Get to know these sociable swimmers
Seeing a sea lion on expedition never gets old! Whether it’s taking a Zodiac up close to a boisterous rookery of Steller sea lions (the largest of the species) in Alaska, or snorkeling among California or Galápagos sea lions, it’s always a thrill to observe these charismatic creatures in the wild. On land, they can rotate their hind flippers forward and “walk” upright on all fours. Powerful fore flippers and flexible bodies help them climb up rocks and maneuver over other rugged terrain, so it’s not uncommon to see them hauled-out in funny places like docks and piers, benches, and even on boats.
As entertaining as they are to see from the surface, the best show is performed under the water. These pinnipeds are incredibly agile swimmers who propel through the sea using unique sweeping motions called “claps.” When a sea lion “claps,” it stretches its fore flippers out to the sides, sweeps them down, then tucks them against the body creating a streamlined torpedo shape. One “clap” lets them glide effortlessly along, leaving the sea lion free to twist or roll with very little additional movement. These sociable animals are also very curious so, while you’re enjoying their balletic antics, don’t be surprised if they swim right up for a look, or even a playful nip on your fins.
Watch the video above to learn more about these endearing marine mammals.