully.
Also to be seen there are Sea Lions and Fur Seals. The Fur Seal, actually a species of Sea Lion rather than a true seal, was nearly hunted to extinction by the early part of the twentieth century, but has recovered.
Darwin Bay Beach is surrounded by a ring of cliffs, below which is a coral beach and several seabird colonies. It is filled with Frigate Birds and their bustling activity. Darwin Bay was created when the island's large crater collapsed below sea level. Landing on the white-coral beach in the middle of the bay requires a wet landing, but once ashore the number of birds seems overwhelming. Masked Boobies soar overhead, Great Frigate Birds display their pouches while resting on the nearby rocks and plants, Mockingbirds scamper quickly across the sand. It's easy to see why Darwin Bay is a favorite of birders. A panga ride along the walls of the crater reveals the variety of animals that find shelter on the ledges and in the crevices of the lava. Above, the elegant Red-billed Tropic Birds fly in and out of their nests.
Beyond the beach a series of tide pools carved out of black volcanic rock offer Wandering Tattlers, Lava Gulls, Whimbrels and Turnstones a place to fish. Yellow-crowned, Black-crowned and Lava Herons and White-and-Yellow Warblers have also been seen in the area.
The trail follows the coast through the Salt Bush and Mangrove nesting area of the Great Frigate Birds and Red-footed Boobies. Unlike the Masked and Blue-footed Boobies, who nest on the ground, the Red-footed Boobies can be seen nesting in trees between September and July. Boobies and Frigate Birds share an adversarial relationship. They nest in the same areas and Boobies frequently destroy the Frigate Bird’s nests, while Frigate Birds feed on Booby eggs.
Continuing on the trail, visitors climb gradually to the edge of the cliff seeing Red-foots nesting in the Mangrove trees below. Bird watching from the trail includes sightings of Sharp-beaked Finches, Large Cactus Finches, Large Ground Finches, Galapagos Doves and Swallow-Tailed Gulls. Reaching the end the trail at the cliff's edge offers an incredible view of the island and the many birds living there.
Prince Philip’s Steps: Visitors hike a path through woods and nesting colonies and climb to a plateau at the top of a cliff, known as Prince Philip’s Steps. It got its name after the prince visited the islands in 1964, which helped stimulate international interest in the survival of the Galapagos. The area is part of the stretch of land that surrounds Darwin Bay on its eastern side. Everywhere one looks, there are Masked Boobies on the ground and Red-Footed Boobies in the trees. Beyond a broad lava field that extends towards the ocean, thousands of Storm Petrels flutter like swarms of locusts and Short-eared Owls hunt down the more inexperienced ones.
Snorkeling can be done at the beach or alongside the cliffs. The water inside the bay is very rich in nutrients, so one never knows what may be encountered. Tower is one of the most fantastic islands because of its animals, its landscape, its remoteness and its unspoiled nature.
|Area:||5.4 square miles (14 square kilometers)|
|Maximum Altitude:||249 feet (76 meters)|
|Geographic Features:||Calderas with hot lava, coral beaches, natural step formations.|
|Major Sites:||Darwin Bay, Prince Philip's Steps.|
|Flora:||Croton Bushes, Lava Cactus, Palo Santo, Muyuyo Forest, Salt Bush.|
|Fauna:||Boobies, Frigates, Storm Petrels, Tropic Birds, Sea Lions, Fur Seals, Hammerhead Sharks, Short-eared Owls.|
|Activities:||Snorkeling, scuba diving, tours.|