Hanging Out With Sea Lions at Los Islotes
Los Islotes, Gulf of California — “This is one of the few places where one can swim so easily with sea lions and enjoy them from their perspective,” said John Francis, sea lion expert and wildlife filmmaker, before we jumped into the water swirling around a set of rocky islets known as Los Islotes, on the southern end of the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. We were there with the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration (CRE), on a field inspection inspired by Francis, the committee’s deputy chairman. (National Geographic and the Gulf of California, a Legacy of Research and Conservation)
Francis had given us a lecture before our swim with the sea lions, warning us to keep our hands to ourselves as the curious mammals had been known to give a “playful nip” to people trying to touch them.
We had been decanted from our cruise ship, National Geographic Sea Bird, into the much smaller “Zodiacs” that took us to within a few hundred feet of the rocks where sea lions were basking. Then, in pairs of “buddies”, we were allowed to snorkel to perhaps within 20 feet of the colony.
Our first close encounter with a sea lion was as it swam past, causing a frenzy of feeding by colorful fish in the cloud of feces it left in its wake. With sea lions and fish about us, and many more sea lions and birds on the rocks in front of us, pelicans dive-bombing occasionally alongside, the experience was certainly an immersion in nature.
Los Islotes is the southernmost “rookery” of the California sea lion, an abundant species that can be found —> Read More