Los Islotes is a protrusion of rocks rising sharply out of the Sea of Cortez off the tip of Espiritu Santa Island in Baja, Mexico. As you approach it, you are awed by gnarled shapes of the rugged guana covered cliffs. It’s not until you get close that you realize there are hundreds of golden-colored sea lions lazing on the rocks. These wild creatures have chosen Los Islotes as a rookery and, if you are very polite and respectful, they may allow you to swim with them.
All interaction with the sea lions is on their terms. Some days, the huge males rear up on the low rocks bellowing warnings to keep far away from their mates and offspring. But on other days, some of the young ones-not the new babies, but those that are perhaps a year or two old- playfully approach the swimmers who venture into the waters surrounding their rocky fortress.
At first, it’s rather scary. After all, they are large and swift and in their own element. They swim closer and closer until they are rushing within a few feet of you. Then, they gracefully arch their backs to avoid you at the last possible second and torpedo away. You can almost hear them giggling as you realize this is a joyous game to them and they are trying to get you to play.
Follow their lead, diving and spinning and swirling in the water and they often respond in kind. Soon, you find yourself partnered with a sleek sea mammal in a graceful underwater dance. If you reach your hands out, they may swim by and let you touch their backs. Many will swim up and look you in the eye with a mischievous whiskered grin from only a foot or two away .
As a bonus, the part of Los Islotes that is under the water is among the best places in the area to snorkel and scuba dive. So, even if you arrive on a day that the sea lions won’t come out and play, you’ll still enjoy the riot of colorful sea life around you.
Los Islotes is a magical place for both the sea lions and their human playmates. If you’re ever in the southern part of Baja, Mexico, don’t miss it. The outfitters in La Paz run day trips out to the island or you can indulge yourself in a longer guided trip that includes sea kayaking and camping on some of the best beaches in the world.