San Cristobal Travel Blog› entry 9 of 17 › view all entries
An overnight voyage sees us at our next Island San Cristobal.The fifth largest and easternmost island of the Galapagos. It is comprised of three or four fused volcanoes, all extinct. Its name comes from the Patron Saint of Travellers, St.Christopher.
Its older English name of Chatham is named after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It is home to the oldest permanent settlement of the islands and is the island where Darwin first went ashore in 1835.
The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal is the capital of the Galapagos province. It is home to many government offices, an Ecuadorian Navy facility, and an airport with daily flights to the mainland. There are approximately 5,400 residents, making it home to the second largest human population in Galapagos, after Santa Cruz.
We are here mainly to see the Seal Lion rookery which is on a beautiful beach 10 minutes outsde of town. Like most of the animals they seem totally unafraid of people and come up to investigate us. We are warned however not to get to close to the bulls as they can be aggressive when protecting their Harems.
The Galapagos Sea Lion or Zalophus Wollebaeki to give it it's latin name ,is one of 16 species of Eared Seals. Eared seals differ from the true seals in having small external earflaps and hind flippers that can be turned to face forwards.
Together with strong front flippers, this gives them extra mobility on land and an adult fur seal can move extremely fast across the beach if it has to. They also use their front flippers for swimming, whereas true seals use their hind flippers.
Adult males are much larger than females and are brown in colour while females are a lighter tan. Adult males are also distinguished by their raised foreheads, and the hair on the crest may be a lighter colour. Juvenile Galápagos sea lions are chestnut brown in colour and measure around 75 cm at birth.
Each colony is dominated by one bull that aggressively defends his territory from invading bachelor males. This territorial activity occurs throughout the year and males hold their territories for only 27 days or so before being displaced by another male. Within this territory the bull has dominance over a group of between 5 and 25 cows.
The breeding season is not dependent on migration patterns, as seen in other sea lion species, since the Galápagos sea lion remains around the Galápagos Archipelago all year round. In fact the breeding season is thought to vary from year to year in its onset and duration, though it usually lasts 16 to 40 weeks between June and December.
Births therefore also take place throughout the year, with females coming ashore to give birth to a single pup.