Santa Fe Island, also known as Barrington, is home to a large colony of Galapagos sea lions. The two beaches that make up part of its amazing landscape are home to a large number of female sea lions that get together every year to give birth, nurse, and raise their pups. Talk about wildlife sisterhood! When visiting this amazing island, our guests often marvel at the amount of life they encounter, and the peaceful interactions that occur between the species.
This Galapagos Big15 favorite, despite sometimes being a little stinky, melts everyone’s heart with its playful nature and puppy eyes. In this blog, get ready to witness a sea of sea lions on Santa Fe Island (which you can visit on our Eastern Islands itinerary)!
Male sea lions, also known as Beach Masters, work very hard to keep their harems along the beach and younger “sneaky” males out of the reach of females. Males are even known to go through long periods of fasting in order to not leave their beach unguarded. Females, on the other hand, always search for the males that will provide the best genetic material.
Therefore, females can be demanding when it comes to finding a suitable mate. A female sea lion will give birth to one pup a year. Although, on rare occasions, we have been able to spot twins. Having one pup every year gives a higher survival rate. If the first pup does not make it, a second pup will take its place the following year.
Today we watched some playful sea lion pups by the beach. Surfing with the waves, and playing with crabs and other objects they found on the shore. It was quite a joyful sight. Eventually, they started calling their mothers – a call that resembles that of goats. Females have the instinct to recognize their own pup amongst the crowd by following its distinctive call and smell. It’s by the smell that the female knows which pup to nurse.
Nursing periods may last as long as one year, sometimes two when there is excess nourishment available. This interesting behavior has been observed in the Galapagos sea lion more than in any other species of Pinniped. It’s fascinating to watch how the sea lions engage in playful activities and interact with our guests. Their behavior and curiosity, displayed at practically every visitor site, overwhelms everyone visiting the Galapagos Islands.
The group of sea lion pups that we spotted playing at the shore on this day wanted to interact with everything around them. Some were pulling the marine iguana’ tails as the reptiles made their way back to the sea. Others chased the sally lightfoot crabs without really harming them. Apparently, moray eels are among one of their favorite toys. We actually got to observe some Galapagos sea lions pulling the moray eels out of the rocks when coming back from a swim. In this case, it was not a pretty sight, as they chewed them until the eel was dead and then they left it laying on the beach. And this is just a snippet of how these fantastic creatures keep on surprising us during our expeditions. Santa Fe Island is such an amazing place: the beach, the rock formations, the giant Opuntias prickly pear cacti, the endemic land iguana, and the playful sea lion pups. They all make this place a unique spot in the archipelago.