• Marco

A Day Out With the Sea Lions!

Updated: Aug 26

One of the great attractions of Baja California - and La Paz in particular - is the astonishing marine life in the Sea of Cortez. Jacques Cousteau famously described it as "the aquarium of the world", and that man knew a thing or two about the oceans.

La Paz and Isla Espirito Santo

Yesterday we took a boat trip out to the islands north of the city. The locals usually refer to it as "the Island", or Isla Espirito Santo, although it's actually a small archipelago. Espirito Santo is the main one; north of it is Isla Partida; as well as a number of rocky outcrops, the very northern tip has a few small rocks which together are known as Los Islotes (the islets). There's an established colony of around 200 sea lions. They have the same kind of intelligence and behavioural traits as dogs, so I think of them as sea puppies 😀

Sea puppies basking in the sun!

It's nearly 30 miles north of La Paz, so even in a fast launch it takes the best part of an hour to get there. We slowed down or stopped along the way a couple of times; at one point for some dolphins between the Isla and the mainland were swimming around the boat.

The scenery is pretty special. I need to read up more on the geology of the Baja; I know there's elements of volcanism and eruptive deposition, as well as the impact of the local plate movements. The stratification is really obvious all along the coast:

There are also some beautiful rocky islands:

We stopped off at a protected nesting site for the fragatas - Frigate birds. These are beautiful, big black birds with deeply forked tails. The males have inflatable red throat pouches which they use to attract mates. Each to their own, I suppose 😀

Frigate birds nesting
Frigate birds in flight

Then we finally got to the sea lions!

The trip included snorkelling around the Islotes with the sea lions, and they were a joy to swim with. They mainly kept a short distance off, but were swimming under and around us, and at one point one took an interest in me and seemed to be watching and following from about 10 yards.

It's mainly about the sea lions, but don't neglect the fish. The waters were absolutely teeming with them - far more than I could name or identify. Some of the best I've seen snorkelling.

The only problem with the trip is that you have to wear lifejackets. It's the law. Partly because the Mexican government doesn't want (more) tourists drowning; partly because the area is UNESCO protected, and they don't want people dip diving and breaking the coral, or grabbing the fauna. Although I did feel a bit herded by the guide, at the same time it was nice to be able to relax and adjust my mask without having to tread water. You may hate it 🤷🏻‍♂️

After about an hour in the water we headed down the coast again for lunch on the beach. Very secluded, and I imagine it would be lovely if all the other tourist boats hadn't pitched up in the same spot:

After lunch we packed up and headed back to La Paz, arriving about half an hour before sunset.


For about 6 hours on the water, including lunch, guide, and snorkelling equipment, we paid MX$1,300 each. The guide and captain were very professional and I'd recommend them.

We travelled with San Miguel Tours, La Paz.

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Mexico Travel Blog | marco@jocksaway.com