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Santa Fe Island, Galapagos

A tiny (less than 10 miles squared), flat island off the southeastern corner of Santa Cruz Island, Santa Fe Island was formed by one of the archipelago’s oldest volcanoes — about 4 million years ago. The diminutive island bosts two endemic species: The Santa Fe Rice Rat and the Santa Fe Iguana. These species and others can be viewed at the lone visitor site on the island, simply called Santa Fe. Visitors arrive via wet landing on Barrington Bay on the northern rim of the island, and can take the loop trail to see the huge Santa Fe Opuntia cactus or the other trail up a steep cliff to the a fantastic viewpoint.

Offshore, the island has three different dive sites: El Fondeador, La Encanada, and Costa Este. These are best known for having scores of sea lions, as well as the chance sea turtle or ray sightings.

The island’s history of conservation has centered around eliminating the species introduced by man sometime in the early 20th century. Both the Black Rat and the goats have wreaked havoc on the island, but the natural vegetation has slowly recovered since their banishment from Santa Fe in the 1970s. Authorities still monitor the island closely to make sure no other species are being introduced.