A bull sea lion left in charge of a creche of pups.

A bull sea lion looking delighted by being left in charge of a creche of pups.

As we clambered up the rocks, a beach with a small colony of sunbathing sea lions appeared ahead of us. The heads of the sea lions spun round in unison as they heard our approach and by the time we had climbed down off the rocks and waded through the sea to a little cove, most of them had already flopped into the sea. I was sceptical as we stripped down to change into our wetsuits, imagining they would be long gone by the time I could wrestle myself into a neoprene that seemed to be a couple of sizes too small. However before I’d even got my flippers on, their heads had suddenly re-appeared bobbing up and down in the sea directly in front of us. And when we flipped-flapped into the sea and swam out to them, they only backed off for a moment before they came swirling back. On land the sea lions are as ungainly and comical as us in our wetsuits and flippers but unlike us, who remained as laughably clumsy as before, beneath the waves the sea lions transformed. They looked like a cross between a labrador and a mermaid and twirled round us in a beautiful whirlwind of what seemed like dance. They dashed between us and along side us and shot above and below us. At times they darted up to within inches, staring into our masked faces for second, before turning sharply and speeding off as if they were a group of children trying to entice an adult to play a game of tag.

Sea Lion females coming to say hello

The Sea Lion females introducing themselves to our guide Ernesto

They are so enchanting and hypnotising to watch I completely forgot the warning of our guide, Alejandro, to keep an eye on and stay well clear of the male (to whom all the females whirling around us belonged!).  Swimming to the surface to catch my breath I found my self face to face with the moustachioed big bull himself. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to think I was much of a threat and before he changed his mind I paddled furiously backwards to get out of his way.

When and where to see Sea Lions in Argentina

The South American Sea Lion, shockingly, live along the South American coast; from Uruguay all the way down and around Tierra del Fuego and up as far as Ecuador. In Argentina you can see them all year round, though March is particularly good as you can see all the pups.

Patagonian Sea Lion - mother and pups

A mother and pups off the coast of Argentine Patagonia

Author: Hugh MacDermott