As one of the first animals encountered, sea lions are often the welcoming committee to the Galapagos Islands. Though they are originally from California, the Galapagos sea lions have adapted to life in these remote islands and are now a different and endemic species. They are often spotted snoozing on sandy beaches, climbing up rocky outcroppings, or zooming effortlessly about underwater. Their playful nature and graceful agility in the water are put on display when they show up to join visitors for a swim or snorkel.
On land, Galapagos sea lions tend to live in groups. A harem is a group of females and one dominant male or bull. Males that don’t have a harem often hang out with each other at a bachelor colony. At a harem the dominant bull’s job is never done. He must constantly patrol his territory against competitor males and keep the females safe. Large harems typically reside on the best beaches, whereas bachelor colonies are relegated to less desirable places, even atop rocky cliffs or further inland. Sea lions principally go into the sea to feed on fish and squid.
One of the most popular and cutest sights in the Galapagos are sea lion pups. Female sea lions give birth to one pup and they typically care for it for about one to two years. To protect and bond with the pups, mothers stay with the newborns for up to a week before heading back out to sea to fish. While moms are out fishing, the baby sea lions stay behind to rest and play. They learn how to swim and fish in nearby pools of shallow water. Sticks, seaweed, and even an iguana tail are potential play toys for mischievous sea lion pups.