Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Land Iguanas and Bachelor Sea Lions of South Plaza Island

Next up was South Plaza Island - an island off the coast of Santa Cruz. It's a small island that was created by rising lava and not a volcano like some of the other islands.  It was an absolute treat filled with so much to take in and an amazing opportunity to get up close and personal to colorful land iguanas and bachelor sea lions...we'll explain the bachelor part in a minute!

The island is about a mile long in length but skinny, with a large slope across the island ranging from tall, steep, cliffs down to sea level where we could make a dry landing.  It is known for its amazing flora called, Sesuvium or carpet weed, that depending on the season can be any shade from green to red.  It provided a stark contrast to the grey lava rocks that were exposed and plotted our path along the island.

It turned out to be one of our hotter mornings with the sun bearing down and no place to hide except under the brim of your hat...IF you had a big enough brim!  In my case, my hat just wasn't cutting it with my nose not always in the shade and already sunburnt! Again learn from us, be prepared with a big wide brimmed hat because in this case I couldn't just run to a store and pick one up.  I had to wait another few days before we were scheduled to be back in a port.

We were told beforehand that South Plaza has one of the larger sea lion colonies, most of which we wouldn't see although as we made our landing, there were a sea lions sunning themselves on our walkway.

In the Galapagos, clapping is the way to warn sea lions or get them to move out of your way.  So, with big round of applause by our group, we woke up the sea lions who begrudgingly moved out of the way for us to pass.  We made our way onto the island and immediately found a small cactus field of Opuntia Cactus - the trees with the round cactus pads.  Land iguanas love them and over time have eaten the lower half of the branches, so the cactus leaves flourish from about 2 feet off the ground.

Most of the cacti had a iguana hiding from the sun or guarding its territory. There was prime real-estate to be had and I'm sure some fights ensued to get the best spot.

Making our way around the island we climbed up to the cliffs. Looking down below to the sparkling ocean we were on the lookout from some rare Red bill tropic birds and swallow tail gulls.  They were a fair ways away on the cliffs so we soon moved on.

From there we headed to Bachelors' Rock where male sea lions come to recover after failing to fight off other sea lions (showing off for the ladies, of course).  Wounded and tired, they bask in the sun while gearing up for another battle.  There were a couple sea lions as we walked by but they didn't even move, deep in their slumber.  They rested on what looked like white rocks, but really they were just polished from all of the sea lions using this as a resting ground.  It sounds all sweet and serene feeling sympathy for the loser sea lions, but it was one stinky place.  The white polish is natural, shiny, slippery finish created by sea lions wallowing on the rocks, but the not-so-nice part is that its created from polishing the rocks with sea lion poo - not a nice smell.  Actually it stunk.  But I'm sure if you were an injured sea lion it was a restful retreat.

Next we made the rest of the loop around the island spotting iguana after iguana which was so
enjoyable. They aren't the most cuddly of creatures but they sure are interesting! Some of them pose for you and others just ignore you.

Here are some of the photos.

Up Next: San Cristobal Island, Kicker and Lobos Island


  1. Yet again, this is what I have dreamed of seeing for myself, so your blog affirms my decision to get there and decisions about which route to cruise.
    Also love things botanical, so succulent plants, which I grow and collect are another thing high on my list.
    Another thankyou is in order!

  2. We are glad you enjoy the blog. Its fun for us!