Swimming with Sea Lions
27 December 2016 | Los Islotes, Sea of Cortez, Mexico
Almost instantly on entering the water the pups were around us. Swooping and diving and pirouetting around us. They often reminded me of a stunt pilots in aeroplanes. It was quite obvious that they revelled in the experience even though, day after day, their world would be invaded by such odd, ungainly and invasive creatures as us humans. The Sea Lions would swim towards a diver at high speed and then turn sharply just before colliding. Another activity they enjoyed was biting and holding on to a diver's flippers. Not so hard as to cause damage but just enough to get away with. I have no doubt they were enjoying the whole encounter. We did enjoy the experience immensely as did the Sea Lions but I do wonder about limits. There doesn't seem to be any in relation to how many people can be in the water with them at the same time. When we arrived there was probably 6 other people and by the time we left there was around 100 on a dozen different boats, mostly commercial charter boats from La Paz. Later we saw a National Geographic cruise ship anchor there so I guess that would carry possibly 50 or more passengers who all wanted the experience that we were so lucky to have had. Providing such a sought after experience is a valuable opportunity in a country where the people aren't so well off and provides a means of surviving for them and how can anyone argue with that. It's all about balance and hopefully that will be attained and it will be managed in a way that protects the Sea Lion communities and equally in a fair way that is just not by hiking up the cost so only the rich can afford it. It just doesn't seem to be happening now.
After having thoughts of attempting the world's longest raft common sense prevailed and we all moved on. Joseph on Moist headed south back to La Paz to show his dad some of the high life there and the rest of us moved north. A few miles north of Partido are Los Isoltes (The Islets). For many years humans have been coming to this location and swimming with the Sea Lions. I'm not sure what would happen if they weren't used to it - probably the pups and females would swim away and the males would show their displeasure which may well result in being attacked. There are rules at the Los Isoletes: - don't swim at the western end of the islands as this is the territory of the males and don't swim within 15 metres of the colonies and don't hold your fingers out ! - most likely boundaries that have been tested over time. We anchored off the south side in deep water and took our dinghies in and moored them to the buoys provided by the Parks Authority.