From Baby Sea Lion to Lifelong Friend
By Wilson Barrett, Expedition Guide on the Safari Endeavour
Sailing for a week onboard the Safari Endeavour, you are bound to make some friends. It’s one of those unanticipated benefits of traveling. Surrounded by new people and landscapes, one can find a commonality in the shared love of new experiences. Though UnCruisers often make lasting connections onboard with new people, guests in the Sea of Cortes also get to experience up-close encounters with some vivacious and slippery marine mammals.
The California Sea Lion is one of the most common pinnipeds along the west coast of North America. They reside from British Columbia all the way down to the tip of the Baja Peninsula. They are social animals that often aggregate in large groups on land called haul-outs, and during the late spring, many haul-outs become breeding rookeries.
The most southern rookery for the species lies just north of the island of Partida in the Espiritu Santo Island Archipelago; a withered offshore rocky mount known as Los Islotes. We often visit this exposed cliffy mass and if conditions are right, sometimes we don our snorkel masks and fins and swim in the vicinity.
Sea lions are intelligent and inquisitive mammals. Both males and females go through immense changes in life and when fully grown, males can be twice the size of females, have different skeletal features, and hunt differently. Males often live only half as long as females. For a young sea lion, their lives are constantly changing, and their status in large groups is discovered through social experimenting and play.
Hierarchies can be observed even when it’s not the breeding season, evident by spatial territorialism and height. The more subordinate individuals, including the younger sea lions, tend to radiate out from centerstage and occupy outside rocks and shallow water. It is this area associated with juveniles that we terrestrial mammals like to visit.
Adults often feed throughout the night, so when they return in the morning, they’re usually lethargic and sleepy. Juveniles, on the other hand, are often just waking up and full of energy. It’s in these sacred moments just after dawn where the terrestrial and marine mammal worlds collide in exuberance. As new kids on the block, we are often greeted with open flippers and cordially invited to a sunrise dance. This type of passion and curiosity knows no bounds and no personal space bubbles. Swimming with these baby sea lions is a true highlight of our Sea of Cortes trip. It’s an experience like no other and forms a friendship to last a lifetime.