Punta Pitt: Boobies at world’s end


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Text: Ilan Greenfield

Images: Jorge Vinueza

This is Galapagos’ closest point to the South American continent… although it feels like the farthest, land’s end. The walk up to the hill, if you arrive from the coast, can be tricky — you need a good pair of shoes — but the visit is, especially for those who are staying on the inhabited islands, the closest thing to the spectacular, remote destinations only accessible via cruise.

The visitor site’s beautiful, deserted, greenish beach (with sediments of olivine in the sand) makes a fine place to swim with sea lions and their pups, from where you can later explore the rugged environment uphill, climbing a path up to a colony of astonishing numbers of Blue-footed boobies.

During breeding season, one can find them in all their stages of reproductive life, from courtship to the hatching of eggs and from babies and juveniles to adults exercising their parental chores.

You can also see the other two booby species (it is the only place in Galapagos with all three): the elegant Nazca boobies and the Red-footed boobies, which come to feed on a particular fish found in these very waters. The only other place where you can see Red- footed boobies is Genovesa Island (where they actually nest… but the site is only reachable on a cruise).

Punta Pitt is known to be the first point the Beagle made out as it approached the archipelago from South America.

Captain Fitzroy identified the site in the ship’s log, mentioning that in the distance it looked like an islet, but was in fact “Mount Pitt, a remarkable hill at the northeast end of Chatham Island”.

It was while exploring the area that Charles Darwin encountered, with great astonishment, his first giant tortoise, which he described as “antediluvian” against the vision of lava fields, giant cacti and the parched surrounding vegetation. That day, the Beagle’s crew captured 18 tortoises to take on board for their voyage across the world back to England.

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