Destinations

Can I Swim with Galapagos Sea Lions?

Information on swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos...

The Galápagos Islands are populated with a whole cast of scene-stealing characters. While the brightly booted antics of the blue-footed booby or the Claymation-style lumbers of iguanas and giant tortoises may take the plaudits of many visitors, in the sea nothing beats the thrill of swimming in close proximity to Galápagos sea lions.

Breeding almost exclusively in the archipelago, the Galápagos sea lion is similar to its Californian relative and can grow to 2.5 metres in length and weigh up to 250kg. 

Its long breeding season – from May to January – means that juvenile sea lions are also an abundant presence throughout a typical year.

Sea lions are a common sight in the Galápagos, be they flopped out on a sandy shore or darting through the ocean with their rubberised twists and turns. Even on a short trip to the Galápagos, then, you should see their muzzles popping up near your boat or, better still, be able to wander among their beached forms – especially on Santa Cruz, Isabela and Española. These utterly charming creatures do certainly like a sunbathe! But at the top of the list of sea lion encounters is undoubtedly swimming alongside them – at least for a split second – as they whirl in calm, crystal-clear waters.

Although the untouched nature of the Galápagos ecosystem means that you’re almost guaranteed to see sea lions, swimming with them requires you to be in the right place at the right time. The confluence of three major ocean currents around the Galápagos, as well as wave action from Pacific swells, can complicate matters somewhat. Playing in the waves near these sleek swimmers is certainly fun, but better still is snorkelling in still conditions where you can see for miles underwater and watch sea lions torpedo by in a mesmerizing show of agility. Given that these Galápagos mammals are inquisitive by nature, don’t be surprised if you’re given a whiskery once-over from just a few inches away. Santa Fe is considered to have some of the best gin-clear conditions in which to experience this wonderfully exhilarating spectacle, but there should be other opportunities too.

If this experience sees you fall head-over-heels in love with sea lions, then Kurt Vonnegut’s Darwin-inspired novel Galápagos should provide some entertaining food for thought on the journey home.


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