Excursion to Plaza Sur, the island of the Martian landscape


After its steep cliffs, the tour orexcursion to Plaza Sur hides a Martian spot where an overpopulation of land iguanas coexist on a red carpet island with friendly sea lions, bifurcated tail gulls In full incubation time, devilish creatures like marine iguanas and dozens of different species of tropical birds. We are facing another ecosystem very different from the already strange Santa Fe that we saw, another underworld within this world called Galapagos Islands

The sun already illuminates the Germans Beach starting a new day at Finch Bay where we base near Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz).

Plazas Islands, 2 hours from Puerto Ayora

Today we have a route much more intense than yesterday and we are not only going to the excursion to Plaza Sur, only way to achieve this type of ecosystem taken from another planet, but we will take advantage of that after the afternoon snorkeling the Lion (yacht) is sleeping in the northern area of ​​Santa Cruz for tomorrow and we return by the road that crosses the main island and we will try to stay in the high zone (we will look for a way back). Thus, the plan of the day takes us today to the northeast of Santa Cruz on a route similar to the following

After getting up around 7.45, make a strong breakfast and approach the pier, we have started a navigation around 2 hours very nice towards an unknown world

Plazas Islands emerged from nowhere by a lava flow from the ocean flooror and, like yesterday, they present a steep coast that makes any landing difficult. North Square and South Square They have about 2km2 of surface, but only the second one can be visited on one of the best excursions from Puerto Ayora. Plaza Norte is reserved for research and scrupulously taken care of by external agents.

In the channel that separates them, protected from the strong waves that hit the most exposed part, it is a perfect place for landing and where with a zodiak and thanks to a small artificial dock, we managed to lower a small group of 8 people, very small, which is what we like most about the policy that is being carried out in the Galapagos Archipelago in terms of flora conservation and wildlife Here we are already waiting for our already sea lion friends, zayapas and their intense scarlet red and some less known ...

But something different called our attention from the dry landing on the concrete pier of the north of the island ...

South Square, a red carpet tour

!Red! Everything is red around us! A kind of red carpet covers an island where we also receive some dozens of seagulls that do not change as we pass by.

Are bifurcated tail gulls They owe their name to their tail ending in two, a type of black-headed gull that can be seen on the continental shores of Ecuador or Peru, but that are endemic to the Galapagos Islands and is sometimes known as a tijereta gull. The most curious thing, in addition to their apparent disinterest in our presence, is that they are currently incubating the future offspring.

Its feeding is based on the fishing of squid and small fish but peculiar is its way of doing it, taking advantage of its great ability to fly, plummeting for its prey.

We advance a few meters and an inhabitant of the island crosses us again. In this case they are iguanas, different from unique endemic to Santa Fe, which are the ones that rule in Plaza Sur.

They are everywhere. Nor are they immuted. Peace survives throughout the Galapagos in the absence of predators and man now is not. They crawl in front of us on the stone paths or among the thorny trees, or simply rest by balancing the temperature of their body

Another reason to avoid the months of greater agglomeration in Galapagos, as we commented in, is that in June, July and August we could not be part of this Martian stage in which we enter since the rains bring a more earthy intense green color

However the rest of the year this particular vegetation is transformed into orange, reddish and purple tones seeking sun protection and giving Plaza Sur that extraterrestrial aspect that complement cactus and its particular fauna

The highest part of the island gives us access to the cliffs and other life forms manifest. Here flocks of birds run around the steep walls taking advantage of the wind currents that hit hard at this time. It is an area of ​​cliffs that serve as nesting for many of them.

The swell is strong, which gives meaning to thousands of years of scourge, but they serve to provide food to seagulls, pelicans, boobies or real frigates. Especially curious are the puffins that nest in the highest parts and reach high speeds on their flight

Sitting here to observe is to realize how small we are in the magnitude of a small area very different from the other part of an island, already Martian and different from other ecosystems of the Galapagos itself, which in turn in its underworld within from this world. And there we, among some kind of tropical bird to identify

But the great cliffs of Plaza Sur saved us more surprises

The Singles Canyon

We said in one of our texts that events happen in Galapagos that do not occur anywhere else on the planet. Walking parallel to the coast through these high cliffs we reach an area where some sea lions congregate ... males!

Before, however, it is the marine iguanas those that continue to attract our attention seem to us a macabre invention of some grumpy demon who decided to banish them from some hell by depositing them in this archipelago. His ability to have adapted to swim or endure minutes underwater is as surprising as his appearance of little devils abandoned to their fate

In the distance, on the shore of the opposite coast, we see pairs of sea lions tinker with the usual alpha male guard.

Here, however, congregate those males who, unpaired, have decided to take their prolonged naps forced to get away from some group by "differences", and who today share their space with those blackish-colored beings that have adapted to go unnoticed among the rocks

There is a curious metamorphosis that scientists also come to study in these islands, and it is the evidence of offspring between land and marine iguanas, giving rise to sterile hybrids that do not perpetuate the species, and on which there is still much to learn.

The imbalance of Plaza Sur, the hand of man

But in Plaza Sur not everything is an enriching experience. The road takes us back through the interior of the island where we can see iguana agglomerations under few cacti, fact that surprises us.

We can also see them sharing space with bifurcated tail gulls in full incubation phase, again respectful species with others, in full coexistence and peace. But why such a congregation? Is there not enough land?

And then we found out. These iguanas are able, in search of food, to hit jumps that have not been seen in other places on the planet. They reach such a point that they have adapted to reach the highest parts of the Opuntia cactus and stay on two legs for a few minutes ... and there, Before our eyes (and objectives) we were privileged, chosen to observe it live.

Overpopulation of land iguanas is alarming in Plaza Sur and the reason ... man! (sadly, as always). The ancient colonization of the islands brought with them the poultry that were attacked by the hawks. The man, with his drastic solutions for everything, quickly ended this predator up to disappearance limits. And what do iguanas have to do with all this? The hawks were responsible for maintaining the natural balance of the island and now, without them, the iguanas are running out of their own resources, which will lead to extinction.

An unfair end to an island of infinite nature ...

Farewell to a wildlife sanctuary

I must admit that I had spent hours there watching, quietly sitting and with the camera turned off, that wildlife sanctuary that few people have the opportunity to enjoy in life. As I write these lines I am still not aware of the feelings that I carry with me forever and that are already stored in my memory, and in my camera.

Saving distances and moments, there are moments in the traveling life that are marked, and it is very possible that this is the equivalent in Galapagos to that landing in Brown Bluff stepping on the Antarctic Peninsula for the first time surrounded by another very different fauna

Land and marine iguanas, bifurcated tail gulls, puffins, blue-footed boobies and even zayapas and a small sea lion cross our path on the way to the dock and it is still inevitable to portray them and carry them in our backpack in the least intrusive way

Galapagos remains the culmination of the adventures of a child's dream that today they still have a lot to unveil both Sele, my good travel companion, and me ...

(Continue with DAY 9 - 2 part)