Today we explored two very special islands, Plazas and Santa Fe. These two small, uplifted areas are located on the east coast of Santa Cruz Island. The ecosystems are unique with many kinds of animals, including small lava lizards, owls, sharp-beaked and cactus finches, land and marine iguanas, and seagulls and various seabirds soaring along the cliffs. It is the only spot in the Galapagos where marine and land iguanas interbreed. This results in a very small colony of hybrid iguanas with rare patterns along their bodies. The iguanas have yellow stripes, rounder tails, and heads like marine iguanas. We disembarked, and the coast was full of playful sea lions. A big bull patrolled the area to protect the juvenile sea lions born just a few weeks ago when suddenly a shark arrived! The bull barked loudly to warn the colony of the presence of this enigmatic creature that feeds on sea lions. We took a path to enjoy the wildlife, and with every single step, we saw a wide variety of animals.
Afterwards, we returned to the ship and took a swim in the refreshing ocean. Later, we traveled to Santa Fe Island.
After lunch, we explored Santa Fe Bay, a fantastic spot with turquoise water that is home to many marine creatures. Some of our guests kayaked around the bay, and others took the opportunity to snorkel. We found sharks sleeping on the seabed, a large aggregation of eagle rays, many green sea turtles moving around the bay, marbled rays, diamond stingrays, playful sea lions that performed in front of us, and a variety of multicolored fish. What a great experience for our guests, who enjoyed close encounters with creatures that are tame here in the Galapagos. In most areas of the world, animals run away from humans; here in this archipelago, the fauna is ecologically naive.
Later, we explored Santa Fe, where we admired the giant prickly opuntia cacti that is endemic to Galapagos. We also observed Santa Fe land iguanas, which are only found here.
At the end of our walk, we spent a few minutes on a very small beach that is home to a colony of sea lions. Pelicans fed in the subtidal zone. It was a great finale to a magical day.