Lindblad Expeditions - From the National Geographic Islander in Galapagos - Jason Heilmann, naturalist; Photos: Antonio Adrian

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From the National Geographic Islander in Galapagos

Jan 10, 2013 - National Geographic Islander

Land Iguana
Sea Lion

South Plaza & Santa Fe Islands

Turquoise, blood red, and verdant could start to describe the colors we witness as we land this morning at South Plaza. This small island introduces us an area where very few species have taken hold, with Opuntia prickly pear and land iguanas being prominent. This small uplifted island also shows us marine iguanas living in very close proximity of the land iguanas, which has resulted in cross breeding and infertile hybrids being hatched. We are not able to witness this strange creature as we head to the southern cliff, however we are able to compare the two species as we witness them nearby. Frigate birds hang above us searching for an opportunity to obtain their “daily bread.” Galápagos shearwaters and tropicbirds dip and dive through the air both with their unique squeaks and shrill calls that fill the air. We arrive to an area that contains a sea lion “bachelor” colony where only males are found with young males mock fighting and learning skills that may help them gain their own territory in the future. Upon our return to our ship we realize that an intricate ecosystem can develop on even the smallest island with uniqueness that abounds.

Navigation continues as we head towards Santa Fé Island and a completely different insular area. We snorkel into a shallow bay where we are greeted by young sea lions who are very playful with us. White tipped reef sharks slowly swim by with an occasional diamond stingray upturning sand on the bottom as they search for food. Pacific green sea turtles rest in the shallows and we finish swimming in just a few feet of water. Kayakers return from their exploration of the outer coast. Extensive hikes ensue as we explore inland among the massive Opuntia cacti with an impressive view of the surrounding island. A Zodiac ride along the coast brings us close to Galapagos Hawks and an occasional heron and a deep glow falls upon Santa Fé as the sun dips below the horizon.

About the Author

Jason Heilmann·Expedition Leader

Growing up in northern California, Jason was surrounded by the incomparable nature of the Pacific Northwest. While attending university there, Jason met and eventually married an Ecuadorian woman who happened to be from a small group of islands off the coast of western South America. It was thus that Jason’s path led him to Ecuador and, in time, to one of the most revered natural environments on earth, the Galápagos Islands.