Swimming With the Sea Lions of Los Islotes

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At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions in place worldwide, we launched a brand new collection — The World Through a Lens — through which photojournalists assist transport you, nearly, to a few of our planet’s most lovely and intriguing locations. This week, Benjamin Lowy shares a set of images from an underwater shoot off the coast of Baja.


Nestled off the coast of Baja California Sur, near La Paz, lies a string of islands within the Sea of Cortez — together with Isla Espíritu Santo and Isla Partida. Part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and one in all Mexico’s main eco-tourism locations, these islands, together with their surrounding reefs and outcrops, are home to numerous types of marine life.

At the northern tip of the chain, simply past Isla Partida, is a small craggy outcrop — roughly 1 / 4 mile lengthy — known as Los Islotes, or Isla Lobos. Here, the place few individuals have entry, lives a big colony of sea lions.

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I visited the realm on one in all my first underwater assignments, after years spent overlaying battle, politics and sports activities. Diving there was a transformational expertise. Alone, floating within the open water, I discovered peace amongst these playful animals, generally known as “dogs of the sea.”

Sea lions actually do look like canine: They play fetch with rocks, starfish and the occasional bone, they usually typically appear enamored by the few people who swim with them. They continuously nibbled at my fins, or stared at their reflection within the dome of my underwater digicam housing.

Swimming across the circumference of Los Islotes is feasible, although the water in some areas is sort of shallow, and entry is commonly restricted by tour guides. Young adolescent sea lions could be seen taking part in within the surf and sunbathing on rocks. The bark of dominant males echoes above and beneath the water as they patrol the ocean for threats to the colony and to their rule. Above the water, the animals populate each rocky outcropping, mendacity prostrate within the solar.

Each facet of Los Islotes gives a distinct have a look at the ocean lions’ habits. Massive rocks jut from the seabed on the northern facet, having eroded off the island way back. The sea lions frolic forwards and backwards in these underwater obstacles, chasing one another by means of the rocky crevices.

The southern facet of the island is the place the males sit and sunbathe. Territorial and ferocious, these gigantic males could be harmful and ought to be given a large berth.

Near the japanese tip of the island is a huge arch that rises from the ocean. There, divers can drop all the way down to 50 ft, stare up and watch the silhouettes of sea lions as they swim from one facet of the island to the opposite.

Perhaps most charming of all: Hidden on the southern facet of the islands, inside a small but simply accessible underwater cave, is a sea lion “nursery.” Small juveniles dart forwards and backwards below the watchful eye of older females.

Unfortunately, even these protected sea lions can’t keep away from the encroachment of people; they will often be seen with fishing line wrapped round their necks, which might result in an infection and dying. And therein lies a part of the problem for native marine park rangers and scientists: learn how to strike the precise stability between conservation, schooling and eco-tourism.

In a method, it’s much like the stability I attempt to strike myself: My mission as a photographer is to speak what I see and expertise to an viewers. My mission as a father is to coach my youngsters concerning the world round them, and concerning the conservation of the atmosphere.

Many of those pictures have been made with my spouse and boys by my facet. (These waters, in spite of everything, are the place my son discovered learn how to scuba dive below the tutelage of a lifelong good friend.) And I’ve but to discover a photographic topic that has introduced me extra peace and tranquillity than swimming with the ocean lions of Los Islotes.


Benjamin Lowy is an American photojournalist primarily based in New York City. You can observe his work on Instagram and Twitter.