South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands

Sep 27, 2018 - National Geographic Islander

South Plaza is an island near Santa Cruz, it is very small but very interesting place. First of all, this area was uplifted dramatically at one point, raising the ocean floor to above sea level, so wherever you go you find big pieces of white coral that were formed underwater. Secondly, this is the only island where the marine iguanas and land iguanas are living so close together, so they interbreed and create hybrids iguanas. Thirdly, the resident lava lizards are known to become cannibalistic when there is a lack of food.

The geology is impressive, because lava pillows are so big and polished by the oily skin of sea lions passing over for thousands of years. The terrain is covered by a carpetweed, and red and purple shrubs called portulaca. Many opuntia cacti are full of pears, and the avid iguanas are at the foot of this trees waiting for any falling fruits. We found a land iguana eating the flesh of dead birds, which is a sign of lack of vegetation for these creatures that normally are vegetarians.

The highest peak of sea lions baby deliveries is normally in November, but this year it seems to have happened early; it is September and we are seeing many babies sea lions all over Galapagos. Plaza was no exception, we found many newborn sea lions with their umbilical cords attached to their belly button.

After our exploration, we came back onboard to jump off the ship and cool off into the ocean. In the afternoon, we repositioned to Santa Fe Island. Some of our guests went out for a very long walk to explore this magical island, while others went kayaking to enjoy the plethora of wildlife along the shoreline. Santa Fe is home to a large colony of sea lions, but the main attraction here is the iguanas, they are a unique species living only there. Today we were very lucky, spotting many juvenile hawks as well as turtles and sharks.

We spent some time on the sandy beach, just observing the interactions between the sea lions, before dusk began to fall and we returned to our ship. It was a busy and exciting day full of wonders, and more surprises await us tomorrow as our expedition continues.

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About the Author

Christian Saa

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Christian was born on the island of Isabela in the Galápagos archipelago. He grew up on a farm and had a magical childhood devoid of cars, electricity, telephones—just pure nature and playful sea lions along the beach. At the age of seven, he moved with his family to Santa Cruz Island, the economic hub of the Galápagos Islands. His father began to work in tourism and took Christian around the islands during school vacations. It was during this time that Christian learned to love and understand the real value of this unique archipelago, and he decided to devote his life to its stewardship. A lifelong passion for nature and its creatures took root in his heart, and he eventually decided to become a naturalist, which he has now been doing for 18 years now.

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