Sisters and sea lions

My sister Emily and her boyfriend Craig left for the La Paz airport at 4am on Saturday morning after a brief but exciting trip that included: being shark bait, hiking up a desert mountain (but never reaching the top), sleeping through the windiest and rolliest nights we’ve had at anchor yet, swimming with sea lions at Los Islotes, and being guinea pigs for our newly discovered margarita recipe.

First things first, the margarita recipe:

  • Ice
  • Juice of 4 freshly squeezed oranges
  • Juice of 2 freshly squeezed grapefruits
  • Juice of 6 freshly squeezed limes
  • ¼ bottle of Tequila
  • Dash of Grand Marnier (we substitue with cheap Orange Liqueur)

Many cruisers have been onto this for long time. Try it!

After a windy night (gusts to 30 knots) in Ensenada Grande we pepped ourselves up with the last of our Artigiano coffee and headed to shore for a morning hike.  The gorgeous beaches in this three-pronged cove are used as lunch spots for small tour groups. Other than a few palapas that they’ve set up on the beach, the area is desolate – and picture perfect.

LOS ISLOTES – 24 35.822 N, 110 24.200 W

If Los Islotes was in the pacific northwest, I can only imagine that it would be staked with signs that say “Sea Lion Rookery. Keep Back.” But we’re in Mexico, so instead the authorities have installed mooring balls so that you can tie up your dingy or panga while you go for a swim.  Maybe Mexican sea lions are much friendlier than Canadian ones?

When we arrived in the early afternoon, there were a couple of people in the water (good to see!) but then they promptly got out and the tour panga took off.  We were all alone.

It is a stunning and wild spot: two rugged, craggy islets just north of Isla Partida poking up out of the surrounding deep water.  The shreaks of birds and the loud throaty calls of hundreds of sea lions resound around the rocks. The dark murky water is green-ish and looks like it’s full of little bits of fish guts and mammal excrement – because it is.

It did not look appealing for swimming at all and the enormous 700 lb male (identified as such because of his large crested forehead) cruising back and forth in the surf line giving us the evil eye wasn’t helping either.  His ladies were sunbathing on the rocks and he was making a big show of protecting them.  It’s mating season. However, a few curious and more playful fellows were diving and splashing nearby. They looked pretty cute from the confines of the dingy…

So, who’s going in?  I was impressed – after downing a can liquid courage and donning bright yellow flippers, it was Emily who jumped overboard first.  Followed by Craig and then Will. We had discussed that it would be (in our expert opinion) safest to swim in a pack – and the three of them were moving further away from the dingy. It was now or never for me and so I reluctantly plopped into the shadowy swirling water.

The four of us doggy paddled in closer to the island. There’s something about not being able to see through the water and knowing that something large is out there and interested in you that freaked me out. I spent two minutes clinging to Will’s back in the fetal position semi-hyperventalating before I had to get out, obviously disappointed in myself.

For the rest of them, it was all good.  The cold water is what scared Em, Craig and Will out eventually – not being dive bombed by cute sea lions. No one even got a flipper bite!

We decided to circumnavigate the islands in the dingy and so we unhooked from the mooring ball. The fast current pulled us in closer to shore. Too close to shore. The only way I can describe what happened next is have you picture the scene from ‘BBC’s Planet Earth’ when the great white shark rockets out of the water and catches the seal in its mouth. No, no, that’s not exactly what happened. Take away the shark, and put the giant male sea lion in its place. Still pretty scary.  He shot vertically out of the water, right in front of our dingy, with teeth bared and a feroucious roar coming from deep within. We all screamed as he landed back in the water next to us creating a huge wave. All of the other sea lions on the rocks starting madly barking and rocking back and forth to get into the water (towards us).  We were all shouting at Will, “Row, Row!” and as we moved backwards and away I was certain something was going to come up underneath us to take revenge.

But nothing did.

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