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