South Plaza and Santa Fe Island

Feb 28, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


We had a dry landing on a small, flat island riddled with baby sea lions around the coast and prickly pear cacti forest further inland. As we continued along our route, we came across several land iguanas feeding on the succulent plants and fallen cactus pears.

A small colony of swallow-tailed gulls has settled on this island, and we encountered several of them on nests and feeding their chicks. We saw several gull chicks which, at most, were no more than a few days old. The cliffs of this island had all sorts of birds flying around, from magnificent frigatebirds, to red-billed tropicbirds, to Galápagos shearwaters. Land iguanas were also along the trail, either already nesting or digging holes to incubate their eggs.

After an outstanding walk, we returned to National Geographic Islander and went for a swim, jumping off the ship into the refreshing waters. After lunch, we headed for Santa Fe Island, where a few options awaited us. A good number of us went kayaking inside a calm bay, where we spotted pacific green sea turtles, sea lions, blue-footed boobies and brown pelicans.

After kayaking, we had a wet landing to explore the wilderness on Santa Fe. We encountered several individuals of the endemic Santa Fe land iguana: This species is not only unique to the Galápagos but also unique to Santa Fe Island itself. Plenty of large (mature) prickly pears were found along the trails. Some of these cacti have been growing for more than 80 years! Galápagos doves, mocking birds, and several kinds of Darwin finches were also spotted on this island. Clearly the wildlife had a lot to show us today!

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About the Author

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.

About the Videographer

Eric Barnes

Video Chronicler

Eric is a native of Southern California and has been taking pictures for as long as he can remember.  He made a career as a news photographer, working for local and national news agencies.  As a photojournalist, Eric has documented some of the most important news events both nationally and around the world.  He has covered everything from the tsunami in Thailand to the war in Afghanistan and countless other compelling stories.

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