On our first full day of the expedition, we explored South Plaza and Santa Fe islands. During the morning we hiked on South Plaza Island and for the afternoon, we snorkeled and hiked at Santa Fe Island.
South Plaza Island is home to several iconic species of Galapagos fauna, including Galapagos land iguanas, swallowed-tailed gulls, and Galapagos sea lions. One of the most prominent species we encountered on the island was the Galapagos land iguana. These reptiles are endemic to the Galapagos Islands and during the dry season primarily feed on cactus pads and prickly pears. At this time of the year, the island is green and the Galapagos land iguanas feed on yellow flowers. We also observed them basking in the sun to regulate their body temperature, a common behavior among reptiles. Another species we encountered on the island was the swallowed-tailed gull. These birds are easily recognizable by their long forked tail, the red-ringed eye, and striking black and white plumage. They are seabirds that breed on the rocky cliffs of South Plaza Island, and we saw them in large numbers perched on the cliffs and soaring overhead.
Although small, Santa Fe Island is home to a wealth of unique and fascinating wildlife, including the Santa Fe land iguana, the Galapagos hawk, and Galapagos sea lion. After landing, we had the pleasure of encountering Galapagos sea lions on the sandy beach. These charismatic mammals are known for their friendly and curious behavior. We saw them lounging on the beach and rocks, vocalizing with each other, and occasionally approaching us to investigate. We also observed a group of sea lion pups playing and frolicking in the water, displaying their agility and acrobatic skills.
Overall, our excursion to South Plaza and Santa Fe islands was an unforgettable experience. The opportunity to see these rare and beautiful creatures in their natural habitat was truly a privilege. It also highlighted the importance of conservation efforts to protect the unique and fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands.