Strolling along the powdery, white sand of Cerro Brujo - one first stops on International Expeditions’ Galapagos Islands cruises - visitors can expect to spot blue-footed boobies and finches as they hop about on the beach. However, it is likely that the most memorable encounter they will have will be with a Galapagos sea lion.

"Swimming with the sea lions was one of the most unforgettable highlights of the Galapagos trip,” said recent Galapagos traveler John Newman.

These playful animals are the smallest of the Otariidae family, which includes other species of fur seals and sea lions. Beachcombers may notice the mammals' agility on land — unlike other species in their family, these sea lions can control their hind flippers independently. This also means they spend less time in the water — only about 70 percent.

The sea lions will be hard to miss on the beaches — the individuals, which range in color from chestnut brown to tan, can grow up to a meter long. They congregate in colonies of about 30 while on land, packing together no matter the amount of space available.

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