I could have left the Galapagos Islands with a love for the giant tortoises like Lonesome George, the blue footed boobies and even the land iguanas. Instead, I left with a new found love for sea lions.
You’d think I’d have come to love a creature that was endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Sea lions are actually pretty common and can be found the world over, from the coast of the US, to South America and even Australia.
After observing them in their natural habitat for five days, I came to realize that sea lions are amazing animals. The more I watched them, the more I loved them. I snapped photo after photo.
Sea Lions – Love or Hate?
People’s feelings on sea lions seem to be mixed.
They’ve been loved since ancient times. The Moche people in Peru featured sea lions in their art. Today, they’re popular attractions at zoos and aquariums. They’ve endured themselves to humans by assisting or saving people who are in distress. For example, Kevin Hines claims that when he jumped into the San Francisco Bay (in a failed suicide attempt), a sea lion kept him alive by helping him stay afloat until paramedics arrived. Some people even foolishly attempt to swim with them.
Sea lions are also hated by some. They’re viewed as a nuisance, even a pest much like sea gulls and racoons. They’ve made homes in urban destinations like San Francisco where they hang out in large groups along the docks. People claim they smell, are noisy and exhibit aggressive behavior. Although not common, there have been a growing number of sea lion attacks on humans in recent years.
Sea Lions In The Galapagos Islands
As the Galapagos Islands are a national park and UNESCO world heritage site, the sea lions flourish in a protected environment. As such, visitors are treated to the spectacle of seeing them in all their glory.
I didn’t see any sea lions until the morning of the second day of my trip. When our boat landed on the beach, we came across the big fellow pictured below. As good of an ambassador as any, he barked away while posing for photos.
Male sea lions (bulls) are generally much bigger than their female (cow) counterparts. They can weigh anywhere from 1500 pounds – 1 tonne while the females can weigh an average of 700 pounds.
Sea lions are made for both land and water. They are at their most graceful in the water where they can dive up to 600 feet and swim up to speeds of 25 miles per hour. On the land, they walk on all fours and are surprisingly adept at scaling rocky cliffs.
They are also very social living in colonies that may contain hundreds, even thousands.
On the afternoon of my second day, I had the fortunate opportunity to spend some time alone on the beach watching the sea lions. I saw them playing with one another, floating lazily in the water, napping on the beach and basking in the sun.
These two made me laugh. One kept barking as if trying to encourage his friend to get back in the water to play with him.
Sea lions playing in the water.
Here’s a video showing a couple of them enjoying the afternoon sun:
On one of island excursions, we came across this little one all alone, away from his group. He looked so sad, it broke my heart.
One night, a bunch of us sat on the beach, observing the sea lions for a couple of hours. There were tons of them sleeping away.
We watched as the young pups struggled to find their moms. It’s a tough life for a baby sea lion! They go from cow to cow, attempting to feed from each one. If a pup tried to feed from a sea lion that was not his mother, he or she would be bitten or swatted. They would bark in dismay and continue along the beach in search of their mom. This process would sometimes be repeated over and over for minutes on end. We would break into applause when we witnessed a happy reunion.
Another thing that amazed me about the sea lions were their ability to scale rocky cliffs 50 feet high. Our group witnessed sea lions climbing the island walls to head inland.
We were surprised to discover these two lounging under a cactus!
Sea lions are also just plain cute. They sleep together on the beach and look adorable.
These two look like they’re holding hands, or in their case fins.
Male sea lions (established alphas within the colonies) will often be on “patrol” swimming up the lengths of the beach on the lookout for predators – sharks like to feast on the pups. If he perceives a threat, he’ll bark in warning so the cows can lead their pups to safety.
As we departed the Galapagos, we spied these guys sleeping away on some benches. Their comical ways made sure we all left with a smile on our face.
To learn more about sea lions, check out the Sea Lion Facts and Information site.
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