Santa Fe and the mystery of the endemic iguana


Sunrise at any hotel (or yacht) in Galapagos Islands It is equivalent to not knowing what the day will hold for you. But if every day in this underworld is a surprise, discovering that there are multiple ecosystems of isolated places, sometimes Martian, makes you feel for a few days that traveler of yesteryear who was lost in unexpected places. Santa Fe It is one of them, an island of giant cacti and pale yellow iguanas unique in the world They have evolved independently.

We enter another of the most exciting mysteries of this archipelago near the Ecuadorian coast.

On the yacht of the Finch Bay hotel in Santa Fe

After leaving San Cristobal Island behind, today we woke up in the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel very close to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) which we will talk about in another article.

We have changed a modest pension for one of the best accommodations in the entire Galapagos Islands that mixes the concept of adventure with the relaxation provided by its facilities (yes, in Galapagos you can also come to relax although with the natural life that exists we would only consider it as a complementary option). Our motive, however, has been different ... we are at the base of Metropolitan Touring, and that translates into having one of the best yachts available to reach the most remote and isolated places. But what can we do in Santa Cruz as we already saw in?

Excursions in Santa Cruz:

- By free near Puerto Ayora: Tortuga Bay, Las Grietas, Charles Darwin Research Station, Mansa Beach, Station Beach, El Mirador ...
- Taking a taxi or public bus further from Puerto Ayora: Garrapatero (beach 19 km), giant turtle reserves in El Chato or Manzanillo (near Santa Rosa), Los Gemelos (volcanoes near Santa Rosa), Media Luna (5 km trail), Cerro Crocker (the highest hill of the island)…
- Santa Fe: Full-day excursion ($ 100-150 USD). Martian place. Giant cactus. Iguana endemic. Snorkell with sea lions.
- South Plaza: Full-day excursion ($ 100-150 USD). Martian place. Land and marine iguanas. Bifurcated Tail Gulls ...
- North Seymour: Full-day excursion ($ 100-150 USD). Bird nesting (blue-footed boobies, frigates ...), sea lions, marine and land iguanas ...
- Bartholomew: Full-day excursion ($ 100-150 USD). The best panoramic with the pinnacle in the background. The origin of the archipelago, lava fields, dwarf penguins, boobies, sea lions ...

From the main facilities there is a walk of about 5 minutes to the pier. Are around 8'15 and today we are only 8 people who will form the team although it is usually usual since large group landings are not allowed. The Natural Park is completely controlled and protected, which makes us happy, even the zayapas waiting for us to catch the boat that will embark us in the Lion (name of Finch Bay yacht)

The plan of the day takes us not far from Puerto Ayora on a route similar to the following.

The navigation is about 2 hours, although today someone special accompanies us. It is a frigate! Saving distances their behavior reminds me a lot of the choreography that albatrosses and petrels gave us in the Drake Passage to Antarctica, the only company we had for days.

Their appearance floating on our side is not very different from those, although after seeing them in the San Cristobal Island With the huge swollen red crop, we could now identify them much more easily. It seems that there are two species, one that pairs only in April, May and June and another year-round.

Wet landing on Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe is an island, never inhabited, full of mysteries. Its origins speak of what could be the oldest volcano in the entire archipelago. Also its mixture of underwater lavas and rock formations make landing difficult, which we started by boat with some stop on the way to see the first blue-footed boobies perched on the trip and some Galapagos hawks.

In the species of cove that we have anchored, where the transparent water reveals a lot of marine life in addition to being able to observe how manta rays jump around us, there is a small beach full of sea lions and it is where we will step on land with the boots hanging around the neck and bypassing the dry cleaners that roam the shore. We have not yet become accustomed to being so close to a fauna that it is not moved to be next to them. They feel protected and that is something that does not happen anywhere in the world

It is curious to continue observing how sea lions sleep in a group and, although they are able to sleep in the water, they look for sunny places to do it ... besides being very lazy!

Those who are awake show the same behavior as those we met in The Lobería de San Cristóbal, being playful and close to the human being. They say they came from Baja California ... Who knows?

But, undoubtedly, the ones who would tenderize the most insensitive are the small newborns that cannot be touched (so that the mothers do not repudiate them - we must be very strict with this although we would take them with us-)

Are real stuffed animals that look at you with a delicate and affectionate face and that makes you want to punch

Even to our regret, we have to follow the path. There is much to discover still in Santa Fe, a unique islet in the world.

Santa Fe, the endemic yellow iguana island

Walking around Santa Fe is certainly disturbing. If in case the strange scene of dark rock formations intermingles with small mosses that make their way, the path takes us along the coast towards a place that we cannot imagine. Suddenly we see the first ...

Undeterred, a huge pale yellow long straw is photographed between the rocks. It's a mysterious land iguana much larger than any other previously seen, with long tail, huge claws and that can reach 1.20 meters

Although it looks more like a demon than a herbivore, this unusual reptile feeds on fruits, flowers and even thorns of the cacti of this ecosystem

It is precisely these cactus another of the great enigmas of Santa Fe. It is one of the largest species in the world, more like a real tree than the ones we all associate in our head, leaving a forested landscape in contrast to everything we've been seeing.

But we return to focus on iguanas because we have just seen one of the largest on a nearby rock. It is said that, like all the fauna of these islands, they were dragged by ocean currents from the landslides of the continental coast, clinging to logs and branches

Subsequently, each ecosystem evolved based on its own needs and nature made its way looking for its balance. A) Yes Santa Fe has these unique land iguanas in the world, which have evolved adapting to their environment, but also seagulls, petrels, blue-footed boobies, pelicans and hawks that have maintained a perfect weighting for centuries.

This is also a justified cause for which man cannot alter anything. The slightest external component could cause a chain reaction ending the life of flora and fauna

Swimming with sea lions in Santa Fe

If the adrenaline rush of discovering the secrets of Santa Fe was not enough, the day had a surprise for us. The snorkeling we have enjoyed today has been the best experience we have had on a trip and not because of the sighting of turtles, a damsel or manta-rays. Someone else was waiting for us ...

Dozens of little lions swim around us, playful, friendly, perhaps daring.. without fear at all the biggest predator on the planet (man)

The most incredible moment occurs when they begin to surround us, to swim so agilely and to do so many "pirouettes" that we feel ducks in the water with them

In a moment one gets so close that the gopro is almost eaten, as if the "selfie" phenomenon had also reached these parts of marine life.

Although someone watches us from afar, and has already considered that the function must be terminated. Its about alpha male, who watches his group of external and who approaches us and warns us with grunts. It is time to end this approach, because if we insist you can get angry and we can take a good bite (it is not usual, but it could happen)

In the Lion yacht of Finch Bay we already have food on the prepared table (excellent, by the way), while we head back to Puerto Ayora. Sele enjoys the sea air. Others fall round ...

But the day was not going to end here ...

The Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora

We will take advantage that we have still arrived with sunlight to approach the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, since we didn't do it in San Cristóbal. Although you can walk, just disembark we take a taxi (1 USD) and we arrive on time before closing.

We have not yet spoken in the story of Charles Darwin. Although we will do so in the next few days, its impact is such that a biological research project for the preservation of the ecosystem has been created on the main islands, with many objectives, but fundamentally that of understanding and conserving this underworld. The one in Puerto Ayora is the largest, and where dozens of different types of finches which were so important in Darwin's studies because of their different evolution.

Here are also the first land turtles or Galapagos that give name to the archipelago and that Paula would be delighted to see because she loves these animals. In fact I think it is his favorite animal. Paula, don't hate me! We will return together!

However, we aim to be able to see them in freedom, so we continue our walk in a pleasant environment.

The center is not very large and does not take more than 1 hour, although you can see another type of different land iguanas in sight this morning and some other nice "bird"

The day is no more. We are exhausted! After a small dinner in the town (USD 15) we take a water taxi at night (USD 1, day is worth USD 0.60) and from there, almost no time for much more, for bed.

It continues to be incredible as a small corner of the planet like this, has had a evolution so different and isolated from the rest of the world, but above all it has managed to preserve itself so well. Something tells us that we will continue to discover exciting ecosystems in the coming days. We will tell you

Isaac, from Puerto Ayora - Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)

EXPENSES OF THE DAY: USD 17 (approx. 14.05 EUR -excursions included with accommodation in final breakdown-)