Mammals, like reptiles, arrived in the Galápagos by sea. On their own volition, earlier generations of sea lions, fur seals and dolphins swam here. Their progeny now inhabit the area year-round. We spent joyful hours watching marine mammals and learned many things about all the area inhabitants from our naturalist guide, Pedro.
Pinnipeds are carnivores having four flipper limbs. Sea lions and fur seals are part of this order. Fur seals frequent James Bay along Santiago Island. A colony of over 200 sea lions live along Gardner Bay on Española Island. What are some of the differences between these super swimmers? Sea lions have ear flaps, long and hairless fore flippers and long, smooth whiskers. Fur seals have ear holes, short and hairy fore flippers with long claws and crimped or beaded whiskers. These mammals are numerous throughout the islands, so get ready for a slew of pictures:
“I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille.”
Here the sea lions coexist with tourists
Sea lion siesta time
A group of sea lions soaking up rays on the beach
This unfortunate young cub had an encounter with a shark but survived — for now. There is always a chance that infection could set in. Our naturalist advised us that park staff would be notified about this cub so that appropriate care could be provided
Sea lion posing for the camera
Look, Ma! No cavities!
Sea lion in the surf
Our group walks among the sea lions to get from point A to point B. While we were all well behaved, and warned to stay away from the animals, such close proximity can pose problems for the sea lions’ well being
Sea lions by the sea shore
A listing sea lion, heading to the water
Sea lion cubs frolic in the surf
Sea lions on the beach
Another group of marine mammals, cetaceans, includes dolphins. They range in length from 6 – 12 feet and average 330 – 440 pounds. Males live thirty years and females live to about forty years. On our in-bound flight to the Galápagos, starting several miles off the coast of San Cristóbal island, we saw pods of bottle-nosed dolphins. In five minutes, we saw more dolphins than in our entire lives. Later in the trip, we were interrupted one lunchtime by the captain announcing dolphins off the bow of the ship. We delighted in watching a pod of about eight individuals, porpoising and riding the bow wave of the MV San José.
A dolphin jumps near the port side of our boat
These dolphin were running next to the bow of our ship
The impact of people in the Galápagos is a constant concern. To make us aware of the problems and solutions, the Interpretative Center on San Cristóbal has an elaborate display cataloging the first recorded human visit through today. It also has a substantial section on the increase in both population and tourism on the Galápagos and addresses many problems these increases cause.
Our guide, Pedro, discusses these exhibits on the impact of man on the Galapagos Islands. Both sides of the room have panels giving some of the problems caused by increasing resident population and tourism
These satellite images show how the resident population has increased from the 1960’s to 2007 for the three main cities on the Galápagos Islands: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela. Increased tourism requires increased support staff, in turn increasing the need for more people. With more people, infrastructure needs, such as water supply, sewage treatment, and garbage removal, create greater problems for keeping Galápagos as pure of an environment as it has been in the past
A chart showing how the population of the Galápagos Islands is rapidly increasing.
Many displays in the Interpretive Center gave illustrations of problems facing the Galapagos population with solutions that are either proposed or in place. In this case, the problem is providing adequate fresh water
Along the waterfront in San Cristobal. As more business are started to meet tourist needs, more products must be brought to the island
Beautiful downtown San Cristobal
Simple recycling isn’t a choice but rather a necessity if these unique islands are to stay a unique environment.
A sculpture made of trash discarded on the Galápagos Islands
Next up: a scenic overview along the way.