The Galapagos Islands are home to many unique and amazing creatures. The islands were formed by volcanic eruptions caused by shifting tectonic plates. Mountains of rock, formed by cooling lava formed the islands that we know today. Life has found this harsh, yet beautiful world and has flourished, despite incredible challenges. Among those creatures are sea lions, the puppy dogs of the ocean. Fun loving and curious, they are endearing and entertaining to watch. This young sea lion is still at an age where it relies on mother's milk. Too young to hunt on its own, it will remain on the safety of the beach or in the shallows until its mother returns from hunting for fish. While it waits, the sea lion is happy to play and explore. Here, it can be seen rolling down the slope of sand to the crashing waves so it can be carried up onto the beach. It then rolls down again, only to catch the next wave up. The fun will continue for hours. Sea lions also spend a lot of time playing with each other, on the sand and in the tide pools or shallow water in the bay. They would be a tasty treat for sharks if they ventured out into the deep. Sea lions grow to be massive, powerful creatures with teeth like a huge dog. Extremely agile swimmers, they have no trouble hunting or defending themselves once mature, but at this size, they are very vulnerable. A large male sea lion can be seen patrolling the shallows just offshore. Approximately seven feet in length and over 500lbs, there are few predators that would take a chance at trying to eat him. His huge teeth and powerful jaws are formidable and his agility in the water makes him a capable threat to even a large shark. Sea lions are fiercely protected by law, and by the people of Ecuador. Their value as a tourism attraction, and as a crucial part of the delicate balance of nature and wildlife on these islands, encourages strict rules regarding human interaction and interference. Authorities on the beach will correct any tourist who violates the strictly enforced rule of maintaining a two meter distance from the animals. The sea lions seem to understand that they are in no danger and they do not mind being observed respectfully as they play. While in the water, humans are often a curiosity for sea lions and young ones will approach swimmers to play and mimic their movements. This is the one exception to the two meter rule and it is the sea lions who often break it, much to the swimmers' delight. Having sea lions circle and play with you in the water is a delightful experience. Their whiskered faces seem to be perpetually smiling and their desire for fun is obvious.
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