Area: 24 km2 or 9.3 mi2
Maximum Altitude: 259 m or 850 ft
Santa Fe Island, also called Barrington Island after British Admiral Samuel Barrington, is a small, relatively flat island at the center of the archipelago, to the southeast of Santa Cruz Island. Geologically, it is one of the oldest volcanoes, with rock formations below the surface of the water that date back 3.9 million years. The island was apparently home to the only giant tortoise species with no type specimen. Two accounts of whaling vessels removing tortoises from Santa Fe exist and two informants to the California Academy of Sciences expedition in 1905-06 told of tortoises having been on Santa Fe. Current genetic analyses of the bone fragments collected by the California Academy suggest that the Santa Fe tortoise was a unique tortoise taxon. The vegetation of the island is characterized by the presence of a dense forest of the largest species of giant Opuntia cactus.
Santa Fe is home to two species endemic to the island: the Santa Fe Land Iguana (Conolophus pallidus) and the Santa Fe Rice Rat (Oryzomys bauri). It is also the site of the longest running research project on marine iguanas, begun in the late 1970s. There is a single visitor site on land and three marine sites around the island.
CONSERVATION HISTORY AND CHALLENGES
The greatest challenge on Santa Fe is to ensure that no invasive species become established. Of particular concern is the potential arrival of introduced rats. On all islands except for Santiago, the endemic rice rat became extinct following the establishment of the Black Rat. Regular monitoring of the endemic rat population is critical, along with regular checks for the arrival of introduced rats. Goats were introduced to Santa Fe sometime prior to 1905. These were finally removed (over 3,000 animals) between 1964 and 1972, with the final three goats removed in 1974. The vegetation of Santa Fe recovered slowly until the El Niño of 1982-83, when excessive rainfall resulted in near complete recovery. The Little Fire Ant was discovered and eradicated in 1975 and again in 1988. Periodic checks are critical to ensure that this aggressive species never gets reestablished on this small island.
Visitor Site: Santa Fe
The visit begins with a wet landing on the small beach in Barrington Bay on the northeast side of the island. Large numbers of sea lions are found on the beaches in the bay and can often be seen surfing in the waves. There are two trails, one short loop that is fairly close to the beach and provides a close-up look at the massive Santa Fe Opuntia cactus. The second trail climbs a steep cliff, providing a view of the inland section of the island and possible sightings of the Santa Fe Land Iguana.
Marine Sites: El Fondeador, La Encañada, and Costa Este
There are three dive sites on the north and east sides of Santa Fe. Sea lions are the principal attraction at all three sites. Fish densities are fairly low but there are occasional sightings of sea turtles and various species of rays. Galapagos sharks are also often seen at the East Coast (Costa Este).
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