The Galapagos Islands are so isolated that many animals living there have evolved into entirely new species from their mainland counterparts, and the sea lions that make their home on the islands are no different. They are a subspecies of the California sea lion and can often be seen sunning themselves on the island shores in large groups. Nature travel enthusiasts on International Expeditions’ Galapagos Islands cruises will spend seven days in the constant company of these marine mammals as they sunbathe and splash in the cool Pacific waters.

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

The Galapagos sea lion is about seven to eight feet in length, and one of its more unique features is its ability to operate each tail fin independently. This not only provides the animals with more maneuverability in the water, but makes it easier for them to move around on land. When they are swimming, they rely mainly on their front flippers to propel them through the water. They feast upon fish, octopus and small crustaceans and can dive as deep as 650 feet to find food, but never travel farther than 10 miles from the shore.

Sea lions are family oriented, and their colonies typically include between five and 25 females and one dominant bull. The males are hostile and constantly competing for colonies of female sea lions. This may be due to the fact that the Galapagos sea lion does not have a breeding season that relies on migratory patterns, since they never leave the islands. Sea lion pups are born throughout the year, and the females in a colony will work together to rear their young. The bull helps out by warning his ladies about dangers that may be lurking nearby, such as sharks and even humans, so visitors will not want to stray too close to these wild creatures.

While the Galapagos sea lion population may seem plentiful when you see hundreds of these marine mammals sunning themselves on the beaches between hunts, they are actually endangered. IUCN Redlist reports the species' population has been shrinking over the past three decades due to hunting and the impact of human presence on the islands. Travelers should be sure to keep good eco travel practices in mind when they visit the Galapagos so as not to disturb the habitat of these creatures.

For the latest travel trends and exciting discoveries., visit our Galapagos Islands Travel News section.