South Plaza

Area Size: 0.21  Km²
Maximum Altitude: 25 metres / 82 feet
Island Highlights:  Land Iguana, Sea Lion, Swallowed-Tailed Gull, Red-Billed Tropicbird, Blue-Footed Booby

The Plazas are two small crescent-shaped islands located just a few hundred metres off the eastern coast of Santa Cruz.  North Plaza is set aside wholly for research and conservation and is consequently not accessible to visitors.

South Plaza is surprisingly rich in flora and fauna, making it a popular choice for a visitor. There is a single nature trail providing visitors with a wealth of wildlife encounters and makes for a very enjoyable and leisurely walk through both the dry and coastal vegetation zones.  South Plaza harbours a considerable population of larger than average land iguanas which can be spotted in almost any location on the island.

South Plaza is an island we can take you to on some of our Wildlife Yacht Safaris, on a boat based or land based section of a Galapagos Yacht & Lodge Safari, or offshore for diving on a Land Based Diving Holiday or extension.

South Plaza is home to one of the largest populations of land iguanas in the Galapagos archipelago.  They are most commonly found in South Plaza's small cactus forest, where they can usually be seen lying in the sun and or feeding on Opuntia pads and fruits.  The cactus forest, comprising an abundance of beautiful prickly pear trees is somewhat enchanting and when the rains come, the ground cover radically transforms.  The endemic succulent Sesuvium, with its almond shaped leaves, is red during the dry season, but transforms into a bright green colour. The leafless evening blooming Portulaca comes to life with a display of large yellow flowers - a particular favourite of land iguanas.  

In recent years, a small population of hybrid iguanas have been witnessed on South Plaza - a cross between a land and marine iguana.  These hybrids look significantly different to land and marine iguanas and are therefore are fairly easy to identify.  The hybrids have a striped appearance and a facial structure that is slightly less flattened than a marine iguana and less elongated than a land iguana.  

South Plaza is rich in a variety of beautiful birdlife, including swallow-tailed gulls which can be seen nesting along the cliff edge, along with both tropicbirds and shearwaters.  The island is also a favourable habitat for masked and blue-footed boobies, which can be observed riding the windy currents.

A walk along South Plaza's nature trail, which gradually follows the island's natural tilt along stunning seaside cliffs, will present an array of wonderful wildlife encounters.  Red-billed tropicbirds can be heard whistling the tuneful song, while there may also be opportunities to witness their fascinating mating ritual.

Marine Life
The waters around South Plaza make for excellent snorkelling and swimming locations, providing opportunities to encounter a variety of wonderful marine life, including sea turtles, sharks, yellow mullet and other tropical fish.  South Plaza is also home to a large colony of approximately 1000 sea lions, the majority of which spend their time resting on the smooth rocks or swimming playfully with snorkellers.

Conservation Issues
n time gone by, visitors would bring oranges on land to feed the fruit loving land iguanas.  In no time at all, oranges became a favourite of the land iguanas, which would consequently greet any visitors to the island by climbing on their laps to investigate what fruity treats they had been brought.  National Park rules now state that visitors must not bring food onto any of the islands, nor should they try and feed any of the birds of animals.  Such rules and measures as these are fundamental in maintaining the natural balance and diet of the island's precious wildlife.

Since the eradication of goats from the island in 1961, thankfully there have been no more introduced species to the island.  However, it has been noted that heavy visitor numbers to the island has begun to take its toll, for which reason a control on visitor numbers is being considered as an option.

South Plaza was formed from an uplifted seabed, which consequently gives it a somewhat tilted quality.  The island has terrific cliff formations, which provide stunning views from the top.

Many of the rock formations are covered in dense green seaweed, many of which are sporadically dotted with bright orange Sally lightfoot crabs.   

Galapagos Island Guide

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