South Plaza is a small island off the east coast of Santa Cruz that was formed by uplift due to faulting. The small size of the island combined with interesting geological, floral, and faunal characteristics makes it a definitive highlight for cruise travelers or for day-trippers from Puerto Ayora.
There is a dry landing onto a shore covered with white rocks, polished to a brilliant sheen by the oily sea lions as they travel up and down the shore. A one-km trail circuit leads you first through an opuntia cactus forest frequented by richly yellow land iguanas, yellow warblers, and finches. There is also one land-marine iguana hybrid that has been hanging out at the beginning of the trail since 2003, but it is only rarely seen
The trail continues along a 25-meter high cliff, which provides excellent landscape vistas of the neighboring Santa Cruz as well as sights of numerous seabirds, such as red-billed tropicbirds, Audubon shearwaters, swallow-tailed gulls, pelicans, and frigatebirds. You may also see a conspicuous line of mullets swimming offshore and, if you are lucky, a shark or two lurking in the rocks below or a manta ray jumping in the distance.
Further east along the trail, you will encounter a sea lion bachelor colony, where males defeated in the battle for territory feat the difficult climb up the rocky crag to congregate, enjoying a bit of R&R and camaraderie before returning to challenge for territory. The final part of the trail passes through a distinct sea lion territory, where you may see newborn pups (if arriving in October-December) or playful juveniles (February-April).
Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to The Gal├ípagos Islands: Espa├▒ola, Darwin & Wolf, Daphne Major and Minor, Other Visitor Sites on Santa Cruz, Pinta, Floreana, Le├│n Dormido/Kicker Rock, R├íbida, Genovesa and Sombrero Chino.