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We first came upon a small rock where there were three different types of birds just there; one had a blue neck and was doing an erotic dance for a very indifferent mate.
“Before anything else, I’d like to go around so you can see the island…while we choose the perfect spot to swim,” Oscar explained. Suddenly an entire orchestra of barks and calls rang out, welcoming the boat.
There were sea lions of all sizes; from babies that barely made their way to the shore, to enormous machos with their respective forehead bump, each protecting their harem.
The tour began.
What is the difference between seals and sea lions? That’s easy (well, once you know of course), sea lions have ears (like ear flaps) and seals don’t (they are “sealed” to their heads, hence “seals”). In addition, sea lions have stronger haunches and walk, or take small jumps, as opposed to seals who just have their two front flippers and they scoot on land.
Can you fish here? No, because (Bird Island) is a protected spot.
Can we get on the island? Preferably no – as it is a protected area – it is not recommended as, in addition to there being the risk of an accident with a sea lion thinking you are invading its territory and getting protective (as that’s where the little ones are), we also have bacteria on our hands or feet we’re not even aware of. On a certain rock, or due to humidity or just the right heat, this can lead to an outbreak, or break the equilibrium and harm both the bird and sea lion populations.
Have the sea lions bit anyone? No, and we don’t want that to happen, which is why respect is important – respecting their time, and above all their space. If you get too close, they’ll bark at you. The good thing is they know we’ve come to spend time with them and they’ll often come near on their own. Don’t be afraid, they are very curious creatures and pretty cool.
Why do they stick their flippers out as if they were waving? Ahhh, that’s interesting. They aren’t waving or just lazily floating. Their main artery goes through their flipper, so this helps to regulate their temperature – whether cooling off or staying warm – usually to cool off. It’s like on us, we have that in an area of our neck, which is what gives us “brain freeze” when we eat something really cold, or why we use scarves – because we warm up (or cool off) the blood running through our body.
How do we know which are male, and which are female? The machos have more of a protruding bump on their forehead.
Info, info, info, info… The guy is full of information, so much so he could go on for hours without repeating himself.
For example, if you happen to get out there, look carefully as there are unnatural caves and rock formations along the island. I’m not going to ruin the surprise, so be sure to ask Oscar about these…walkways…
I had never been to the back side of the island. There aren’t as many sea lions or birds, though it doesn’t cease to be interesting. There’s a “mini-Cabo” feature, as Oscar calls it, and a rocky part in the formation of a fish, which has been nicknamed Dory’s prehistoric grandfather (yes, Dory from the movie), and sure enough it looks like it.
As we continued through the tour, impatience started to build. Oscar picked out an ideal spot, “See how the water looks like a basin…”
“So now, the three typical questions,” our captain placed himself theatrically in the middle of the boat. “Number one – did they paint the island white? No, there’s no paint, that’s the color the rocks get from…bird waste, guano, whatever you’d like to call it. Number two – Are there sharks? No, there aren’t. Fishermen ended these populations in the eighties, early nineties. Also, because this part of the Sea of Cortez has 25% more salinity than further south, new sharks cannot swim here. Plus, the dolphins also help to keep them in check. So, all calm. And Number three, and most importantly, Do I speak sea lion? Yes, ladies and gentleman, I do.” He jumped to the stern and let out a sea lion howl announcing our arrival, same which was met with a wave of barks and cackles from the island.
Then, as we all readied ourselves, he threw out the anchors (which are square as it ends up this is less damaging to the environment than the usual ones), and began handing out flippers, goggles, and snorkel gear.
Does anyone need a life jacket? There were enough for all. Where did everything come from? I have no idea, it seemed like magic. He even sprayed an “anti-fog” liquid into the goggles, which worked marvelously I might add.
Here’s a tip for putting on flippers: fold over the part that goes over the heal and then put your foot in, and ¡voilá! EASY, without having to use your finger as a shoe horn.
“Get comfortable as I get ready,” he stated, disappearing into the bathroom. Oh yes, the captain and his first official also get right in the water to remain alert to everything going on.
¡A nadar! ¡Niñas y padres primero! Let’s swim! Children and parents first!