South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 11 Aug 2022

South Plaza and Santa Fe Islands, 8/11/2022, National Geographic Islander

  • Aboard the National Geographic Islander
  • Galápagos

Our first full day in the Galapagos Islands was full of exploration and dedicated to discovering two of the endemic land iguanas that inhabit the archipelago. They share the same ancestor with the marine iguana and arrived in the Galapagos millions of years ago.

Before breakfast, we boarded Zodiacs and headed to the small landing dock on Plaza Sur Island. As soon as we arrived, we spotted the first land iguanas (Conolophus Subcristatus) resting under a cactus. Very close to them, a couple swallow-tailed gulls fed their little chick. Walking south, we observed iguana nests and some ground finches feeding on dry seeds. After a few meters, we arrived at the cliffs, which indicated that we had reached the southern end of this small island. Along the vertical walls, we saw many crevasses used by shearwaters and seagulls for nesting.

After about three hours of navigation in the afternoon, we arrived at Santa Fe Island. We headed to the bay to start an incredible deep-water snorkeling; our guests spotted whitetip reef sharks, playful Galapagos sea lions, stingrays, and even sea turtles swimming indifferently next to us.

After snorkeling, we returned to the island with the mission of finding the second species of land iguana, Conolophus Pallidus, or the Santa Fe land iguana. Its paler color contrasted with the yellow coloring of the first ones spotted this morning. Along the path, we found some of the iguanas resting on rocks. In the trees, finches and mockingbirds fluttered among the branches while feeding on the fruits of the Opuntia cactus.

Just before returning to the ship, we found a big colony of Galapagos sea lions on the beach. Some of them rested patiently on the soft sand beach while the alpha male barked, busy controlling and patrolling the coast. From the Zodiacs, we spotted some whitetip reef sharks swimming very close to the sea lions.

With the last rays of sun, we returned on board tired but very happy to have had a wonderful day in the Galapagos.

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