South Plaza and Santa Fe Island

Dec 19, 2019 - National Geographic Islander


We disembarked early in the morning onto a small concrete dock on South Plaza Island. As soon as we got to the island, we were welcomed by a large number of Galapagos land iguanas. This endemic species can be found inhabiting no less than six different islands. Though herbivorous, they are known opportunistic feeders.

The island of Santa Plaza is covered with a red succulent known as Galapagos carpet weed as well as some young prickly pear cacti. The windward side of the island has some cliffs full of sea birds, such as swallow-tailed gulls, magnificent frigate birds, red billed tropic birds and brown pelicans. South Plaza is a small island, so breeding territories of marine and land iguanas overlap, making it the only place in the enchanted archipelago where hybridization occurs. The result is a non-viable hybrid with a short lifecycle and unable to reach the ocean. 

The landscape on South Plaza was breathtaking, we experienced endemism among the flora and fauna of this uplifted island. After the hike, some opted to swim the calm ocean waters.

After lunch, we disembarked onto a white sand beach to explore the island of Santa Fe. This island supports its own species of land iguana and a magical forest on ancient prickly pear cacti. While some of us were hiking, others went on a kayaking outing so spot eagle rays, pacific green sea turtles swimming of the side of the kayaks. Along the cliffs we spotted about three juvenile Galapagos hawks, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and a few Galapagos mockingbirds.

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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. 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.

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