Santa Fe offers one of the most beautiful and sheltered coves in the archipelago. Its turquoise lagoon is protected by a peninsula of tiny islets forming an ideal anchorage. The island lies to the southeast of Santa Cruz within sight of Puerto Ayora. Like North Seymour, Santa Fe has been uplifted, and you can see where underwater lava once cooled off (pillow lava).
A wet landing on a sandy white beach brings us into contact with one of the many sea lion harems. Bulls vie for the right to be Beach Master, while smaller males masquerade as females and make stealthy mating moves. Galápagos hawks are often easily approached, perched atop salt bushes.
The giant prickly pear cactus found here live up to their name, with tree-sized trunks! Our goal is to spot one of the large species of land iguana, native to Santa Fe. Beige to chocolate brown in color with dragon-like spines, these huge iguanas truly resemble dinosaurs.
An indigenous species of rice rat also inhabits the thickets, and lucky hikers can spot harmless Galápagos snakes. After the hike, there is nothing more inviting than a swim in the calm waters of the bay, a great snorkeling opportunity with diverse marine life. We visit this beautiful Island every Wednesday.
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Best known for some of their notably colourful anatomical features, the three species of boobies that nest on the Galápagos belong to the Sulidae family of seabirds. Sometimes looking comical on land, they catch fish with spectacular plunge dives, often chasing fish while underwater. The Galápagos boobies are endemic as sub-species.
Visitors love the blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii) Their conspicuous, unreal-looking blue feet fascinate visitors, as well as their famous, amusing mating dance, during which the male shows off its feet in up-and-down movements to attract females. The most attractive feet for potential mates are those of a more turquoise blue, rather than the deep blue. The shade of blue is indicative of how good a male is at feeding himself, being linked to the amount of food it consumes. Females are actually slightly larger than males, measuring up to 90 centimetres (36 inches) in length, with a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres (4.9 feet). While they also nest in other parts of Latin America between the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Peru, around half of all blue-footed boobies live on the Galápagos.
At the same time, while these are generally the most commonly encountered boobies, they happen to be the ones with the smallest population. The most important breeding colonies exist on Española Island and North Seymour. But the dramatic sight of plunge-diving boobies may be witnessed on any given day throughout the archipelago’s waters. Reliant on diving into the sea to feed, their nostrils are fused, hence it breathes through the corners of its mouth. Unusually for boobies, they may raise more than one chick at a time, although during times of scarce food competition is harsh and first-hatched chicks may kill their smaller sibling (siblicide). The blue-footed booby is considered non-threatened. All itineraries will have contact with blue-footed boobies, and some explore their nesting colonies.
Genetic research has shown that the Galapagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeckii) is a separate species from its probable ancestor, the California sea lion.
Numbers range between 16,000 and 18,000 individuals. Nonetheless, given that they are an endemic species in a small area, they are listed as endangered.
They are slightly smaller than their cousins in California as an adaptation to the archipelago’s hotter climate. In length, they range from 150 to 250 centimetres (59 to 98 inches). Males are much larger than females, weighing as much as 360 kilogrammes (800 pounds).
When protecting their harems, they can be aggressive, and visitors should take care. Juvenile males form “bachelor” colonies until they are big enough to challenge a dominant male for a harem. In contrast with the Galápagos fur seals, Galápagos sea lions forage during the daytime, predominantly catching sardines, sea bass, groupers and mullets.
El Niño events also impact their population by reducing food supply. They are among the favourite Galápagos species for most visitors. Playful and curious, it is not unusual to enjoy snorkelling near frolicking sea lions. Curious pups should never be touched as their mothers may reject them as they identify them from the smell. Breeding takes place from May to January, so pups can be seen all year.
They stay near the shore to stay safe from predators, sharks and orcas. All of our guests, regardless if travelling on our vessels or staying at our Finch Bay Hotel, see Galápagos sea lions.
Santa Fe Land Iguanas, a member of Galapagos Big 15
As its name indicates, the Santa Fe land iguana (Conolophus pallidus) lives only on Santa Fe, a small island southeast of Santa Cruz. It’s one of the three endemic land iguana species on the Galapagos. According to research on this particular species, its populations on Santa Fe are stable, but the CITES – (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) lists it as “vulnerable.” Fully grown, this land iguana species has no natural predators, although Galápagos hawks (Buteo galapagoensis) may feed on juveniles and even young adults. Visitors can see Santa Fe land iguanas trying to warm up or cool off on a rock, in the shade of the typical Santa Fe giant Opuntia cactus or simply in the middle of the visitor site’s hiking trail. When freshly hatched, these iguanas base their diet on insects and other arthropods, but while they grow, they become mostly herbivorous. Adults love the Opuntia fruit and leaves; it’s amazing to watch them remove the big spines of the fruit, called tuna, by scratching it lightly on the ground and then eating it, disregarding the remaining small spines.
This cactus provides the majority of the nutrients and water these iguanas need to survive in this arid land. They complement their diet with insects, arthropods, and even carrion. Females pick holes in the grounds to nest and can deposit between two and 25 eggs, but just 10% of the hatchlings reach maturity.
Santa Fe land iguanas have an interesting symbiotic relationship with Darwins’ finches and Galápagos mockingbirds. When iguanas lift their feet, they allow these birds to remove ticks and other parasites that they can have on their scaly species. This is one of those species that make the Galápagos special and a living witness to the marvels of specialization.
13 reasons why the Finch Bay is an Eco Hotel in the Galapagos Islands.
* Finch Bay’s staff and operation are fully committed to strictly follow Galapagos National Park’s conservation rules and policies.
* Because of its sustainable practices, Finch Bay was selected as a Pilot Project when the Smart Voyager Certification started in the Galapagos Islands.
* Finch Bay’s design and colors (green and beige) enable a mimetic blending to the surrounding environment. The use of local materials is always a priority when it comes to building, redesigning, or refitting.
* Finch Bay is the only hotel in Galapagos with its own sewage treatment plant. Active bacteria consume biological waste before becoming treated water. Treated water (greywater) is used to irrigate the hotel’s gardens.
* Finch Bay collects its rainwater for watering the gardens too. This has resulted in a reduction of 6% of its freshwater consumption.
* Outdoor illumination is supplied by movement-activated light-bulbs. Light bulbs in most public areas are energy-saving units. * All new appliances are certified energy-efficient. * Water consumption is constantly monitored, keeping daily records of consumption and supplying periodical checks to the whole piping system. * Introduction of alien species to the Islands is strictly and carefully prevented when acquiring goods and supplies.
* All soap, detergent, and shampoo supplies are environmentally-friendly and manufactured with biodegradable ingredients.
* Finch Bay staff undergoes specific environmental training. This allows them to understand how their daily practices at work benefit the environment.
* Finch Bay leads the reduction of plastics needs from the mainland: in 2009, it replaced plastic bottles with refillable water bottles, reducing the number of plastic bottles imported to the islands by 6,360.
* In September 2008, Finch Bay developed its own vegetable garden. Local production has eliminated the need for importing items from the mainland, and so far over 1,000 Kg of fresh produce has been produced at our own farm. This reduces systematically the use of man/time, fuel, CO2 emissions, agrochemical sprays, and packaging materials. Naturally, it makes the hotel more cost-efficient, too.
* Finch Bay dries most of its linen and towels under the equatorial sun and reduces the need for local energy for heavy-duty driers.
* Finch Bay is committed to restoring its location’s coastline. The reforestation of mangroves is a top priority, and to date, 500 button mangrove seedlings have been planted in the surrounding area.
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Travel Weekly’s Booth scoops the prestigious award
Travel Weekly features editor Joanna Booth has scooped a prestigious industry award for the second year in a row for her guide to luxury holidays in the Galapagos Islands. The feature, which was published in Travel Weekly’s luxury title Aspire in September, was given the Trade Publication: Feature of the Year Award by the Latin American Travel Association (Lata) in a ceremony held in central London last night.
Lata chairman Byron Shirto said: “Joanna Booth is to be congratulated on her winning article for Travel Weekly’s Aspire. “We had a record number of entries this year, with enthralling features describing extraordinary adventures. All entrants are to be thanked for the valuable coverage which draws attention to the many and diverse attractions of Latin America. “The Lata membership really appreciates the continued enthusiasm and interest from the media for all things Latin America.” The ceremony was sponsored by Belmond, with the trade award specifically supported by Silversea Cruises. Ralph Aruzza, Belmond chief sales, and marketing officer said: “Latin America is key to the Belmond portfolio and we are thrilled to be part of awards that recognize the importance of writing about and promoting the region. It is inspiring to see so many strong and diverse articles and we congratulate all those who won awards.” Booth cruised through the Galapagos Islands last year on the luxury ship La Pinta, owned by the Ecuadorian cruise line and LATA member Metropolitan Touring, which works with UK tour operators such as Cox & Kings. This is the third time Booth has been recognized for her expertise in writing about Latin America, having won the same award in 2014 for a feature on Easter Island, and been highly commended the year before for a piece on Argentina, both published in Aspire. The ceremony was held at Peruvian venue Lima Floral and attracted representatives from regional specialists including Journey Latin America, Cox & Kings, Aeromexico, Latam Airlines Group, Jacada Travel, AMResorts, and Rainbow Tours.