Swimming With the Sea Lions of Los Islotes

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with travel limits in area worldwide, we introduced a new series — The Entire world As a result of a Lens — in which photojournalists support transportation you, nearly, to some of our planet’s most attractive and intriguing areas. This 7 days, Benjamin Lowy shares a collection of images from an underwater shoot off the coast of Baja.

Nestled off the coastline of Baja California Sur, close to La Paz, lies a string of islands in the Sea of Cortez — like Isla Espíritu Santo and Isla Partida. Part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and 1 of Mexico’s foremost eco-tourism locations, these islands, alongside with their encompassing reefs and outcrops, are property to a great number of varieties of marine daily life.

At the northern idea of the chain, just outside of Isla Partida, is a small craggy outcrop — about a quarter mile very long — identified as Los Islotes, or Isla Lobos. Here, wherever couple of men and women have accessibility, life a big colony of sea lions.

I frequented the region on just one of my first underwater assignments, right after decades spent covering war, politics and sports. Diving there was a transformational practical experience. On your own, floating in the open up h2o, I observed peace among these playful animals, often referred to as “dogs of the sea.”

Sea lions genuinely do feel like dogs: They play fetch with rocks, starfish and the occasional bone, and they frequently appear to be enamored by the number of humans who swim with them. They regularly nibbled at my fins, or stared at their reflection in the dome of my underwater digital camera housing.

Swimming all over the circumference of Los Islotes is possible, however the drinking water in some places is really shallow, and access is generally limited by tour guides. Younger adolescent sea lions can be found enjoying in the surf and sunbathing on rocks. The bark of dominant males echoes higher than and down below the water as they patrol the sea for threats to the colony and to their rule. Earlier mentioned the h2o, the animals populate every single rocky outcropping, lying prostrate in the sunshine.

Each aspect of Los Islotes gives a different look at the sea lions’ behaviors. Massive rocks jut from the seabed on the northern facet, acquiring eroded off the island prolonged back. The sea lions frolic again and forth in these underwater road blocks, chasing every single other as a result of the rocky crevices.

The southern aspect of the island is exactly where the males sit and sunbathe. Territorial and ferocious, these gigantic males can be perilous and really should be presented a vast berth.

Around the japanese tip of the island is a large arch that rises from the sea. There, divers can drop down to 50 feet, stare up and look at the silhouettes of sea lions as they swim from just one facet of the island to the other.

Potentially most charming of all: Hidden on the southern side of the islands, within just a compact nonetheless simply obtainable underwater cave, is a sea lion “nursery.” Tiny juveniles dart back and forth below the watchful eye of more mature girls.

Regrettably, even these protected sea lions cannot steer clear of the encroachment of people they can from time to time be found with fishing line wrapped all over their necks, which can guide to an infection and dying. And therein lies aspect of the challenge for nearby maritime park rangers and scientists: how to strike the right stability concerning conservation, training and eco-tourism.

In a way, it is related to the equilibrium I try out to strike myself: My mission as a photographer is to connect what I see and practical experience to an viewers. My mission as a father is to educate my kids about the world around them, and about the conservation of the natural environment.

Numerous of these images have been designed with my spouse and boys by my facet. (These waters, just after all, are in which my son realized how to scuba dive under the tutelage of a lifelong good friend.) And I have yet to locate a photographic issue that has brought me far more peace and tranquillity than swimming with the sea lions of Los Islotes.

Benjamin Lowy is an American photojournalist dependent in New York Metropolis. You can observe his do the job on Instagram and Twitter.

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