Explore Ecuador’s Fascinating South Plaza Island

Renowned for their incredible biodiversity, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are a nature enthusiasts dream, making it difficult to decide what to see first, and how to allocate often limited vacation time. One of the more popular islands in this fascinating archipelago is the South Plaza Island, or Isla Plaza Sur, located off the east coast of Santa Cruz. As one of two oblong islands lying side-by-side, South Plaza is one of the smallest Galapagos Islands open to visitors, but is considered to be one of the richest in terms of plant and animal life, offering plenty to see in a day trip.

Created by lava that tilted up the sea bed, South Plaza Island is countless years old, with its resident wildlife and diverse plant life having progressively taken over the island since it was formed. Visitors to the island will find that its steep, sloped cliff sides are home to an amazing variety of birds, including Swallow-tailed Gulls, Lava Gulls, Frigate birds, Masked boobies, Blue-footed boobies, Pelicans and Red-billed Tropicbirds. The ground-cover vegetation, mostly from the Sesuvium genus commonly known as sea-purslane, changes color with the changing seasons, from light green through to red and purple creating a spectacular sight.

South Plaza Island is home to a large colony of sea lions, with the last count being at more than a thousand bulls, cows and pups. Quite a number of these island inhabitants have reportedly taken over the landing dock area, and are therefore the first of the island’s inhabitants to greet visitors. While it’s best not to get too close to the sea lion bulls, some tour operators can arrange for adventurous travelers to swim in the areas frequented by the cows and their pups.

Hiking trails ensure that visitors get to enjoy all the sights of the island, including the incredible view of the surroundings from the cliff tops and a view of the North Plaza Island, which has restricted access due to ongoing research being carried out there. It is quite common to come across lava lizards and land iguanas along the walking trails, particularly around the prickly-pear cactus plants. Having stripped the plants of edible bits as far up as they can reach, these wily reptiles lounge around below waiting to grab any prickly pears and parts of plants that may fall off.

With all the South Plaza Island has to offer, it is esy to see why it is such a popular choice among visitors to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.