The howls of the “sea wolves” in Cabo Polonio

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I am the walrus…

As if he were King of the Atlantic, the gigantic, beefy creature eyes us loftily, his head and neck – hidden somewhere under masses of brown blubber – stretched up towards the blue sky.

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Furry friend: Sea lion basking on the rock

Without taking his eyes off the two strange upright beasts cowering on a rock a few metres in front, he slowly lifts his lengthy flipper and starts casually scratching at his body.

Then comes the roar – guttural and gruff. Now I know why they are called sea lions.

Of course here, in the remote Uruguayan fishing village of Cabo Polonio, whose human population of around 80 live in brightly painted wooden beach shacks, they’re dubbed “sea wolves” (lobos marinos), which for me doesn’t quite do the imposing animal justice.

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Surround seal sound

Phil and I have spent a fascinating hour mingling with one of the largest sea lion colonies in South America.

From what we could tell with our vast scientific inexperience, they while away their time hunting fish in the cool, choppy waters before lazing for hours upon hours on the peninsular rocks battered by crashing waves below an iconic lighthouse.

What’s most impressive is the speed the beasts can move their stuff when they need to, and the (relative) grace they display in leaping from one rock to another.

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Chilling out with a belly full of fish

Unlike its more glitzy, tourist-friendly beach neighbour Punta del Este, Cabo Polonio quietly exists in a world of its own amid the area’s vast sand dunes.

There is little electricity or fresh water and the only way to get here is atop a giant truck that bumps and rolls its way across the rugged land.

Phil and I go for a stroll along the long, secluded beach where local fishermen are knee-deep hauling their nets. We collect iridiscent purple mussel shells as the wind whips the sand around us.

When we return back to the rocks, our heavy, fat friends are still lounging motionless on their fronts or backs.

They only move when a fellow beast disturbs their slumber when trying to get to the sea or back to its rock, which prompts a loud and often violent display of aggression. Boy, are these guys touchy about their territory.

It’s almost like Phil and I with our one laptop, but marginally more bloody.

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Phil gets up close and personal with the sea lions

About travellingtoothbrushes

We are a couple of journalists with restless toothbrushes. Our teeth scrubbers seem unable to leap out of their respective washbags to take up a permanent residency on the bathroom shelf. So, we've decided to let them live the way they want to and take them on a trip around South America...
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