From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Baja California
Dec 27, 2012 - National Geographic Sea Bird
Los Islotes and Bonanza Bay
California sea lions dominated the sights, sounds, smells, snorkeling activities, and scenic Zodiac tours that enriched our morning. Los Islotes or “the islets” are a group of reddish rocks that stick out of the sea and offer the perfect place for sea lions to loaf in between foraging trips. Males fight and breed here in June and July allowing females to produce approximately 70 pups per year. The one to two year olds are the stars. Like puppies, they love to chase after the Zodiacs while jumping on each other, biting, butting, and bullying before a high-speed chase corkscrews into a direction reversal with the mere flick of their flippers. They are so fast that the best a photographer can hope for is blurry brown blob just ahead of bubbly turbulence. Those guests snorkeling with these little athletes have to be able to giggle with snorkels sticking out of their mouths. These pups love to race up to within inches of your facemask and then veer off, possibly being entertained by how large your eyes suddenly become. If they slow down they transform into little water ballet dancers smoothing every move into a stunning performance of grace and beauty as they execute spins, pirouettes, and flips. After three or four years these underwater ballerinas will reach maturity. The females will produce one pup annually for about 14 or more years. Maturity in males takes longer and most will not be able to compete for territories until they are over ten. Their younger years on the rookery are spent learning the art of pushing, barking, biting, and displaying open-mouth threats to cantankerous neighbors.
During lunch we cruised south of Isla Partida and Espiritu Santo toward Bonanza Bay. We stopped for 30 minutes and dropped our ‘CTD’ that measures ocean conductivity, temperature, depth, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen to 1550 feet for a National Geographic and Stanford University project. The research is studying the changing oxygen minimum layer in the Gulf of California.
Bonanza Bay is outlined by a beach that gently curves for miles without a single interruption of a manmade object. There are no hotels, condominiums, shanties, jet skis, or beach umbrellas, with the only sound coming from the surf on the beach and the distant calls of birds. Being here is a special sort of bliss that has an absence of cares and irritations. Young people played red light, green light with their toes digging into the fine sand, Marco Polo in the frothy surf, and built a sand castle complete with a moat and suburban village. Evening fell quickly as the last Zodiacs left the beach.