Missy John­ston, northrop-John­son yacht char­ters new­port The Gala­pa­gos Is­lands, aboard the 124-foot (34-me­ter) Pic­chiotti Stella Maris

Yachts International - - On Charter -

Ifound the Gala­pa­gos to be ex­tra­or­di­nary. Be­cause the wild ma­rine and bird life is so un­afraid, given their lim­ited ex­po­sure to hu­mans, we were able to sit right next to a sea lion who had just given birth. We watched the sea lion pup nurse for the first time. The mother moved, be­cause an­other young pup came over and wanted a snack as well; she reared up and, with her nose, pushed the other pup away.

We were watch­ing all of that, and we were also watch­ing on the beach. Once the pup is a lit­tle bit older, the pups stay on shore, try­ing to be hid­den, and mom has to go out and search for food. They can be gone a day or two. We watched one sea lion pup as her mother was re­turn­ing. The pup was call­ing out for the mother, and in the waves, the mom was surf­ing in. It was re­ally quite some­thing. And it’s ter­rific be­cause you have the nat­u­ral­ist with you, ex­plain­ing the en­tire thing and all the dy­nam­ics of why the pup is on the shore, hid­den in the sea­weed and un­der­growth, wait­ing for the mom to come surf­ing in.

Then at a dif­fer­ent an­chor­age, the ju­ve­nile sea lions love to play in the vol­canic for­ma­tions from where the lava hits the wa­ter. There are a lot of cav­erns and tun­nels above and be­low the wa­ter. The ju­ve­niles love to play hide and seek, and they in­clude peo­ple in the games. I swam over—you re­ally shouldn’t ever touch the wildlife— but I got to be there, and we had three ju­ve­nile sea lions, and they were frol­ick­ing and play­ing in and out of the tun­nels and caves. They saw me and came over, and I had to swim back­wards be­cause one of the sea lions got right in my face. It wanted to sniff my snor­kel­ing mask. It just wanted to play. I was part of its play­time. That went on for about 20 min­utes. You could swim and swim with them.

It was the coolest and the most in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of any­where I’ve been.

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