“Advice from a Sea Lion: Soak up some sun.
Keep your whiskers clean. Spend time at the beach.
Have a playful spirit. Make a Splash!”
Landings from the exploration boats to the islands of the Galapagos are made by zodiac. Sometimes passengers step from the zodiac into the water and wade ashore. Other times there is a dock or stairs to step onto. On our December cruise we found that such landing places are convenient for more than just people.
One afternoon our zodiac approached a landing staircase, only to find almost every step of the stair had at least one sea lion lying on it. The sun-warmed cement makes a great spa couch, and each step seemed just the right size for one or possibly two smaller sea lions. The sleek animals were impersonating sausages at rest.
In our welcoming orientation to the ship and the islands our naturalist guides had told us not to touch or approach the animals, not to make “kissy noises” or to bother the wildlife in any way. Here was a boatload of invading humans, pondering how best to re-assert dominance and still be somewhat courteous to the creatures in our way. What to do? Creative coexistence was called for.
Our guide stood at the front of the boat holding a folded canvas bag which we would store our life vests in once we landed. He rather politely clapped his hand against the bag, making enough noise to get the sea lions’ attention. They glanced then ignored him. With a bit more waving and clapping, the guide encouraged the sea lions on the lowest steps to slide off into the sea. Once he stepped among them, the animals grudgingly came to life and all eventually vacated the stairs as the visitors walked through without incident.
The loungers did not go far. Before the zodiac had even backed away from the staircase, some sea lions were jockeying to reclaim the best spots and resume their sunbathing.
It would be nice to think that occasional interruption of sunbathing is the only impact which humans have on the natural environment. In the Galapagos, park rules minimize human impact, and are successfully reversing some of the effects suffered during years of settlement (such as population decline and destruction of habitat for some species). Wouldn’t it be nice to see a reversal of humans’ negative impact in the rest of the world too?
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
25 February 2016