The white-sand beach at Gardner Bay on Isla Española is one of the longest in the Galápagos Islands and is known for being a favourite napping and breeding spot for sea lions. Located on the northeastern part of the island, it is said to be one of the most spectacular beaches in the archipelago.
Bull sea lions patrol the beach, while hundreds of females and pups lie in the sun. In the water, young sea lions play, splashing each other and, occasionally, human visitors, with water.
The Galápagos sea lion is a species of sea lion that exclusively breeds on the Galápagos Islands (and on nearby Isla de la Plata, in smaller numbers). They grow to between 150 and 250 centimetres long and adults weigh between 50 and 400 kilograms, with the males being much larger than females. They are very inquisitive and social animals.
These giant sea mammals move clumsily across the beach, using their flippers to ‘walk’ and regularly flop onto the sand for a much needed rest. Once they reach the sea however they transform into incredibly graceful and agile creatures.
The beach is also a popular spot for Española mockingbirds, a species endemic to the island. These birds are fearless and frequently approach visitors, landing on them and inspecting their backpacks in search of food or water.
This mockingbird is slightly larger than other species found in the archipelago and is the only carnivorous mockingbird species, feeding on a variety of insects, turtle hatchlings, sea lion placentas and even baby boobies. With no source of fresh water on the island, the mockingbirds dig holes in the sand and drink sea lion urine to hydrate themselves but are quick to recognise bottles of fresh water. Visitors carrying water bottles are likely to find themselves surrounded by these smart birds in seconds. However, giving water to these birds is banned, as the national park attempts to avoid alternation of the animals’ natural lifestyles.
- Information provided by Haugan Cruises