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South America

Peru: Swimming with Sea Lions at the Galapagos Islands

by Catriona Spence

‘OK here is a good spot’, shouted the skipper to all on the boat. Excited, I was the first to jump into the water, keeping my fingers crossed that this might be my lucky day.

Juvenile Galapagos Sea Lions are known for their playfulness and lack of shyness when it comes to swimming with people. Before reaching the Galapagos Islands I had been reading reviews about the adventures of other travellers, their encounters with wildlife and their amazement by its abundance, but I didn’t quite believe it to be true and so lowered my expectations for the trip. However, I was hoping I just might get the opportunity to swim with a wild sea lion.

It was the third day of the trip and we were in the vicinity of Pinnacle Rock, off Bartolomé Island. The crystal blue waters, warm in December, were extremely inviting after climbing to the top of Bartolomé Island in the scorching midday heat. The views out over the sea and rock formations were wonderful, but a chance to cool down was not going to be missed. My brother, having got sunburnt, had decided to stay on the boat; a decision he might later regret.

Snorkel and mask on, I swam around the shallow waters near to the beach, spotting only a few fish. To my amazement, as I turned round, I saw a juvenile sea lion following me. Although my mask distorted the distance between us, I couldn’t believe how close he was. His big, brown, kind-looking eyes looked straight at me and he swam closer before doing a somersault as if to say come on, play with me. Amazed, I copied him and somersaulted in the shallow water. He mimicked me, so I did him and there it continued for what seemed an age, before he casually swam off into the distance to join the other sea lions. Incredible! I shouted over to my dad, eager to tell someone what had just happened and he also said he had been swimming with another sea lion.

After lowering my expectations, I can now say I fully agree with the reports I had read before visiting the Galapagos Islands. They are stunning and full of wildlife encounters you can only dream of. My brother, despite his regret that day, did get another chance to swim with a sea lion before we left.

Interested in experiencing the Galapagos Islands for yourself? Consider combining the best of the Galapagos and Peru with a tour to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos.