South Plaza & Santa Fe Islands

Aug 29, 2019 - National Geographic Islander

Today we visited the tiny island of South Plaza, with its magnificent colors. This island is a magnet for sea lions, crabs, land iguanas, seabirds, and an amazing cactus forest. This time of the year as the drought progresses towards its peak, South Plaza gets its best tinges of red, orange and green from the evergreen cacti. This is a treat to the photographers and observers of nature!

Land iguanas and opuntia cacti have a close relationship: Cacti provide food, and iguanas distribute cacti seeds. The result of this is relationship is more cactus in the area to produce more food. Here on South Plaza, iguanas have outnumbered the cactus trees and have eaten all baby cactus plants, therefore only old cacti have been seen for decades. The Galapagos National Park together with the Darwin Foundation are carrying out a reforestation campaign to bring them back. It is important to have a healthy forest for the future population of land iguanas.

In the afternoon we navigated towards Santa Fe Island where you can do several activities, all of them exciting! Some of us chose kayaking and explored the turquoise bay home to sea lions and eagle rays on the north side of Santa Fe. Others explored the coral sand beach and sea lion colony with cameras in hand, ready to get the best shot. In the late afternoon we went for a sunset walk in search of the elusive Santa Fe land iguana. After a while we found it resting on lava rocks. With sightings like these, we can say it was a successful outing!

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About the Author

Juan Carlos Avila

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Juan Carlos was born in Quito, Ecuador. He spent part of his elementary schooling in the province of Cotopaxi, a beautiful area in the Ecuadorian Andes ringed by volcanoes. In 1989 his family moved to the Galápagos and settled in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in this archipelago. It was here that Juan Carlos finished high school and gained his deep love for nature.

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