At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with journey restrictions in place worldwide, we launched a brand new collection — The World Through a Lens — through which photojournalists assist transport you, just about, to some 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 in the Sea of Cortez — together with Isla Espíritu Santo and Isla Partida. Part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and one of Mexico’s main eco-tourism locations, these islands, together with their surrounding reefs and outcrops, are house to numerous kinds of marine life.
At 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. Here, the place few individuals have entry, lives a big colony of sea lions.
I visited the space on one of my first underwater assignments, after years spent overlaying battle, politics and sports activities. Diving there was a transformational expertise. Alone, floating in the open water, I discovered peace amongst these playful animals, typically known as “dogs of the sea.”
Sea lions actually do look like 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 continuously nibbled at my fins, or stared at their reflection in the dome of my underwater digital camera housing.
Swimming round the circumference of Los Islotes is feasible, although the water in some areas is kind of shallow, and entry is usually restricted by tour guides. Young adolescent sea lions might be seen taking part in in the surf and sunbathing on rocks. The bark of dominant males echoes above and under the water as they patrol the sea for threats to the colony and to their rule. Above the water, the animals populate each rocky outcropping, mendacity prostrate in the solar.
Each facet of Los Islotes presents a special have a look at the sea lions’ habits. Massive rocks jut from the seabed on the northern facet, having eroded off the island way back. The sea lions frolic backwards and forwards in these underwater obstacles, chasing one another by the rocky crevices.
The southern facet of the island is the place the males sit and sunbathe. Territorial and ferocious, these gigantic males might be harmful and must be given a large berth.
Near the japanese tip of the island is a big arch that rises from the sea. There, divers can drop right down to 50 toes, stare up and watch the silhouettes of sea lions as they swim from one facet of the island to the different.
Perhaps most charming of all: Hidden on the southern facet of the islands, inside a small but simply accessible underwater cave, is a sea lion “nursery.” Small juveniles dart backwards and forwards beneath the watchful eye of older females.
Unfortunately, even these protected sea lions can’t keep away from the encroachment of people; they will often be seen with fishing line wrapped round their necks, which may result in an infection and demise. And therein lies half of the problem for native marine park rangers and scientists: tips on how to strike the proper steadiness between conservation, schooling and eco-tourism.
In a method, it’s just like the steadiness 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 coach my youngsters about the world round them, and about the conservation of the atmosphere.
Many of these images had been made with my spouse and boys by my facet. (These waters, in any case, are the place my son discovered tips on how to scuba dive beneath the tutelage of a lifelong good friend.) And I’ve but to discover a photographic topic that has introduced me extra peace and tranquillity than swimming with the sea lions of Los Islotes.