Our excursion today began with a trip to South Plaza Island. Like yesterday, we left our hotel in the morning with Tomas, our tour director, and our guides, Xavier and Jose, heading to the coast where we boarded the Santa Fe for the one hour ten minute journey. A friendly sea lion was there to meet us.
When we arrived at South Plaza Island, we were "greeted" by many more sea lions playing in the water along the rocky shore and sunning themselves on the rocks. There were a fair number of pups swimming together, and the alpha male appeared to be keeping watch in the water moving back and forth along the shore. In fact, our guide spotted a shark nearby and this was clearly what had the alpha male concerned. Apparently young sea lions are a favorite treat for sharks.
South Plaza is tiny island with volcanic rock along the shore and a dry desert climate. Almost immediately we spotted a land iguana, and then another, and another. It became apparent that there were dozens of them around despite the vegetation being relatively sparse. There favorite food is the prickly pear which also provides them with water. However most of the prickly pear here are tree-like and too high to reach. They will also eat other vegetation and some iguanas have figured out ways to scale the trees to some extent.
However, these animals have also been threatened by an invasive species - rats. Among other things the rats eat the prickly pear roots causing the to fall over and die. Fortunately the National Park Service has worked very hard to eradicate these invaders, and plant some young, protected cactus, but it is a continuous effort. The iguanas are not afraid of humans. As you can see, one of them get very up close and personal with one member of our group.
On the north side of the island, there are cliffs that are home to large flocks of puffins. Our vantage point from the top of the cliff did not allow us to see their nests easily, They fly around very quickly along the windswept cliffside making them difficult photographic subjects, but we did try.
Heading back to our docking spot, we found more sea lions and some crabs sunning themselves on the dock. Moving around them, we got back aboard for lunch and then cruised to Punta Carrion for some more snorkeling along the coast and in a beautiful cove.
This time we dove directly off the boat and swam the area between the rocks and an inner cove following the path of the rocks along the shore. It was mesmerizing and Xavi showed us underground (well, underwater) caves where we saw a couple of large sharks. Confusing along we spotted shrimp, gorgeous puffer and parrotfish as well as oysters and other mollusks clinging to the side. Right near the end, he dove down and showed us a sea cucumber. The water was a few degrees colder than yesterday so it was time to come out and get warm. Wish we were snorkeling more, but, alas, that was the end.
Back to the hotel to get clean and warm and then onto another delicious dinner.