Penguins & sea lions play with thrilled swimmers at the equator

When most people think of penguins, we usually think of Antarctica, yet only 7 of the 17 known penguin species live there. This small penguin actually lives and thrives at the equator. It is the Galapagos penguin and it finds an abundance of food around the remote islands such as Fernandina, due to the convergence of powerful ocean currents. One of the three main ocean currents, the Humboldt, brings with it cold water and this creates the perfect habitat for anchovies, sardines, and mullet. These fish are the main species that make up the diet of the Galapagos penguins. Flightless birds, they are amazingly agile in the water. Penguins are capable hunters, able to reach speeds of 35km/h (20mph) underwater, using their powerful flippers. These penguins are perfectly at home in the surf, but they spend much of their day on the rocky shores of the Galapagos Islands. They take shelter at night in crevices and caves in the lava debris along the shore. These swimmers were scuba diving in the nearby waters off Fernandina but they passed close to shore as they returned to their dive boat. They hopped in the water to explore a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline. As they were snorkeling in the blue waters near shore, they were joined by sharks, curious penguins, and playful sea lions. The penguins hunted and paid little attention to the swimmers, although they came close for a curious inspection a few times. The sea lions however, rolled and cavorted, inviting the clumsy humans to play and follow them as they dashed back and forth and all around them. Sea lions are truly the clowns of the ocean, seemingly laughing and eager to have fun with anyone who enters their domain. The sea lion even tried to catch one of the penguins in what seemed to be a game, but the penguin was not amused. Wisely, penguins avoid sea lions as they are also known to prey on penguins when the opportunity arises. Penguins and sea lions are both hunted by large sharks, making life in these waters hazardous for both of them. The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most fascinating and beautiful animals on the planet. Many of the remote areas such as this one see so few humans that the animals here have very little reason to fear them. Although people must keep a respectful distance, it is not uncommon to find that the animals here will approach humans curiously if they are careful and quiet. The swimmers in this group enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience as they played with sea lions and penguins in their own habitat and on their own terms.

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