On the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with journey restrictions in place worldwide, we launched a brand new sequence — The World Through a Lens — wherein photojournalists assist transport you, just about, to a few of our planet’s most stunning and intriguing locations. This week, Benjamin Lowy shares a group of pictures from an underwater shoot off the coast of Baja.
Nestled off the coast of Baja California Sur, close to La Paz, lies a string of islands within the Sea of Cortez — together with Isla Espíritu Santo and Isla Partida. A part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and considered one of Mexico’s main eco-tourism locations, these islands, together with their surrounding reefs and outcrops, are residence to numerous types of marine life.
On the northern tip of the chain, simply past Isla Partida, is a small craggy outcrop — roughly 1 / 4 mile lengthy — referred to as Los Islotes, or Isla Lobos. Right here, the place few folks have entry, lives a big colony of sea lions.
I visited the world on considered one of my first underwater assignments, after years spent protecting struggle, politics and sports activities. Diving there was a transformational expertise. Alone, floating within the open water, I discovered peace amongst these playful animals, generally known as “canine of the ocean.”
Sea lions actually do seem to be canine: They play fetch with rocks, starfish and the occasional bone, they usually typically appear enamored by the few people who swim with them. They always nibbled at my fins, or stared at their reflection within the dome of my underwater digital camera housing.
Swimming across the circumference of Los Islotes is feasible, although the water in some areas is kind of shallow, and entry is commonly restricted by tour guides. Younger adolescent sea lions could be seen taking part in within the surf and sunbathing on rocks. The bark of dominant males echoes above and beneath the water as they patrol the ocean for threats to the colony and to their rule. Above the water, the animals populate each rocky outcropping, mendacity prostrate within the solar.
Either side of Los Islotes provides a distinct take a look at the ocean lions’ habits. Huge rocks jut from the seabed on the northern aspect, having eroded off the island way back. The ocean lions frolic forwards and backwards in these underwater obstacles, chasing one another by means of the rocky crevices.
The southern aspect of the island is the place the males sit and sunbathe. Territorial and ferocious, these gigantic males could be harmful and ought to be given a large berth.
Close to the japanese tip of the island is a huge arch that rises from the ocean. There, divers can drop all the way down to 50 toes, stare up and watch the silhouettes of sea lions as they swim from one aspect of the island to the opposite.
Maybe most charming of all: Hidden on the southern aspect of the islands, inside a small but simply accessible underwater cave, is a sea lion “nursery.” Small juveniles dart forwards and backwards below the watchful eye of older females.
Sadly, even these protected sea lions can’t keep away from the encroachment of people; they will sometimes be seen with fishing line wrapped round their necks, which might result in an infection and demise. And therein lies a part of the problem for native marine park rangers and scientists: easy methods to strike the proper stability between conservation, schooling and eco-tourism.
In a method, it’s much like the stability I attempt to strike myself: My mission as a photographer is to speak what I see and expertise to an viewers. My mission as a father is to teach my youngsters in regards to the world round them, and in regards to the conservation of the setting.
Many of those pictures had been made with my spouse and boys by my aspect. (These waters, in any case, are the place my son discovered easy methods to scuba dive below the tutelage of a lifelong pal.) And I’ve but to discover a photographic topic that has introduced me extra peace and tranquillity than swimming with the ocean lions of Los Islotes.