Isla Espiritu Santo

Trip Start Apr 11, 2010
Trip End May 20, 2010

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Flag of Mexico  , Baja California Sur,
Saturday, May 1, 2010

Isla Espiritu Santo, one of the jewels of the Mexican national park made up of islands in the Sea of Cortez, lies directly across the San Lorenzo Channel from Playa Tecolote. During my days on the beach promoters tour chatted me up to take a boat trip to the island.  "Boats, schmoats," I thought.  I've done a lot of trips on little boats to snorkeling spots where colorful fish hang out, usually passing some pretty scenery, beers on board, and always a crappy lunch on a secluded island beach.  A thousand such tropical fantasy island boat trips exist around the world. "Big deal - the usual!"

Isla Espiritu Santo really is special, though, an uninhabited island of sheer rock cliffs jutting out of the sea, several grottos, and numerous narrow steep sided inlets.  The layers in the cliffs, red and orange rocks, and azure sea make it look like an inverted Lake Powell, desert islands in the sea rather than a huge lake among canyons.

What sold me on the trip and led me to part with 650 pesos was the stop at Los Islotes, two small islets off the northern end of Espiritu Santo teaming with sea lions, also called lobos de mar (sea wolves) in Spanish.  The craggy islets look almost like an apparition, but once you get close you realize they're real, and the scent tells you the streaky white of the rocks is only the sea lions' poop and also that of the sea birds that nest above them.  Watching some smelly sea lions frolic on shore and in the water from a boat is one thing, but being able to hop out and snorkel among them is quite another.  The only rule we had to follow was to stay more than five meters from the rocks since the lobos de mar are territorial on land but not in the water. 

I figured I'd hop in and take my chances with the carnivorous beasts.  No one's ever been eaten by a sea lion, have they?  But where there are sea lions, there must also be sharks that feed on them, right?  I'm thinking about this way too much.

A playful young duo approaches me and circles around.  One seems to nibble at my ankle, but his nibble isn't very toothy.  A huge male zooms toward me like a torpedo and passes closely beneath me.  Two smaller ones (females, I guess) frolic about to my left, but spying on the two large ones (young males, I suspect) fighting or kissing or playing or play-fighting or whatever it is they're doing is more interesting since they're showing each other lots of teeth.  They pay little attention to me even though I'm only a few feet away.  All this takes place in apparent silence just under the surface, but I can't ignore the massive commotion on the rocks every time I raise my head above water.  Wow, snorkeling with sea lions really made the daytrip worthwhile.

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