We got word this week that a class of schoolkids in the U.K. is following our Galapagos posts for their science studies! Oh the pressure . . . we hope we can continue to make this as fun and educational (and – eek – as accurate) as possible. So here’s one for the class:

Q. What’s the difference between a seal and a sea lion?
A. They’re both classified as pinnipeds (from the latin words for “fin” and “foot”; in other words, fin-footed). Sea lions are bigger and beefier than seals, and they have a cute little ear flap, whereas seals just have an ear hole. Sea lions also have much bigger front flippers that allow them to walk (very clumsily) on land, but seals just scoot along on their bellies.

The Galapagos Sea Lion is found in only two places on earth, the Galapagos Islands and Isla de la Plata, just off the Ecuador mainland. They were everywhere on all of the islands we visited, but two memories stand out: our visit to the sea lion “nursery” on Isla Española and a snorkeling excursion off Isla Santa Cruz, when we were actually in the water with the playful buggers.

We were lucky enough to be visiting at the height of their breeding season. On Española, quite a few mama sea lions were nursing and tending to their pups on what we called “kindergarten beach.” We loved watching the pups play with each other in rough-and-tumble fashion, just like a litter of canine pups. In fact, much of the sea lions’ behavior and appearance was so doglike, we were tempted to run up and pet them and join in the play. But not only is that against the rules, it could be dangerous, since some of the bulls weigh many hundreds of pounds and they WILL defend their territory.

Swimming with the sea lions was an unforgettable experience. They may seem clumsy on land, but in the water they’re in their element. Not only do they swim like bullets, but they catch site of the strange creatures with snorkel gear and become playful as puppies.  They aren’t aggressive unless they’re defending their young, but it was still a little unnerving to have one of these several-hundred-pound creatures swim right at us at full speed.

A few more pics:

This proud fellow greeted us on the beach one evening.
Life’s a beach!
Which milk wagon should I try today?
A sweet-faced pup
Really?? You’re still hungry?
Fat ‘n sassy!

13 Comments

  1. Mary Lea (Mimi) Reply

    How exciting-to have a school group follow your blog! I especially loved this one.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Mimi! The sea lions were so much fun.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Gwen! Hope you’re well. Are you in Medellin now?

  2. I can imagine the conversation happening between the two when you took the first photo: “Don’t worry, just another tourist mesmerized by our cuteness. Here, I give you a hug.” Really interesting and refreshing shots!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha, so true! It was almost like the sea lions got together and said, OK – here come the tourists! Places, everyone 🙂 They were posing in some incredibly cute ways.

  3. Charles Wilsdorf Reply

    Love those pics and the school lesson. Now I know the difference.

  4. Great stuff, as usual. The pix remind me of an episode on the beach in Kauai. Mariah sidled up to a young Monk seal, which she assumed, in her Nurse Jane style, was in need of attention. I warned her that the seal was snorting at her because she was in his space, not asking for help. When she got within ten feet or so, Mister seal had had enough, and barked at her loud enough to send her whimpering away. On Kauai the authorities placed police tape around the seals sleeping on the beaches, to keep tourists from pestering them.
    Keep it coming!

  5. Oh my!! They are sooo adorable..I love the video! I will be off to Galapagos in December, and your post makes me want to be there sooner!! <3

  6. Loved your opening photo of the sea lion’s flipper resting on her neighbor and your video was so fun to watch. We were lucky enough to see a lot of the pups on our trip to the Galapagos, too. And we totally agree with a statement you made in an earlier post: going to the Galapagos was a real dream come true! Anita

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