Happy napping sea lion

Sloth defined

Sea lions will nap just about anywhere. This one chose a ledge just above the surf on Kicker Rock off San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.

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An underwater rocket of blubber and teeth

Fire!

A sea lion off Kicker Rock shoots past me on a dive near San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.

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When sea lions attack!?!

Bum rushed by a sea lion

OK. So they don’t actually attack. They’re actually just playing around. Maybe they’ll nip a fin in what amounts to an underwater game of tug-of-war.

But the first time a playful bugger rushes you, it’s a bit jarring. Below is a series of photos that dramatically captures a vicious (ha!) sea lion “attack.” off the coast of San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands.

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Non-human dive buddy?

Dive buddy

A Galapagos sea lion popped into view to check me out on a dive off Frigate Bird Hill on San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.

He must have known I was super cold, as the water temp on that dive dipped to about 57 Fahrenheit (14 Celsius). Brrrrrr…

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Sea lions of San Cristobal

Growl

The sea lion parade continues. They alternate between goofing off and lazing around everywhere. They’re cute, photogenic and smelly. See below.

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One heckuva beach

Lava rocks and white sand

Los Lobos, a stop on most tour visits to Kicker Rock near San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos is an absolute afternoon treat. Sea lions laze in the shade or play in the water. The waters, though cold, are crystal. Those famous Galapagos finches flit and flutter everywhere.

See below.

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Lazy Galapagos wildlife

Sea lions meet the definition of sloth

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their wildlife, which while not tame, is mostly unafraid of humans. They’re really quite lazy when it comes to any sense of fear.

One reason: most native animals are protected by National Park rules (invasive, imported goats, for example, are practically shot on sight). The island system also lacks major predators other than people. Above, sea lions chill out on a buoy in the Baltra channel. Below, a marine iguana sits passively on a seawall. A Sally Lightfoot crab hunts in the blurry background.

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Sea lions and fishmongers

Begging for scraps

The small-scale fish market in Puerto Ayora draws a crowd every day as fishermen bring, gut and hawk in their catch. And that’s not just a crowd of people.

Sea lions and pelicans also gather to pilfer and pinch scraps and sometimes whole fish. It’s a comical scene, as the fishermen are not technically allowed — National Park rules — to swat or otherwise harm the pesky-but-cute critters.

This is small-scale fishing that is generally far more sustainable (and in the Galapgos, more regulated) than elsewhere in the developing world. It’s also a significant part of the local economy, one affected by tourism, as restaurants and, at least, boats buy locally.

But having been underwater for many hours in the islands and having talked to a number of activists, it seems clear that the ocean flora and fauna remain under significant pressure.

More photos of the fishmongers below.

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One smelly, ugly, cute mug

The Galapagos version of a street dog

All over the Galapagos Islands, sea lions enjoy a special place of privilege. On the one hand, they’re protected native wildlife; on the other hand, they’re everywhere and a regular feature of docks and marinas and empty boats and piers and beaches, well, anywhere they can flop about.

They really are a bit like stray dogs or cats in any major American city, except they’re far more prominent. I spent more than a little bit of time goofing off and photographing the lazy but cute-in-an-ugly-sort-of-way bastards.

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