Darwin Lake, Isabela Island
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
15 Days In The Galapagos Islands
With a short overnight trip, we didn't leave our last spot until the middle of the night. We were pulling into Santa Fe Island as the sun came up.
We anchored on the northeast corner of the island just outside a sheltered cove. On the way in, we noticed the giant Prickly Pear Cactus trees. There are six endemic species of Prickly Pear in the Galapagos Islands
Santa Fe Island Walk
After breakfast, the Zodiacs dropped us off on the northernmost beach in the cove (there are two sand beaches).
There were a few sea lions in the rocks and on the beach. Although we have been in the Galapagos almost two weeks and have seen lots of sea lions, the pups are still irresistible.
Like many other trails in the Galapagos Islands, we had to walk next to, over, and around sea lions.
We walked up the hill along the north coast of the island on what is sometimes called the "Land Iguana Trail". A Galapagos Hawk was hanging out on the rocks.
Not far along the trail we encountered a few Land Iguanas. The Land Iguanas on this island are a completely different species from the other Galapagos Land Iguanas in the islands.
In doing our research on the Galapagos, I've seen photos of Lava Lizards sitting on the heads of iguanas. Well, we never saw that, and the best I could do was getting them in the same photo.
We continued along the cliff edge admiring the view, and then our guide took our photo under one of the Prickly Pear trees.
From there, we returned to the first beach ....
and continued over the ridge to the second beach looking back at our ship in the distance. If you zoom in on the map at the top of the page you can get a better idea of the layout of the cove and two beaches.
The second beach had a larger colony of sea lions.
Here's another adorable pup.
The sea lions ignored our group as we walked by.
However, apparently you can get too close. This one made a little charge at one of our friends.
Now, interestingly, White-tipped Reef Sharks were swimming in the shallows among the sea lions.
There were three or four sharks perusing the shallows as you can see in the video below.
The Zodiacs arrived and picked us up from the beach taking us back to the ship to get ready for the next excursion of the day.
Santa Fe Snorkeling
We had the choice of snorkeling or kayaking in the clear water cove. About half chose kayaking the other half of us decided to snorkel.
That turned out to be a great decision for us. We found some nice fish along the rocks of the natural breakwater ...
but it was our sea lion encounter that made it very special. Unlike our time with the sea lions at Gardner Island (Day 11), this time, it was just the two of us and it was a more intimate experience. Each of us took video, and here they are from our different perspectives with different cameras.
With the two sea lions up close and personal and making a couple of slow passes where we could hear their underwater communication, this was certainly one of our most memorable experiences.
After that a White-tipped Reef Shark passed by. They are harmless and I followed it for a few seconds.
From there, we swam toward the beach looking for more sharks. We didn't see any, but we found a school of White Salema and another sea lion that passed by.
As we got shallower, the water got murkier and we didn't want a harmless shark mistaking body parts for food. So, we climbed in a Zodiac and ended our snorkeling.
Then we saw some eagle rays, and Linda stuck the GoPro down in the water for some more decent video.
At that point, we went back to the ship where we enjoyed our lunch while traveling to our next stop.
We made our way to the Plaza Islands (North & South) which are off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island. The captain said we would normally anchor between the two Plaza Islands, but somehow, somewhere, we lost our anchor. So we had to tie up to a mooring closer to Santa Cruz, but South Plaza, where we would be hiking later was still in view.
South Plaza Island Walk
Shortly after tying up, we were off in the Zodiacs again. We did a dry landing on South Plaza.
South Plaza is a small island that is slanted upward from our landing side (north) to the southern cliffs. We walked up the rocky trail among the red carpetweed and the prickly pear trees.
We came upon a Galapagos Land Iguana.
South Plaza Island is the only island in the Galapagos where a hybrid iguana can be found. There are a small number of iguanas that are the result of cross-breeding between a male Marine Iguana and a female Land Iguana.
I don't know if we saw any hybrids, but this one looked quite different than anything else we had yet seen.
Here is a Marine Iguana we saw on the island for comparison purposes.
Besides the iguanas, South Plaza is known for its abundance of sea birds on its southern cliffs. The cliffs themselves offer striking views.
From that vantage point, looking north, we could see our sister ship which was able to anchor in the channel between North and South Plaza.
Now for some of the birds here on South Plaza. One of our favorites is the Red-billed Tropicbird.
The Swallow-tailed Gulls are also beautiful.
In addition, we watched shearwaters, petrels, and frigatebirds.
And this lone Brown Pelican was hanging out on the far eastern end of the island.
From there, we walked back down the hill toward the channel where there were more sea lions along the trail.
Yes, I must apologize for subjecting you to more adorable sea lion pup photos.
And with that, we completed our walk.
We were picked up and taken back to the yacht where we had some time to relax before our nightly briefing and dinner.
It was yet another memorable day in the Galapagos Islands.