South Plaza – Home of the Sealions & Marine Iguanas

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Galapagos Islands are a nature and travelers dream, making it difficult to decide what to see first, and how to allocate often limited vacation time. Given we had a pre-planned guided trip, this was already in our itinerary. South Plaza Island was day-2 of our Galapagos trip and I was really looking forward to see the sea lions and Iguanas up close. This is one of the more popular islands in this fascinating archipelago located off the east coast of Santa Cruz. As one of two elliptical islands lying side-by-side, South Plaza is one of the smallest Galapagos Islands that is known to have abundant plant and animal life, offering plenty to see in a day trip.

Lang Iguanas
Land Iguanas

Getting to the Island

Similar to Bartolome island, you will travel 45 minute by bus or taxi to Itabaca Canal from Santa Cruz island. You will then board a Yacht from Itabaca to South Plaza. The tour usually offers two stops:- In less than 5-10 minutes from Itabaca pier, Punta Carrion will be your first stop followed by South Plaza island activity that is ~1 hour drive.

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Island Activities

Snorkel in Punta Carrion – One of the most common places to snorkel where you can spot baby sharks, sea turtles, fishes and Manta Rays. Lots of birds can be spotted in this location as well especially the pelicans.

Beautiful Sesuvium effect of the bright red color in the background
Beautiful Sesuvium effect of the bright red color in the background

Hiking the South Plaza  – South Plaza Island is home to a large colony of sea lions and we came to know around ~1000 lions and pups live in this island from our guide. One of the interesting specialty of this island that you can find land and marine iguanas located in the same place. Usually iguanas mate with the same species and you can find marine & land iguanas mate in South Plaza Islands. Quite a number of sea lions and Iguanas have taken over the landing dock area, and a great sight to watch them greeting visitors by jumping & playing in the waters. Created by lava , South Plaza Island is several years old, with wildlife and diverse plant life significantly taken over the island since it’s formation.

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The hiking is moderate with steep and sloped cliff sides, good hiking shoes is recommended. As you walk through the trail paths, you will watch lava lizards and Iguanas almost every step of your way both big and small ones. The ground cover vegetation is a spectacular sight, called Sesuvium that changes color from light green through dark red during every season. In December we saw pretty much the red, orange color effect surrounded by the tall Prickly pear cactus trees.  You will get to enjoy all the sights of the island, including the incredible view of the surroundings from the cliff tops and a view of the North Plaza Island,

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We had an interesting sight of a baby sea-lion trying to find his mom and was walking towards us. Our guide recommended not to move and allow the baby to come near us. It realized very soon and went to another sea lion thinking it was his Mom but was sent away. It was a sad sight to watch but that’s the life of these marine animals going in search of food for their young ones ensuring there are no predators and they remain safe. Apart from Sea Lions and Iguanas, this island also offers an amazing variety of birds like swallow-tailed Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Pelicans, Masked boobies, Blue-footed boobies and lots of finches.

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If you are looking to get an up-close view of the sea lion colonies and Iguanas South Plaza is the place to go. Not just the marine animals, the scenic views along with the sesuvium effect is a visual treat to visit this island.

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