Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands, off the Coast of Ecuador

Adventures with Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands

This entry is part 3 of 18 in the series Ecuador

I have always felt an affinity with wild animals and they, likewise, seem inordinately attracted to me. On a visit to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York this summer, a black racer snake crawled across my foot. On safari in the Serengeti of Africa we encountered a lion sleeping with his head hidden behind a rock. I politely asked him to sit up for a photo. My guide’s snigger turned to amazement when the lion sat up regally and looked directly at me. After snapping a few photos I thanked the huge male and he laid back down.

Of all my wildlife encounters around the world, none have been more astounding than those with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. Sea lions have a reputation as curious animals who often investigate divers. Last year in Mexico a family of sea lions checked me out from a respectful distance as I snorkeled in the cold blue waters off the coast of La Paz, Mexico. But in the Galapagos, these sleek brown animals collected by the hundreds on beaches and lay across trails, completely indifferent to humans. On land it was usually not a problem to maintain the six foot distance required between man and animal, though at times our diversions took us through boulder fields and prickly vegetation. In the water, however, it was another story.

Video by Bret Love and Mary Gabbett, courtesy of GreenGlobalTravel.com

One day my sister and I snorkeled around a point and swam into a cove surrounded by submerged rocks where a lone sea lion frolicked. He torpedoed back and forth and swam circles around us, inching ever closer. We twisted and turned, trying to keep him in view, but he was just too fast for us. I popped to the surface and yelled for the rest of our group to join us. Instead of being threatened by our larger numbers, the sea lion seemed energized. Time and again he broke the surface for air and nose-dived to the bottom. Playfully, he began exhaling as he raced around us, encasing us in a cylinder of bubbles that began as giant oval pockets and broke into a million swirling, iridescent pinpoints that slowly rose to the surface. Though I don’t have an underwater camera, one of my fellow writers did and he very graciously allowed me to show the above video.

Later that week, rather than snorkel or kayak, I opted for a trip to a gorgeous white sand beach on Chinese Hat. After a swim in the crystalline turquoise waters I settled down on my towel and was soon fast asleep. A shout from our naturalist, Ceci Guerrero, woke me up. “Bobbie, get up. Don’t touch, just look.” (with three Barbaras on the trip, I had been dubbed Bobbie). Two young female sea lions were waddling up the sand toward me. Curious, one of them touched my thigh with its nose while the other went around my back side. I turned to follow the antics of the one at my rear, unaware of what was happening at the shore, until Guerrero yelled again. “Watch out Bobbie! Look behind you.” A giant bull had chased away a young male and herded these two young females onto the beach, intending to add them to his harem. Sensing that I was a new threat, he rose from the ocean and headed toward me. The ensuing series of photos taken by Ceci show what happened better than I can put into words.

Bull chases away a young male but allows two young females to come on shore to join his harem

Bull chases away a young male but allows two young females to come on shore to join his harem

The two young females approach the towel where I lie napping

The two young females approach the towel where I lie napping

Our naturalist, Ceci, hollers to wake me up, telling me to sit up but not to touch...

Our naturalist, Ceci, hollers to wake me up, telling me to sit up but not to touch…

One in front and the other snooping around my back...

One in front and the other snooping around my back…

I turn to watch the sdcond young sea lion, unaware of what is happening at the shoreline, just a few feet away

I turn to watch the second young sea lion, unaware of what is happening at the shoreline, just a few feet away

Having chased away the young male, the bull turns his attention to a new threat...

Having chased away the young male, the bull turns his attention to a new threat…

He checks me out; I am still blissfully unaware...

He checks me out; I am still blissfully unaware…

The big bull starts up the shore toward me and Ceci yells for me to look around...

The big bull starts up the shore toward me and Ceci yells for me to look around…

Yikes! Didn't know I could move that fast!

Yikes! Didn’t know I could move that fast!

Throughout the eight days of our cruise, sea lions were the most precocious, delightful animals of all the species we encountered. They are so cute that I yearned to reach out and touch one, but of course that is prohibited. I asked our other naturalist, Yvonne Mortola, if she’d ever felt their fur. “Only a dead one,” she replied. As much as she would like to stroke a live sea lion, she believes doing so would be the beginning of the end.

Can’t view above slide show of sea lions on the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador? Click here.

Despite the fact that Mortola can’t touch the animals in the Galapagos, she has a unique relationship with them. One day I thought she asked me to turn around so she could take my picture. When I complied she laughed, “I was talking to the lava lizard.” The lizard willingly turned around on its rock and posed for a photo. I was delighted to learn that I am not the only crazy person who thinks she can communicate with animals.

Ecoventura kindly hosted the author’s visit to the Galapagos in Ecuador. However, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items/services received will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In this case, I highly recommend Ecoventura, not only for their excellent facilities and the smaller, intimate size of their yachts, but also for their devotion to conservation, which included hiring two of the best naturalists I have ever had the pleasure to meet, Cecibel Guerrero and Yvonne Mórtola.

Series NavigationThe Great Myth and Greater Mystery of the Galapagos IslandsHot Babes and Cool Dudes in the Galapagos

10 Comments on “Adventures with Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands

  1. Hi Barbara: What a great adventure. You have me day dreaming on a winter day here in Maine. As a 70th birthday treat, I’m planning a September trip to Cusco/Machu Picchu and the Galapagoes. As a solo, should I be concerned for my safety? Peter

    • Hi Peter: Absolutely NOT! I travel all over the world solo and rarely feel uncomfortable. If you go to Quito or Guayaquil, you need to be cautious, as there are high crime rates in these cities, but mostly snatch & grab stuff. You will have to go to one or the other to fly to the Galapagos. Just keep your wits about you and take normal precautions – wear NO jewelry, never keep all your money in one place, carry a copy of your passport with you when you go out in the streets and leave the original locked up in your hotel room, don’t flash a lot of cash, wear your daypack on your chest if you feel uncomfortable, etc. Read up on the scams in these cities on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum so you’ll be aware. Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos are all perfectly safe, but I always take the above precautions no matter where I am. Have a wonderful trip.

  2. Pingback: A Symphony of Animals, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

  3. An experience of a lifetime, looks like you had a ton of fun! Awesome post wish I was there.

  4. Among my favourite creatures anywhere. So much character and so individual. Lovely article

    • HA! Thanks Nancy. In my younger years I never would have posted pictures of myself on the Internet but these days I’m old enough that I don’t care.

  5. What gorgeous animals! It’s amazing you got that close to one (if a little scary). The water looks so beautifully clear too.

    • Becky you’re absolutely right – the water is so exquisitely clear and has gorgeous colors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *