Los Islotes and Isla San Francisco

Feb 27, 2019 - National Geographic Venture

This morning we awoke just north of the islands of Los Islotes. Among the rocks that jut out from the water, as if inspired by European cathedrals, we find the local cabal of California sea lions, brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, various cormorants, and even peregrine falcons. All of them vie for space on a particularly small parcel of rocks that amount to only a couple hundred feet at their widest point and a third of a mile long.

Despite not looking like much from afar, these rocks contain some of the best snorkeling territory in all of Baja California. Brave the chilly waters here and you will be well rewarded with underwater sightings you’d strain to find elsewhere.

Many within our own group had a hard time believing all that was before us. Young California sea lions had jumped in alongside, their curiosity getting the better of them (and curiosity being an understatement). We sat there marveling and bobbing near the surface as a small storm of sea lions performed their underwater ballet. These sea lions, sometimes five or more at a time, twisted and turned in the water, then twisting again, zipping directly at us just to open their mouths, blow bubbles, then turning to zip off elsewhere, no doubt chuckling as they went.

We got back aboard for breakfast, then afterward decided to re-explore the same area from a different, birds-eye vantage. Manning the Zodiacs, we again set out from the ship to Los Islotes. This time, it was we who were zipping around. Here we could see all types and varieties of wildlife that the sea lions initially held our attention from. There were leaping mobula rays and nesting brown pelicans—but still plenty of California sea lions. Some were seen resting on the rocks high above the tide line, while others, still in the water, pursued closely behind our Zodiacs.

In the afternoon, we reconvened onboard and set out for another location. What trip to Baja California would be complete without taking advantage of all these islands have to offer? We arrived at Isla San Francisco, looking out miles down a long, sandy beach, situated in a protected bay, with rich marine reefs below. Here we went hiking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, swimming, and just taking in this beautiful island in any way we could.

As the sun began to set, we began to prepare for a Baja-style barbeque on the beach. All faces were alight from the setting orange and red just off the horizon (or was it the group cheer?) as we ate, drank, and laughed with friends new and old about what will remain an unforgettable journey in an unforgettable land.

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About the Author

Kayvon Malek

Undersea Specialist

In 2011 Kayvon’s life changed when he took his first breath underwater. After signing up for a SCUBA course on a whim while studying at the University of California, Santa Cruz he soon shifted his major and focus in life. He graduated in 2015 after studying Environmental Studies and Biology, focusing on marine conservation. By that time, he was an AAUS certified Scientific Diver aiding in field research, a NAUI Divemaster, and had begun working at the Monterey Bay Aquarium sharing the wonder of the ocean that captivated him four years prior.

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