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North & South Plaza

Opuntia cacti and sesuvium on South Plaza island, Galapagos
© Claire Philpott

Islands overview

North and South Plaza were formed by geological uplift that was uneven in nature, meaning that both islands have cliffs on their south side and low-lying shores to the north.

South Plaza is a popular tourist visitor site, while North Plaza is off-limits and only accessible to researchers. Another interesting difference is the fact that land iguanas are present on South Plaza but have never been recorded on North Plaza. In fact, South Plaza is the only place in the Archipelago where the territories and breeding seasons of land and marine iguanas overlap, which has led to interbreeding and the presence of hybrid iguanas.

South Plaza is also known for its colourful flora, carpeted in the endemic low-growing succulent Sesuvium edmonstonei (also known as Galapagos carpet weed) which changes colour with the seasons. The landscape is also dotted with towering Opuntia cacti. As well as iguanas, the island is home to a significant population of Galapagos sea lions and numerous seabirds.

Hybrid iguana on South Plaza, Galapagos
Hybrid iguana on South Plaza © John Bendon

Wildlife highlights

The Galapagos land iguana, an important ecosystem engineer

Galapagos land iguana

One of three species of land iguana found in Galapagos, this large, yellow lizard inhabits the arid zone of a number of the islands.
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Marine iguana in Galapagos

Marine iguana

Marine iguanas are endemic to the Galapagos Islands and are the only sea-going lizards in the world!
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Galapagos sea lion

Galapagos sea lion

The most abundant marine mammal in the Archipelago, Galapagos sea lions can often be seen sleeping on the beaches or swimming close to shore.
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Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia)

Prickly pear cactus

Six endemic species of prickly pear cacti (Opuntia) can be found in Galapagos, some of which have multiple varieties.
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