Travel Dates 15th-19th April 2010.
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What's the difference between a sea-lion and a seal? Apart from the fact that the seals are smaller and rarer in the Galapagos and we didn't see many the difference is extra body parts, according to our guide, Galo. Sea-lions have four nipples compared to two for seals and sea-lions have external ears.
We later checked at feeding time and noticed one youngster giving mum a hard time while he rotated around all four rather rapidly. She did not seem impressed and gave him a wallop. It didn't stop him. Hunger always wins over fear.
Galapagos sea-lions are also totally fearless of human beings and love to play with them. That can be startling and exhilarating when you are snorkelling along, engrossed in looking at the schools of colourful fish and minding your own business, when a sleek dark-brown express rocket with flippers flashes past and then spirals around you, seemingly laughing at this slow lumbering pale imitation sea-lion with plastic flippers.
Oh, and sea-lions are incredibly cute, according to the female members of our party. They certainly know how to relax, even when the bed is sharp and stony.
This female wandered out of the surf on one side of the island, spent half an hour basking in the sun, then waddled across the island to say g'day and give a kiss to the bull on the other side of the island then headed off to sea again for dinner.
There are three basic types - or genders - of Galapagos sea-lion. Bull males; females and loser males.
The bulls are enormous and tend to get aggressive if you stray too close to their harem of females. He has two aims in life. To guard and protect his harem and the land and water he considers his territory and to service that harem to produce lots of cute baby sea-lions. To become the boss he fights off all-comers; that's why he is usually the biggest boy around. But that also means he has to fight off the sharks when they come around looking for dinner and that can distract him for long periods at sea away from the ladies.
The loser males congregate away from the harems to lick their wounds. The losers we saw had plenty of battle scars - those fights are in deadly earnest.
But maybe they should give in easier. Our guide told us that if he is reincarnated he wants to return as a loser male sea-lion. They laze around in the sun all day when they aren't eating fish from the bountiful Galapagos supplies. But when the boss is out at sea fighting sharks the losers drop in to keep his ladies company; it's good for the gene pool and great for the losers...possibly a misnomer there...
The losers on Plaza Island congregate near this cliff. Despite their apparent clumsiness on land when walking on front flippers and using the back flippers like the middle leg in a three-legged race they are surprisingly agile. This fellow climbed very patiently up the steep, slippery, rocky path to get to his favourite sunny spot on the cliff-top for a siesta. He was a bit like me climbing to the top on Bartolome Island (more on that later); slow, lots of stops to pause for breath, but eventually he made it.