Swimming With the Sea Lions of Los Islotes

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with journey constraints in area around the world, we introduced a new series — The Environment By way of a Lens — in which photojournalists assist transportation you, pretty much, to some of our planet’s most wonderful and intriguing places. This week, Benjamin Lowy shares a collection of pictures from an underwater shoot off the coast of Baja.

Nestled off the coast of Baja California Sur, close to La Paz, lies a string of islands in the Sea of Cortez — which include Isla Espíritu Santo and Isla Partida. Portion of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and one particular of Mexico’s leading eco-tourism places, these islands, alongside with their encompassing reefs and outcrops, are dwelling to a great number of types of marine daily life.

At the northern idea of the chain, just past Isla Partida, is a smaller craggy outcrop — roughly a quarter mile long — termed Los Islotes, or Isla Lobos. Below, the place number of people today have entry, lives a big colony of sea lions.

I visited the space on one particular of my to start with underwater assignments, after yrs spent covering war, politics and sports. Diving there was a transformational expertise. Alone, floating in the open water, I identified peace amongst these playful animals, at times referred to as “dogs of the sea.”

Sea lions truly do seem like canine: They participate in fetch with rocks, starfish and the occasional bone, and they generally seem enamored by the several humans who swim with them. They continually nibbled at my fins, or stared at their reflection in the dome of my underwater digital camera housing.

Swimming all-around the circumference of Los Islotes is achievable, while the drinking water in some places is quite shallow, and entry is generally restricted by tour guides. Youthful adolescent sea lions can be viewed participating in in the surf and sunbathing on rocks. The bark of dominant males echoes above and underneath the drinking water as they patrol the sea for threats to the colony and to their rule. Over the water, the animals populate each rocky outcropping, lying prostrate in the solar.

Every single aspect of Los Islotes gives a unique seem at the sea lions’ behaviors. Large rocks jut from the seabed on the northern side, having eroded off the island extensive in the past. The sea lions frolic back and forth in these underwater obstacles, chasing each individual other by way of the rocky crevices.

The southern aspect of the island is where the males sit and sunbathe. Territorial and ferocious, these gigantic males can be hazardous and should really be specified a wide berth.

Close to the japanese tip of the island is a giant arch that rises from the sea. There, divers can drop down to 50 ft, stare up and enjoy the silhouettes of sea lions as they swim from one side of the island to the other.

Potentially most charming of all: Hidden on the southern side of the islands, within a modest yet effortlessly accessible underwater cave, is a sea lion “nursery.” Small juveniles dart back again and forth under the watchful eye of older women.

Regrettably, even these shielded sea lions can not stay away from the encroachment of individuals they can sometimes be found with fishing line wrapped all around their necks, which can lead to infection and dying. And therein lies portion of the challenge for local maritime park rangers and researchers: how to strike the correct stability involving conservation, instruction and eco-tourism.

In a way, it is identical to the equilibrium I check out to strike myself: My mission as a photographer is to talk what I see and expertise to an audience. My mission as a father is to teach my kids about the world all-around them, and about the conservation of the ecosystem.

Several of these images have been produced with my spouse and boys by my facet. (These waters, right after all, are in which my son learned how to scuba dive less than the tutelage of a lifelong good friend.) And I have but to obtain a photographic topic that has brought me far more peace and tranquillity than swimming with the sea lions of Los Islotes.

Benjamin Lowy is an American photojournalist centered in New York City. You can adhere to his perform on Instagram and Twitter.

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