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.