Skip navigation

Santa Fe

Sea lions on Santa Fe island
© Franco Tollardo

Island overview

Santa Fe is one of the smallest islands in Galapagos, covering an area of just 24 km².

It is located to the south-east of Santa Cruz in the centre of the Archipelago and is relatively flat in comparison to the other islands, with a maximum altitude of 259 metres. Santa Fe is one of the few islands that are not currently volcanically active. 

The island is densely populated with Optunia echios, a large cactus, characterised by its large trunk, which is thought to be an adaption that protects the plants from iguanas and the now extinct Santa Fe giant tortoises. The landscape is also filled with Palo santo trees. 

Santa Fe land iguana
Santa Fe land iguana © Anna Disegna

Santa Fe is home to an endemic species of land iguana and the endemic Santa Fe rice rat. There are many birds that live on the cliffs around the island, including swallow-tailed gulls, shearwater petrels, red-billed tropicbirds, mockingbirds, Darwin’s finches and Galapagos hawks.  

There have never been any human settlers on the island, mainly due to the fact that there is no freshwater on the island. Tourists can visit Santa Fe, with two trails for walking. Visitors can also snorkel and dive in the waters that surround the island. 

Wildlife highlights

Santa Fe land iguana

Santa Fe land iguana

Found only on the island from which it takes its name, the Santa Fe land iguana is paler in colour than the more widespread Galapagos land iguana.
Find out more
Lava lizard in Galapagos

Lava lizard

The most abundant reptile found across Galapagos, lava lizards are a friendly sight at almost all of the tourist sites. They are often seen having press-up contests to find out which lizard is king!
Find out more
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.
Find out more
Galapagos hawk

Galapagos hawk

Positioned at the top of the terrestrial food chain, the Galapagos hawk is an apex predator and an excellent hunter.
Find out more

Conservation challenges

The main aim of conservation on Santa Fe is the prevention of the introduction of invasive species to the island, such as the black rat, which could pose a threat to the endemic rice rats. Another concern is fire ants, which were discovered and eradicated from the island in 1975 and again in 1988. It is thought that giant tortoises were once present on the island of Santa Fe, so in 2012 a decision was made by the Galapagos National Park Directorate to reintroduce tortoises to the island. As Santa Fe giant tortoises are extinct, a genetically similar substitute species was used, the Española giant tortoise. In June 2015, 201 juvenile Española tortoises were released into the wild, with annual releases planned for the following ten years. 

Española tortoise browsing
Española tortoise browsing © Stephen Blake

Get the latest news from Galapagos

Join our mailing list to receive our monthly email newsletter, bringing you the latest news on Galapagos and our work to protect the Islands.

Share This Page