South Plaza & Santa Fe Islands

Dec 21, 2017 - National Geographic Islander

Today’s expedition started on a new island called South Plaza, we had an early and beautiful start setting foot on a landscape full of endemic bright red succulent plants and bright green prickly pear cacti and as we walked along the trail appreciating the view we encountered with a surprise, a new Galapagos species we have not seen before, a Galapagos land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus). Just as we thought we have seen it all, the Galapagos surprised us once again and one of the naturalists spotted a hybrid iguana up in a prickly pear cactus tree eating the pads. Hybrid iguanas on this island are the interbreeding of land Galapagos iguanas and marine iguanas, they are rare to spot, making this morning a great start to the day.

Back on board from the hike it was time for some jumping, but not any kind of jumping, it was the time of the week where we all get to jump from the bow of the ship into the water. Both kids and kids at heart lined up close to the bridge, got some courage and jumped into the water, to surface full of adrenaline and repeat the adventure as many times possible.

In the afternoon the Captain took us to a new island, Santa Fe Island. The bay and areas around the cliffs in this island are breath taking and home to sea birds and sea lions, waters are crystal clear blue and home to more playful Galapagos sea lions, fish, rays and white-tipped reef sharks. As soon as we arrived to the island a group of us went straight into the water to snorkel with the beautiful underwater life and another group went kayaking off the cliffs and around the island spotting sea birds, turtles and sea lions.

Santa Fe Island is also home to one of the four Galapagos iguanas, the Conolophus pallidus, this makes this land iguana not only endemic to the Galapagos, but endemic to only one island in the Galapagos Archipelago. After our water activities we went hiking to look for this rare and beautiful Santa Fe land iguana and to appreciate the landscape of this new island.

After the invigorating Santa Fe hike we came back to our home right around sunset, to end another beautiful day in paradise!

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About the Author

Gianna Haro


Most of Gianna´s memories seem to be dreams, made on flawless white sandy beaches with black lava rock contours and gorgeous turquoise ocean waters. Most of it happened while barefoot, in an enchanting place that some people regard as an ideal natural laboratory, the Galápagos Islands. For her it was home. Gianna grew up going to the beach nearly every day, snorkeling in crystal clear waters, playing with wild flowers, having sea lions steal her ice cream, observing marine iguanas, and identifying invertebrates. The latter was by no means technically accurate—she dubbed each new discovery with its own made-up scientific name. At some point during those early years, being an observer became an innate ability and she knew she wanted to be a biologist. 

About the Photographer

Jonathan Aguas

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Jonathan was born into one of only a handful of families that reaches back five generations in Galápagos, in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, on San Cristobal Island. He first left the islands when he won a highly-coveted scholarship to finish his studies in the U.S.  This was the start of his life-long passion for science and languages. He earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative biology from the University of Florida and later spent time in Europe, where he learned French. He is now fluent in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

About the Videographer

Ashley Karitis

Video Chronicler

Ashley was raised in the foothills of the Cascade Range in Central Oregon. After childhood careers in ski racing, equestrian sports, classical piano, and summer jobs on a dude ranch, she emerged as a unique hybrid of adventuress, hobby farmer, and storyteller. 

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