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South Plazas Island

South Plazas is a small-yet fascinating-island off the east coast of Santa Cruz, where a wealth of unique features are concentrated within a relatively short touring circuit. The island's interesting geology, distinctive natural history, and incredible landscape panorama make it a definitive highlight for cruise travelers.

After sidestepping the inevitable precocious sea lion on the jetty landing point, visitors find themselves on a shore covered with white rocks, polished to a brilliant sheen by sea lions' oily fur during inter-coastal transit. Here at the head of the 1-km long interpretive trail visitors may also catch a rare glimpse of the unusual land-marine iguana hybrid, which has made its home on Santa Fe since 2003. An opuntia cactus forest follows, providing glimpses of richly yellow land iguanas munching on the cactus pads and fruit, and yellow warblers and cactus finches perching on cactus spines. The trail continues along a 25-meter high cliff, where visitors will remain awestruck by the impressionable landscape and seascape vistas.

Those daring enough to peek over the precipice will be rewarded with sights of seabirds, such as red-billed tropicbirds, Audubon shearwaters, swallow-tailed gulls, pelicans, and frigatebirds, nesting along the cliff and flying in the wake as well as the occasional manta ray catapulting itself out of the water. Further east along the trail is a sea lion bachelor colony, where males defeated in the battle for territory feat the difficult climb up the rocky crag to congregate, enjoying a bit of R&R and camaraderie before returning to challenge for territory. The final part of the trail passes through a distinct sea lion territory, where newborn pups or juveniles may be seen playing.

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