California Sea Lions at Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lions underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

California sea lions underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31205
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

In October, Tracy and I joined our friends Mike and Sherry, Skip, Shirley, Barb and Walt for 9 wonderful days diving in the Sea of Cortez around La Paz. It was the first time Tracy and I had been diving together for any length of time in 18 years. It was so much fun to be back in the water together and the Sea of Cortez in Fall is about as relaxed, easy, warm and fun as can be. Los Islotes, a small island just north of Espiritu Santo, is famous for its rookery of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus). I love diving there, more than perhaps any other place in the Sea of Cortez, and in particular like being there early or late in the day when there are no day boats around. (I could have spent the entire trip at Islotes, but fortunately for the others we did venture north to some relatively unexplored, colorful and fishy reefs that Mike has found over the years and keeps under wraps.) Islotes was as fishy as I have ever seen it, with enormous dense polarized schools of sardines along with pargo and other larger reef fish which the Sea of Cortez used to have in abundance but which are now harder to find. Los Islotes does have some legal protections against fishing, and these protections help to keep the waters around Islotes reasonably full of big fish and other marine life. But Islotes is also under threat of illegal fishing, and it is only through vigilance by those who care about a healthy Sea of Cortez that the laws that are on the books will mean something. Seawatch has made some progress on this front, but its difficult to keep eyes on Islotes 24-hours a day.

Here are some of my favorite images from our October dives around Islotes. I don’t keep a log any more but I would guess I spent about 30 hours underwater just photographing the sea lions, really getting to know several adult groups and having a great time watching how one bull in particular would manage his harem of females over the course of 4-5 days, not to mention the 30+ pups that would play with us at the edge of his territory. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California sea lion underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

California sea lion underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31206
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion underwater in beautiful sunset light, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion underwater in beautiful sunset light
Image ID: 31208
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Young California sea lion pups underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico, Zalophus californianus

Young California sea lion pups underwater, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31209
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion blowing underwater bubbles as it stands on its flippers, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion blowing underwater bubbles as it stands on its flippers
Image ID: 31210
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Blue-bronze sea chub schooling, Sea of Cortez, Kyphosus analogus

Blue-bronze sea chub schooling, Sea of Cortez
Image ID: 31213
Species: Blue-bronze Chub, Kyphosus analogus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

California sea lion and school of sardines underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Zalophus californianus

California sea lion and school of sardines underwater, Sea of Cortez, Baja California
Image ID: 31220
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Young sea lion hides in an underwater crevice, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Young sea lion hides in an underwater crevice
Image ID: 31226
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sardines and Scad, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Sardines and Scad, Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Image ID: 31246
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Sea lion harem of females, underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Sea lion harem of females, underwater
Image ID: 31247
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Large adult male sea lion underwater, Zalophus californianus, Sea of Cortez

Large adult male sea lion underwater
Image ID: 31248
Species: California sea lion, Zalophus californianus
Location: Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico