In October I was fortunate to be a guest aboard a friend’s boat for 9 days, diving the islands north of La Paz, Mexico. One of our goals was to obtain visuals of the Archipelago Espiritu Santo as part of an effort to support legislative proposals seeking greater environmental protections for the area. The Archipelago, consisting of three islands — Isla Partida, Los Islotes and Isla Espiritu Santo — is considered by many to be the most beautiful island group in the Sea of Cortez. Following is a rough edit, a sampler, of some of the video we obtained. Be sure to click the small gear at lower right and select “1080 HD”. Cheers and thanks for watching!
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 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
I love diving in the Sea of Cortez in the Fall. The water is warm, the weather is often serene, the diving easy and fun. And there are some amazing rookeries of sea lions, including the world famous Los Islotes island in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve. So I was pleased when a photograph from my last visit to the Sea of Cortez ended up on this month’s cover of Sport Diver. Thanks Sport Diver and Seapics who arranged the photo use! If you like this cute sealion, be sure to see more Sea Lion Photos and more photos from the Sea of Cortez. Cheers and thanks for looking!
Los Islotes, the small island just off the northern end of Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez, is my favorite place in the world for photographing California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus). These wonderful pinnipeds are very comfortable with the presence of, and famous for the willingness to interact with, divers in the water. Shooting portraits of sea lions is a piece of cake, the photos almost take themselves. Plus the diving tends to be shallow and calm so bottom times of a two hours can be easily had. Here are a few of my picks from my last visit to Los Islotes a few years ago. Cheers, and thanks for looking!
Los Islotes is a small island at the northern end of Isla Espiritu Santo, near La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Espiritu Santo Island and Partida Island are two beautiful desert islands, scalloped with gorgeous white sand beaches. Bird nest on their rugged slopes, and cardon cacti grow in abundance. All three of these islands are part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, named a UNESCO Biosphere due to the area’s biodiversity and beauty. I have had the good fortune to cruise along both shores of Espiritu Santo and Partida but most of my time has been spent at Isla Los Islotes, diving and relaxing. In addition to the sea lions, these waters are full of many Sea of Cortez fishes. However, when I am at Los Islotes I basically ignore all else and just enjoy my time swimming with and photographing los lobos marinos.
We celebrated the Christmas holiday in Cabo San Lucas. I had hoped to perhaps make a few good images of pristine, lonely, white-sand beaches, the ones I recall from my last visit to Cabo San Lucas in 1985. Alas, resort development has taken over the coastline. So I hired an ultralight and made some aerial photos of the existing resort development and new resort construction, from the scenic El Arco (the arch) at Land’s End, over the harbor and then along the coast from Cabo San Lucas harbor east and north to Chileno Bay, including long Medano Beach and quaint Bahia Santa Maria. Perhaps these images will be picked up for editorial use. Below are a few of my favorites; if you like these, you can see more aerial photos of Cabo San Lucas on my website. The flight was sure fun! Cheers and thanks for looking!
Punta Ballena, Faro Cabesa Ballena (foreground), Medano Beach and Land’s End (distance). Residential and resort development along the coast near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Image ID: 28930
Location: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico
Art Wolfe hosts the biennial International Conservation Photography Awards (“ICP Awards”). One of my images was honored in the 2010 edition of the competition, so I decided to try again this year. My photograph of a young California sea lion entangled in monofilament fishing line, taken in the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve in Baja California, was selected in the “Natural Environment At Risk” category, which seems quite fitting given the competition is meant to highlight conservation and issues relating to the natural world. Thank you Art and ICP Awards! To see all the recognized images — and you should since there are some spectacular photos in this year’s competition — check out: http://icpawards.com/2012winners.php
Photo of Panamic Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax castaneus
While I was in Mexico’s beautiful Sea of Cortez doing some diving last November, I spent time photographing the Panamic Green Moray eels (Gymnothorax castaneus). These eels are quite common, often found underneath large boulders and overhangs. They are typically content to remain in their holes, extending just their heads outside, but once in a while they will swim freely across the reef and only then is their large size easily seen. These are big eels!
Los Islotes is a small island at the northern end of Isla Espiritu Santo, near La Paz in the Sea of Cortez. Espiritu Santo Island and Partida Island are two beautiful desert islands, scalloped with gorgeous white sand beaches. Bird nest on their rugged slopes, and cardon cacti grow in abundance. All three of these islands are part of the Espiritu Santo Biosphere Reserve, named a UNESCO Biosphere due to the area’s biodiversity and beauty. I have had the good fortune to cruise along both shores of Espiritu Santo and Partida but most of my time has been spent at Isla Los Islotes, diving and relaxing. These waters are full of many Sea of Cortez fishes, and Los Islotes itself is home to a renowned colony of California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus). I am a real lover of sea lions and fur seals, and spend as much time diving with them as I can, so when I am at Los Islotes I basically ignore all else and just enjoy my time with these gregarious and charming animals. Here are a few recent photos of Los Islotes, the sea lions, Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo. Thanks for looking!