Tag Archives: forest

Endau Rompin National Park

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Endau Rompin National Park

Imagine trekking through isolation for centuries and waking up in the morning greeted by the timeless sounds of the forest – the hoot of the gibbons, the love call of the hornbills and the chorus of the cicadas. As darkness falls, the mood becomes languid and mysterious, and nature’s symphony takes on a whole new tune. Welcome to the Endau Rompin National Park.

Encompassing the watershed of the rivers Endau in Johor and Rompin in Pahang, and made up of a lush pristine tropical rainforest, the Endau Rompin National Park is the second largest national park (48,905 hectares) in the Peninsula after Taman Negara. It is also one of the few remaining lowland forest in Malaysia and possibly the oldest. With rock formations dating back some 248 million years, Endau Rompin National Park is mostly hilly with some prominent sandstone plateau.

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The Endau Rompin National Park is one of the five national parks in Johor. The other four are Johor Tanjung Piai National Park, Johor Pulau Kukup National Park, Johor Gunung Ledang National Park and Johor National Park in Pulau Mersing. All the national parks are run by the Johor National Parks Corporation.

The diversity of the habitats and species found here is of major conservation significance. The park is home to many species of birds, mammals, frogs, insects and many other wild animals, as well as varieties of orchids, herbs, medicinal plants and trees. One of the most spectacular discoveries was the fan palm (Livistona endauensis), endemic to the Ulu Endau area. This centuries-old rainforest is also home to the largest surviving population of Sumatran Rhinos still left in Peninsular Malaysia.

Besides endowed with scenic natural landscape and unique flora and fauna, the Endau-Rompin National Park also has a peculiar attraction — two high-quality timber trees of the “jelutong” and “Durian Bujur” species, one aged 300 years and the other 100 years. The height of the jelutong tree is approximately 60ft while its circumference is about “five embraces of an adult person” while the durian tree is estimated to be 40ft and circumference some 10 embraces.

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The Endau Rompin National Park also has some of Malaysia’s best waterfalls namely Buaya Sangkut, Upeh Guling and Batu Hampar all within 2 hours trek of each other.

The weather is usually hot and humid, with a chance of rain, while the nights can be quite cool. Conditions vary with the time of year. Rainfall is heaviest between October and January. Temperatures range between 25C and 32C. The rainy season between December and January often renders the park inaccessible. Always check with the park authorities beforehand before making your way in.

A minimum stay of four days / three nights is ideal in order to cover the many activities and attractions in the park. Of course it’s not hard to spend a week to get lost amidst the breathtaking rivers and forests. Unless you’re an experienced jungle trekker, it’s best to stick to the packages offered – the Johor National Parks Corporation organizes the most reasonably priced ones.

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Phuket, Thailand – Paradise Island

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Phuket, Thailand – Paradise Island

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Phuket is one of the southern provinces (changwat) of Thailand. Neighbouring provinces are (from north clockwise) Phang Nga and Krabi, but as Phuket is an island there are no land boundaries.

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, approximately the size of Singapore. The island is connected to mainland Thailand by a bridge. It is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. The region has an area of approximately 570sq. km. and is made up of 1 large and 39 small islands. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign trader’s ship logs. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.

Name

The name Phuket (of which the ph sound is an aspirated p) is apparently derived from the word bukit (Jawi: بوكيت) in Malay which means hill, as this is what the island appears like from a distance. The region was formerly referred to as “Thalang,” derived from the old Malay “Telong” (Jawi: تلوڠ) which means “Cape.” The northern district of the province, which was the location of the old capital, still uses this name.

Demographics

As with most of Thailand, the majority of the population is Buddhist, but there is a significant number of Muslims (30%) in Phuket, mainly descendants of the island’s original sea-dwelling people. Among the Muslims, many are of Malay descent. People of Chinese ancestry make up an even larger populace, many of whom having descended from tin miners who migrated to Phuket during the 19th century. Peranakans, known as “Phuket Babas” in the local tongue, constitute a fair share of members Chinese community, particularly among those who have family ties with the Peranakans of Penang and Malacca.

Transportation

The Phuket International Airport is located in the north of the island. There are many scheduled flights and chartered flights from domestics and other countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America landing in Phuket.

There is no rail-line to Phuket, but the trains do run to nearby Surat Thani. Songthaews (passenger pick-up vehicles) are a common mode of transport on Phuket. Phuket’s songthaews are larger than those found in other areas of Thailand. They travel between the town and beaches. There are also conventional bus services and motorbike taxis. The latter are found in large numbers in the main town and at Patong Beach. The traditional Tuk-tuks have been replaced by small vans, mostly red or some are yellow. Songthaews are the cheapest mode of transportation for travel from town to town.

Attractions

  • Hat Patong (หาดป่าตอง) 15 kilometres from town, Patong is Phuket’s most developed beach which offers numerous leisure, sporting, shopping and recreational options along its 3-kilometre long crescent bay. Windsurfing, snorkelling, sailing, swimming and sunbathing number among the many popular daytime activities. Patong is equally well known for its vibrant nightlife, among which seafood restaurants feature prominently.
  • Laem Phromthep (แหลมพรหมเทพ) Phromthep Cape is a headland forming the extreme south end of Phuket. “Phrom” is Thai for the Hindu term, “Brahma,” signifying purity, and “Thep” means ‘God.’ Local villagers used to refer to the cape as “Laem Chao”, or the God’s Cape, and it was an easily recognizable landmark for the early seafarers traveling up the Malay Peninsula from the sub-continent.
  • Hat Karon (หาดกะรน) The second largest of Phuket’s tourist beaches, some 20 kilometres from town. Large resort complexes line the road behind of the shoreline, but the long, broad beach itself has no development. The sand is very white, and squeaks audibly when walked upon. There are plenty of restaurants and tourist stores right across the street from the beach. The southern point has a fine coral reef stretching toward Kata and Bu Island. There is also its sister beach Karon Noi.
  • View Point (จุดชมวิว) This is located mid-point between Nai Han and Kata beaches. The scenic Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches, and Ko Pu Island can be viewed from this point.
  • Wat Chalong (วัดฉลองหรือวัดไชยธาราราม) This is where stands the cast statue of Luang Pho Cham, who helped the people of Phuket put down the Angyee, or Chinese Coolie Rebellion, in 1876 during the reign of Rama V. There are also statues of Luang Pho Chuang, and Luang Pho Cham, abbots of the temple during later times.
  • Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre (สถานีพัฒนาและส่งเสริมการอนุรักษ์สัตว์ป่าเขาพระแทว) Its duty is to promote, distribute and wildlife within Khao Phra Thaeo wildlife park. The park is full of virgin forest and also actively conserves a number of wild animals; they would otherwise be extinct in Phuket. It is a center for study of the environment and the forest vegetation is spectacular. Giant trees supported by huge buttresses are thick with creepers and climbers of every description.

Events and Festivals

  • Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthon Fair (งานท้าวเทพกระษัตรี – ท้าวศรีสุนทร) is held on March 13 every year to commemorate the two great heroines who rallied the Thalang people to repel Burmese invaders.
  • Vegetarian Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ(กินผัก-เจี๊ยะฉ่าย)) is held on the first day of the 9th lunar month (end Sept or early October). Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a 9-day vegetarian diet, a form of purification believed to help make the forthcoming year “trouble-free”. The festival is marked by several ascetic displays, including fire-walking and ascending sharp-bladed ladders.
  • Phuket King’s Cup Regatta (งานแข่งเรือใบชิงถ้วยพระราชทาน) is held in December. The Kata Beach Resort hosts international yachtsmen, largely from neighbouring countries who compete in the Kata Beach area for royal trophies.
  • Laguna Phuket Triathlon (ลากูน่าภูเก็ตไตรกีฬา) is held in each December. The triathlon (a 1,800 – metre swim, a 5.5 -kilometre bike race and a 12-kilometre run and a 6 –kilometre fun run) attracts many athletes from all over the world.
  • Phuket Travel Fair (เทศกาลเปิดฤดูการท่องเที่ยวจังหวัดภูเก็ต), starting from November 1, is usually called the Patong Carnival, from the place where celebrations occur. Colourful parades, sports events, and a beauty competition for foreign tourists are major activities.
  • Chao Le (Sea Gypsy) Boat Floating Festival (งานประเพณีลอยเรือชาวเล) falls during the middle of the sixth and eleventh lunar months yearly. The sea gypsy villages at Rawai and Sapam hold their ceremonies on the 13th; Ko Si-re celebrates on the 14th; and Laem La (east of the bridge on Phuket’s northern tip) on the 15th. Ceremonies, which centre around the setting adrift of small boats similar to the Thai festival of Loi Krathong, are held at night and their purpose is to drive away evil and bring good luck.

Cuisine

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  • Fried or Boiled Noodle Dishes (หมี่ผัดหรือหมี่น้ำแบบต่าง ๆ), usually with pork or chicken, are available at many noodle shops in the town such as Mi Ton Pho, Mi Sapam, Mi Ao Ke, Mi Hun Pa Chang, and etc.
  • Khanom Jeen (ขนมจีน), a version of noodles taken at breakfast, usually served with a spicy curry sauce and fresh vegetables.
  • Nam Phrik Kung Siap (น้ำพริกกุ้งเสียบ) is a mixture of dried chili and smoked shrimps taken with various fresh vegetables.
  • Cashew nuts and pineapples are rarely grown in Phuket but are available all year round. The nuts are available dried, fried or coated.
  • Pad Kanaa Moo Grob is a dish with sauteed leafy green (similar to kale) and crispy pork.
  • Kao Man Gai is a simple dish of chicken and rice (usually infused with padanus leaves) that is sold at many small stands.

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Galapagos – The Enchanted Isles

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Galapagos – The Enchanted Isles

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The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón; other Spanish names: Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 972 km west of continental Ecuador. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature.

The Galápagos Islands form the Galápagos Province of Ecuador and are part of the country’s national park system. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of around 40,000, which is a 40-fold expansion in 50 years.

The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

The first crude navigation chart of the islands was done by the buccaneer Ambrose Cowley in 1684. He named the individual islands after some of his fellow pirates or after the English noblemen who helped the privateer’s cause. More recently, the Ecuadorian government gave most of the islands Spanish names. While the Spanish names are official, many users (especially ecological researchers) continue to use the older English names, particularly as those were the names used when Charles Darwin visited.

Main islands

The 19 main islands (with a land area larger than one km²) of the archipelago (with their English names) shown alphabetically:

Baltra (South Seymour) Island: Also known as South Seymour, Baltra is a small flat island located near the center of the Galapagos. It was created by Geological uplift. The island is very arid and vegetation consists of salt bushes, prickly pear cactus and palo santo trees.

Until 1986, Baltra Airport was the only airport serving the Galápagos. Now there are two airports which receive flights from the continent, the other located on San Cristóbal Island. Private planes flying to Galapagos must fly to Baltra as it is the only airport with facilities for planes overnight.

Arriving into Baltra all visitors are immediately transported by bus to one of two docks. The first dock is located in a small bay where the boats cruising Galapagos await passengers. The second is a ferry dock which connects Baltra to the island of Santa Cruz.

During the 1940s scientists decided to move 70 of Baltra’s Land Iguanas to the neighboring North Seymour Island as part of an experiment. This move had unexpected results for during the military occupation of Baltra in World War II, the native iguanas became extinct on the island. During the 1980s iguanas from North Seymour were brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station as part of a breeding and repopulation project and in the 1990s land iguanas were reintroduced to Baltra. As of 1997 scientists counted 97 iguanas living on Baltra; 13 of which were born on the islands.

In 2007 and 2008 the Baltra airport is being remodeled to include additional restaurants, shops and an improved visitor area.

Bartolomé (Bartholomew) Island: Bartolomé Island is a volcanic islet just off the east coast of Santiago Island in the Galápagos Islands Group. It is one of the “younger” islands in the Galápagos archipelago. This island, and Sulivan Bay on Santiago island, are named after naturalist and life-long friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who was a Lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle.

Darwin (Culpepper) Island: This island is named after Charles Darwin. It has an area of 1.1 square kilometres (0.4 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 168 metres (551 ft). Here fur seals, frigates, Marine iguanas, Swallow-tailed Gulls, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, Red-footed and Nazca boobies can be seen.

Española (Hood) Island: Its name was given in honor of Spain. It also is known as Hood after Viscount Samuel Hood. It has an area of 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 206 metres (676 ft).

Española is the oldest island at around 3.5 million years and the southernmost in the chain. The island’s remote location has a large number of endemic fauna. Secluded from the other islands, wildlife on Española adapted to the island’s environment and natural resources. Marine iguanas on Española are the only ones that change color during breeding season.

The Waved Albatross is found on the island. The island’s steep cliffs serve as the perfect runways for these large birds which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru.

Española has two visitor sites. Gardner Bay is a swimming and snorkeling site as well as offering a great beach. Punta Suarez has migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife including brightly colored Marine Iguana, Española Lava Lizards, Hood Mockingbirds, Swallow-tailed Gulls, Blue-footed Booby,Red-Footed Booby and Nazca Boobies, Galápagos Hawks, a selection of Finch, and the Waved Albatross.

Fernandina (Narborough) Island: The name was given in honor of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. Fernandina has an area of 642 square kilometres (248 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 1,494 metres (4,902 ft). This is the youngest and westernmost island. In May 13, 2005, a new very eruptive process began on this island when an ash and water vapour cloud rose to a height of 7 kilometers (4.4 mi) and lava flows descended the slopes of the volcano on the way to the sea. Punta Espinosa is a narrow stretch of land where hundreds of Marine Iguanas gather largely on black lava rocks. The famous Flightless Cormorant inhabits this island and also Galápagos Penguins, Pelicans and Sea Lions are abundant. Different types of lava flows can be compared and the Mangrove Forests can be observed.

Floreana (Charles or Santa María) Island: It was named after Juan José Flores, the first president of Ecuador, during whose administration the government of Ecuador took possession of the archipelago. It is also called Santa Maria after one of the caravels of Columbus. It has an area of 173 square kilometres (66.8 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 640 metres (2,100 ft). It is one of the islands with the most interesting human history and one of the earliest to be inhabited. Flamingos and green sea turtles nest (December to May) on this island. The “patapegada” or Galápagos Petrel is found here, a sea bird which spends most of its life away from land. At Post Office Bay, since the 18th century whalers kept a wooden barrel that served as post office so that mail could be picked up and delivered to their destination mainly Europe and the United States by ships on their way home. At the “Devil’s Crown”, an underwater volcanic cone, coral formations are found.

Genovesa (Tower) Island: The name is derived from Genoa, Italy where it is said Columbus was born. It has an area of 14 square kilometres (5.4 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 76 metres (249 ft). This island is formed by the remaining edge of a large crater that is submerged. Its nickname of “the bird island” is clearly justified. At Darwin Bay, frigatebirds andswallow-tailed gulls, the only nocturnal species of gull in the world, can be seen. Red-footed boobies, noddy terns, lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin finches are also in sight. Prince Philip’s Steps is a bird-watching plateau with Nazca and red-footed boobies. There is a large Palo Santo forest.

Isabela (Albemarle) Island (Ecuador): This island was named in honor of Queen Isabela. With an area of 4,640 square kilometers (1,792 sq mi), it is the largest island of the Galápagos. Its highest point is Wolf Volcano with an altitude of 1,707 meters (5,600 ft). The island’s seahorse shape is the product of the merging of six large volcanoes into a single landmass. On this island Galápagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants, Marine Iguanas, pelicans and Sally Lightfoot crabs abound. At the skirts and calderas of the volcanos of Isabela, Land Iguanas and Galápagos Tortoises can be observed, as well as Darwin Finches, Galápagos Hawks, Galápagos Doves and very interesting lowland vegetation. The third-largest human settlement of the archipelago, Puerto Villamil, is located at the south-eastern tip of the island.

Marchena (Bindloe) Island: Named after Fray Antonio Marchena. Has an area of 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 343 metres (1,125 ft). Galápagos hawks and sea lions inhabit this island, and it is home to the Marchena Lava Lizard, an endemic animal.

North Seymour Island: Its name was given after an English nobleman called Lord Hugh Seymour. It has an area of 1.9 square kilometres (0.7 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 28 metres (92 ft). This island is home to a large population of blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. It hosts one of the largest populations of frigate birds. It was formed from geological uplift.

Just north of the Baltra Airport is the small islet of North Seymour. North Seymour was created by seismic uplift rather than being of volcanic origin. The island has a flat profile with cliffs only a few meters from the shoreline, where swallowtail gulls and tropicbirds sit perched in ledges. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo santotrees stand just above the landing, usually without leaves, waiting for rain to bring them into bloom. The island is teeming with life. Visiting the island you may have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana. Flocks of pelicans and swallow tailed gulls feed off shore and seasonally masked boobies can also be seen.

North Seymour is an extraordinary place for breeding birds and is home to one of the largest populations of nesting blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds. Pairs of blue-footed boobies can be seen conducting their mating ritual as they offer each other gifts, whistle and honk, stretch their necks towards the sky, spread their wings, and dance—showing off their bright blue feet.

Magnificent frigatebirds perch in low bushes, near the boobies, while watching over their large chicks. The frigates are huge, dark acrobats with a 90-inch (2.3 m) wingspan. Male frigates can puff up their scarlet throat sacks to resemble a giant red balloon. Boobies and frigates have an interesting relationship. Boobies are excellent hunters and fish in flocks. The frigates by comparison are pirates, they dive bomb the boobies to force them to drop their prey. Then the acrobatic frigate swoops down and picks up the food before it hits the water.

Pinzón (Duncan) Island: Named after the Pinzón brothers, captains of the Pinta and Niña caravels. Has an area of 18 square kilometers (7 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 458 metres (1,503 ft).

Pinta (Abingdon) Island: Named after the Pinta caravel. It has an area of 60 km² and a maximum altitude of 777 meters. Sea lions, Galápagos hawks, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and dolphins can be seen here. The Pinta island was home to the last remaining Pinta Tortoise, called Lonesome George. He does not actually live on Pinta Island any longer, he is at a research facility

Rábida (Jervis) Island: It bears the name of the convent of Rábida where Columbus left his son during his voyage to the Americas. Has an area of 4.9 square kilometres (1.9 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 367 metres (1,204 ft). The high amount of iron contained in the lava at Rábida gives it a distinctive red color.

White-Cheeked Pintail Ducks live in a salt-water lagoon close to the beach, where brown pelicans and boobies have built their nests. Up until recently, flamingos were also found in the salt-water lagoon, but they have since moved on to other islands, likely due to a lack of food on Rábida. Nine species of Finches have been reported in this island.

San Cristóbal (Chatham) Island: It bears the name of the Patron Saint of seafarers, “St. Christopher”. Its English name was given after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It has an area of 558 square kilometres (215 sq mi) and its highest point rises to 730 metres (2395 ft). This islands hosts frigate birds, sea lions, giant tortoises, blue and red footed boobies, tropicbirds, marine iguanas, dolphins, swallow-tailed gulls. Its vegetation includes Calandrinia galapagos, Lecocarpus darwinii, and trees such as Lignum vitae.The largest fresh water lake in the archipelago, Laguna El Junco, is located in the highlands of San Cristóbal. The capital of the province of Galápagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, lies at the southern tip of the island.

Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) Island (Galápagos): Given the name of the Holy Cross in Spanish, its English name derives from the British vessel HMS Indefatigable. It has an area of 986 square kilometres (381 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 864 metres (2834 ft). Santa Cruz is the island that hosts the largest human population in the archipelago at the town of Puerto Ayora. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service are located here.

The GNPS and CDRS operate a tortoise breeding center here, where young tortoises are hatched, reared, and prepared to be reintroduced to their natural habitat. The Highlands of Santa Cruz offer an exuberant vegetation and are famous for the lava tunnels. Large tortoise populations are found here. Black Turtle Cove is a site surrounded by mangrove which sea turtles, rays and small sharks sometimes use as a mating area. Cerro Dragón, known for its flamingo lagoon, is also located here, and along the trail one may see land iguanas foraging.

Santa Fe (Barrington) Island: Named after a city in Spain, has an area of 24 square kilometres (9 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 259 metres (850 ft). Santa Fe hosts a forest of Opuntia cactus, which are the largest of the archipelago, and Palo Santo. Weathered cliffs provide a haven for swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds, shear-waters petrels. Santa Fe species of land iguanas are often seen, as well as lava lizards.

Santiago (San Salvador, James) Island (Galápagos): Its name is equivalent to Saint James in English; it is also known as San Salvador, after the first island discovered by Columbus in the Caribbean Sea. This island has an area of 585 square kilometers (226 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 907 metres (2976 ft). Marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles, flamingos, dolphins and sharks are found here. Pigs and goats, which were introduced by humans to the islands and have caused great harm to the endemic species, have been eradicated (pigs in 2002; goat eradication is nearing finalization). Darwin Finches and Galápagos Hawks are usually seen as well as a colony of Fur Seals. At Sullivan Bay a recent (around 100 years ago) pahoehoe lava flow can be observed.

Wolf (Wenman) Island: This island was named after the German geologist Theodor Wolf. It has an area of 1.3 square kilometres (0.5 sq mi)and a maximum altitude of 253 metres (830 ft). Here fur seals, frigatebirds, masked and red-footed boobies, Marine Iguanas, sharks, whales, dolphins and swallow-tailed gulls can be seen. The most famous resident is the vampire finch, which feeds partly on blood pecked from other birds and is only found on this island.

Daphne Major: A small island directly north of Santa Cruz and directly west of Baltra, this very inaccessible island appears, though unnamed, on Ambrose Cowley’s 1684 chart. It is important as the location of multi-decade finch population studies by Peter and Rosemary Grant.

South Plaza Island (Plaza Sur): It is named in honor of a former president of Ecuador, General Leonidas Plaza. It has an area of 0.13 square kilometers (0.05 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 23 metres (75 ft). The flora of South Plaza includes Opuntia cactua and Sesuvium plants, which forms a reddish carpet on top of the lava formations. Iguanas (land and marine and some hybrids of both species) are abundant and there are a large number of birds that can be observed from the cliffs at the southern part of the island, including tropic birds and swallow-tailed gulls.

Nameless Island: The small islet is used mostly for scuba diving.

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