South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands

Jun 21, 2018 - National Geographic Islander


After visit Santa Cruz and after a day full of surprises within civilization, we moved east to two different locations quite close to this island. South Plaza is located on the east coast of Santa Cruz, and it has a completely different ecosystem than the islands before. It was formed by several uplifts thousands of years ago and proof of that are the pieces of coral found on the island and now this island is home of unique species some of them endemic to the archipelago. Since humans settled on the island, they removed the main predator on Plaza which was the Galapagos hawk, so now due to the lack a predator, the population of iguanas has increased but diminishing the cactus trees, their most important source of food. Land iguanas share this with marine iguanas and sometimes crossbreed, resulting in infertile offspring with a weird aspect, hence called “Weirdos.” 

Early in the morning the set foot on the small yeti of South Plazas island. Some sea lions and sea gulls rested indifferently while along the rocky trail land iguanas patiently wait under the prickly pears for some leafs, flowers or fruits to fall. To visit Plaza is not just for the iguanas and sea lions, though, but to experience one of the most colorful landscapes on the islands. The cactus adds its green foliage, but the Galapagos carpet weed turns red to reserve all the energy it can during the drought. 

During the afternoon National Geographic Islander moved to Santa Fe, which is just two hours away from Plaza. The first group departed to kayak around the bay; It took us a while, but we succeeded in finding green sea turtles and some white tip reef sharks. And to finish with our activities, the last option was a walk. Sea lions welcomed us on a sandy beach followed by several Santa Fe land iguanas different than in the morning and restricted to this island. Walking inland the landscape looked dry due to the lack of rainfalls. Some cactus called our attention due to their large size while in the air Galapagos hawk glided as looking for some food. We observed a snake and afterwards one of our guests spotted a rice rat, which is endemic to the island.  With the last beams of sun, we came back onboard and after dinner I had the opportunity to share a special stargazing, observing some constellations such as the southern cross, Scorpius, Libra, Leo and others. A great day that will remain in our memories with all the amazing creatures we observed today and made this day so unique.

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About the Author

Paul Vergara

Naturalist

Paul grew up on the island of Floreana, one of the earliest islands of the Galápagos to have been inhabited, and one of Charles Darwin's centers of research. But just because Floreana has a long history of human settlements, does not mean that growing up there was a very modern experience. In the 1970s, there was neither electricity nor cars on the island. Not only that, but Paul and the rest of the inhabitants had to use donkeys for transportation, preserving their fish and meat using salt from the sea.

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