Only the southern partner of two small crescent-shaped islands that lie just a few hundred meters off the east coast of Santa Cruz can be visited as the northern island is used for scientific purposes only.
South Plaza is one of the smallest yet richest islands in the archipelago. Only 130 meters wide (426 feet), it was formed from uplifted seabed, giving it a tilted tabletop quality. The unusual vegetation and location of the island create an interesting landscape in which the fauna and flora of Galápagos are enhanced.
Moreover despite its small size, some of the most interesting and outstanding species of the archipelago occur here. It is possible to guarantee the observation of land iguanas that often lay in the shade of a cactus. Nesting on the rugged southern cliffs, are usually swallow–tailed gulls, which can be seen along with various other sea birds. The protected rocky seashore is a prime habitat for a large colony of noisy sea lions. The principal attractions of Plazas are the land iguanas, the sea lions and the swallow–tailed gulls. Also you can see yellow–tailed mullets, Audubon’s shearwaters, red-billed tropicbirds, frigate birds, and brown pelicans gliding past the cliff.
Landing is in the channel between North and South Plaza, where the island tilts toward the water. The approach makes for a lavishly colorful sight! The turquoise waters of the channel contrast brilliantly with the black lava of the shoreline. The rocks have grown thick with green seaweed in places, speckled with bright orange “Sally light foot” crabs. Further up the shore a carpet of scarlet ice plant (Sesuvium) serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus. Yellow-gray land iguanas sit beneath, waiting patiently for pears to drop.
The trail gradually follows the tilt of the island to the cliffs that overlook the ocean to the south, where swallow-tailed gulls nest. Red-billed tropic birds, Nazca and blue-footed boobies ride the windy currents. The overlook is a great place for spotting large marine life, including manta rays. Surf pounds an inlet at the western corner of the island, where a colony of male sea lions makes their home at what is referred to as a bachelor’s site. The oils from their fur leave the surrounding rocks looking polished and shiny.