Sea Lions of La Paz

By Brian Siegel

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As a scuba diver, I’m always making lists of places to go and things I wish I could see.  The ever-growing diver’s bucket list…

A few of the animals on my bucket list are whale sharks, hammerheads, manta rays, and those adorable sea lion pups. The sea lions in particular have been on my mind for a while.  I saw an amazing video of them playing with divers off the coast of California, but always thought it would be a challenge to get to those dive sites. That was until I discovered that there are sea lion colonies near Cabo San Lucas in La Paz, Mexico!

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La Paz is a 2-hour drive from the Cabo Airport. Situated by the Sea of Cortez, La Paz still retains the feel of an authentic fishing town not yet transformed by tourism, and has a beautiful Malecon from which to enjoy beautiful sunsets and views of the Sea Of Cortez. I chose to spend a week there for the best chance to see the sea lions. What I didn’t realize was that in the winter, there was a 100% chance I’d get to swim with whale sharks, and a very good chance I’d see humpback whales too! At other times of year, you can also see hammerhead sharks, and manta and mobula rays. But back to the sea lions.

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An hour-and-a-half by boat and approximately 27 miles North from La Paz is Los Islotes, a pair of craggy islets home to a large colony of approximately 400 sea lions. In this area, June and July is the birthing season, immediately followed by mating season. In October, the pups have matured enough to play with divers, often swimming loops around them, and by December, they’re so confident that they bite fins and snorkels. There are several companies in the area that will take you out to dive or snorkel. The day I went, about 5 minutes into our journey, our captain spotted a juvenile humpback whale. He stopped and we spent 15 minutes watching as it put on an incredible show breaching many times. That was my first time seeing whales in the wild and it was an indescribable experience!

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About one-and-a-half hours later we approached Los Islotes. We were immediately greeted by the unmistakable sounds of sea lion barks and soon saw them sunning themselves on the rocks and playing in the water. Entering the water, we saw them immediately. The larger ones were curious, but kept their distance. The juveniles though were like puppy dogs. They would swim right at us and turn away at the very last second. Eventually, some became more comfortable with us and started pulling gently at our fins, cameras, masks, etc. Some of them even let us touch and pet them! They liked nipping at our hands and once they became accustomed to our presence they seemed to enjoy the physical contact. I can’t guarantee that you’ll have our experience, but I can guarantee that you’ll see these friendly pinnipeds up close while snorkeling or diving around La Paz.

Believe it or not, the trip I was on included whale sharks too. On the way back, our Captain radioed ahead to find out where they were located. When we found them, we were able to swim with several whale sharks for as long as we desired. There were no crowds, just our boat.

I can’t imagine a better day on the water. If you'd like to see more, check out this video of my fun experience in Los Islotes:

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Ocean Geographic Explorer (OGX) is a diving adventure resource with a special focus on marine photography and ocean conservation. Our content is divided up into six primary categories: Travel, Sea Science,  Equipment, Photography &Video, Conservation, and Lifestyle. We endeavor be a portal for people with all levels of interest in the marine environment  to learn about and become part of a community of like-minded ocean lovers who enjoy sharing their knowledge of and experiences in our fascinating ocean world.

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