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On the last night of our trip, we spent a night in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, the capital of the Galápagos Islands. In the small town of 5,000 people, crowds flocked to the open-air bars, pick-up trucks ambled slowly down the main strip and children clamoured over a swing set, just steps from the beach. If it were not for the loud sneezes, snores and barks – it would have been a completely peaceful night. Because for every one person out in the harbour, there were at least two sea lions commanding a spot on the shore.

In the wild, we had only seen 10 to 20 sea lions together at one time, but in town, hundreds covered every centimetre of the beach along Shipwreck Bay. They lounged in the shallows beneath a waterslide clearly meant for children and they dominated the wooden boardwalk and stone piers, staking a claim on the best seaside property on the strip. We sat for a bit watching the kids playing in the park, and a young boy playing with a red ball caught my eye. He passed it back and forth with a friend, kicking it along the playground sand, until he missed it and it rolled right to the base of a park bench, where two 4ft sea lions were lounging. The little boy ran to the bench without hesitation, grabbed the ball and the sea lion barely stirred. Neither feared the other and both felt at home.

Of course, when we tried to gingerly walk past, the sea lion happily reminded us that this was his bench, as he rose up aggressively and began a bark that seemed to set off every other previously-slumbering sea lion. Clearly, even in the capital city, animals have the right of way and most of the humans are just visiting.

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