This post is part 4 of 20 in the series Galapagos Islands Travel Guide

Slumbering sea lions, roaming land iguanas, and the epic mating dance of the blue-footed booby are just some of the highlights travelers can look forward to when they visit to North Seymour Island, South Plaza Island, and Daphne Island in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

iguana North Seymour galapagos

A unique hybrid land iguana rules the roost on North Seymour Island in the Galapagos archipelago in Ecuador.

These small islands in the Galapagos archipelago, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, can be visited by booking a day trip from Santa Cruz Island as long as there are landing slots available, per Galapagos National Park rules, and enough other people to fill the tour boat. A more reliable way to visit these Galapagos destinations is on a multi-day boat cruise (like we did) because these islets, in the central region of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, are a mainstay of many cruise boat itineraries.

North Seymour Island, a bird lover’s paradise

North Seymour Galapagos islands

Galapagos travelers arriving on North Seymour Island which is an important mating and breeding ground for sea birds.

This small island is north of Santa Cruz Island and very close to Baltra Island (aka South Seymour). We visited this island twice, once during a guided excursion with Pikaia Lodge and again during our trip on the Origin with Ecoventura. Both times we were amazed by the bird activity on North Seymour which is a mating and nesting mecca for magnificent frigatebirds, great frigatebirds, and blue-footed boobies.

blue-footed booby sky pointing

A male blue-footed booby demonstrating the species’ distinct mating dance which is called sky pointing.

Depending on the season, visitors can see courting rituals of these species including the dramatic and dorky sky pointing of the male blue-footed boobie which includes pointing their beaks at the sky while making a whistling noise, tipping their tail feathers up, and partially extending their wings in a sort of avian modern dance.

magnificent frigatebird North Seymour Galapagos

Male magnificent frigatebirds inflate their signature red throat pouch during mating rituals.

Blue-footed boobies also show off their blue feet as part of their mating ritual. The bluer the feet, the healthier the bird. See this full display in our video at the end of this post. Meanwhile, male frigatebirds puff out their signature red chest pouch to catch the eye of females.

nesting frigatebird galapagos

Blue-footed booby nests cover the ground on North Seymour Island.

baby frigatebird

This blue-footed booby chick has a long way to go before it’s seaworthy.

Once mating is over, couples tend to their nests, eggs, and young. The frigatebirds fill low branches of scrubby trees with their nests and the nests of blue-footed boobies, made partially from guano, seem to cover the ground. It’s easy to get distracted by the show going on all around you, but as you walk along the short, flat, loop trail past ground nests and scores of birds, be careful to avoid accidentally stepping on a nest or an egg.

North Seymour Galapagos sunset

Sunset from North Seymour Island in the Galapagos.

Our walk on North Seymour Island ended on a sandy bluff overlooking the sea at sunset as the boobies and frigates settled down for the night and the light danced on the water below us.

We visited in: May

Activities: hiking a flat walking trail and snorkeling

Animal highlights: While snorkeling around North Seymour Island we saw blacktip reef sharks (including a few that played off the back of our boat when we anchored), whitetip reef sharks, a spotted eagle ray, many large fish including triggerfish, and a Galapagos fur seal (which isn’t a true seal because its ears are visible). While hiking on North Seymour Island we saw many red-billed tropicbirds, great frigatebirds, magnificent frigatebirds (some with fluffy chicks), blue-footed boobies (some with eggs and some with chicks), Galapagos doves, and sea lions.

Part of: the central group of islands

Here are more photos from North Seymour Island.

blue-footed booby nest with eggs

A blue-footed booby with two eggs in its nest on North Seymour Island.

blue-footed booby feeding chick

A blue-footed booby feeding a chick on North Seymour Island.

baby sea lion North Seymour-galapagos

Baby Galapagos sea lions are even cuter when they’re napping.

South Plaza Island, where the land iguanas roam

South Plaza Island was formed by lava streaming to the surface from the ocean floor. At just 0.05 square miles (0.13 square km), this nearly perfectly flat formation is the smallest islets open to tourists. It’s mate, North Plaza Island, is separated from South Plaza by a narrow channel and it isn’t open at all.

dry landing South Plaza island Galapagos

Our sunbathing sea lion greeting party on South Plaza Island in the Galapagos.

We visited South Plaza Island twice, once during our trip on the M/Y Grace with Quasar Expeditions and again during our trip on the Origin with Ecoventura. Both times we were greeted by sunbathing Galapagos sea lions covering the small, narrow, man-made jetty where dry landings are made. We all clapped to encourage them to move, but no dice so we ended up walking carefully around the creatures in order to reach the trail on this island.

iguana South Plaza Galapagos

This particular version of land iguanas are only found on South Plaza Island and some experts believe they’re a hybrid, the result of a land iguana breeding with a marine iguana.

The first thing we noticed was vibrant sesuvium ground vegetation (aka Galapagos carpet weed) covering much of the South Plaza Island. This plant is bright green in the rainy season but slowly changes color to yellow, orange, red, and even purple in the dry season.

opuntia cactus South Plaza Galapagos

The land iguanas on South Plaza Island love to eat the flowers produced by these Opuntia cacti.

South Plaza Island also has stands of with Opuntia cactus, aka giant prickly pear cactus, which Galapagos land iguanas love to eat. The abundance of food means there’s a large colony of Galapagos land iguanas on the island. Some scientists consider the species, which is only found on South Plaza Island, to be a hybrid because there’s evidence of interbreeding between marine iguanas and land iguanas here.

We visited in: May and March

Activities: dry landing and walking along a short flat trail

Animal highlights: We saw cactus finches, medium ground finches, yellow warblers, Galapagos land iguanas (including our first sighting of a juvenile), swallow-tailed gulls, Nazca boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, and Galapagos sea lions.

Part of: the central group of islands

Here are more photos from South Plaza Island.

galapagos fur seal

Sightings of Galapagos fur seals, which are not true seals because their ears are visible, are uncommon but we saw one on South Plaza Island.

blue-footed booby South Plaza island

A blue-footed booby posing for Eric’s camera.

marine iguana South Plaza island

A marine iguana also posing for Eric’s camera on South Plaza Island.

swallow-tailed gull galapagos

Swallow-tailed gulls on South Plaza Island.

red-billed tropicbird

The red-billed tropicbird is a flamboyant sea bird that can be hard to spot and photograph because it’s almost always in motion.

yellow warbler galapagos

A yellow warbler on South Plaza Island in the Galapagos.

color South Plaza island Galapagos

The colorful coastline of South Plaza Island.

Daphne Island, circling a crater

Perhaps the laziest exploration we did in the Galapagos Islands was our boat tour around Daphne Island, during a guided expedition from Pikaia Lodge, north of Santa Cruz Island. Treeless Daphne Major is a tuff crater with a coastline that rises 395 feet (120 meters) from sea level.

Daphne Island Galapagos

Barren and caved in, Daphne Island may look lifeless but it’s an important nesting area for boobies and other sea birds.

Our visit was a slow boat trip around that dramatic coastline, though some tours also include a walk on the island to see palo santo trees, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, Darwin finches, and red-billed tropicbirds.

We visited in: May

Activities: boat tour around the island and some tours include a landing and short hike as well

Animal highlights: We saw blue-footed boobies in flight.

Part of: the central group of islands

See more travel highlights from our visits to North Seymour, South Plaza, and Daphne Islands, including the blue-footed booby mating dance, in our Galapagos travel video below.

More Galapagos travel tips

Use our Galapagos Islands Travel Guide index post to quickly navigate through the entire series, or choose specific posts below.


Here’s more about travel in Ecuador

Here’s more about Island Travel

Here’s more about Galapagos Travel

Here’s more about Adventure Travel


Series Navigation:<< San Cristóbal Island Travel Guide – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador4 Top Santa Cruz Island Boat Trips – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador >>

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