History of Santa Fé Island

Santa Fe Island lies to the southeast of Santa Cruz Island; located at the center of the Galapagos archipelago. It is also called Barrington Island, after British Admiral Samuel Barrington. Geologically, it one of the oldest of the volcanic islands, with rock formations beneath the surface of the water dating back almost four million years. Santa Fe Island is home to the Santa Fe land iguana and the Santa Fe rice rat, an invasive species. Large numbers of sea lions reside here as well, and can often be seen “surfing” in the waves along the coast or sunning on the beaches. The island is also home to the longest running research project on marine iguanas, begun in the late 1970’s. There is a single visitor site on the island, and three marine sites. The vegetation here is characterized by a dense forest of the giant Santa Fe cactus. Two trails can be found on Sante Fe Island. One is a short loop that provides an up-close look at the massive Santa Fe cacti. Santa Fe land iguanas and Galapagos hawks can be observed from this trail as well. The second trail climbs a steep cliff, providing a dramatic view of the inland section of the island. Underneath the surface of the waves below, sea lions are the main attraction along with sea turtles, rays and Galapagos sharks.

In 2012, the decision was made to attempt to reintroduce the Santa Fe tortoise to the island, a species that had not been seen in many decades. As a close relative, the Espanola tortoise was chosen as a substitute species and in 2015, 201 young Espanola tortoises were introduced to the island. Annual releases of juvenile turtles here are planned for the next ten years.

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