The Aquarium of the World: Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez

As I’ve already mentioned, Jacques Cousteau once called the Sea of Cortez ‘the worlds aquarium’ (with 900 species of fish and over 2000 marine invertebrates, it is a reasonable claim), so understandably, our trip to snorkel at the Isla Espiritu Santo, hopefully followed by the same with the Whale Sharks had us rather excited!

Waking however, with an upset stomach, was not cause for excitement (it could spell trouble on a small boat), however after a couple of quick bathroom trips, all appeared in order and we were on the water, and on our way.

Our destination was a Sea Lion colony, where whilst we engaged in a snorkel, 3 others on board (as well as an additional 5 collected en route, including a Javier Bardem lookalike) would be diving. All we could hope, was that there’d be more than we sighted at both San Francisco and Cabo San Lucas!

These fears were quickly assuaged, as even before we reached our destination, the sounds, especially those of the Sea Lion Bulls, were very evident!

Getting to grips with the colony, especially the large bull to the right!

Getting to grips with the colony, especially the large bull to the right!

This was a thriving colony, and the sight of the females sunning themselves whilst the resident bull (and competition suitors) made a racket, was something to behold.

Many more females frolicked amongst the waves, so after making sure we’d liberally applied the sunscreen, it was time to drop in.

Now I should note, that as Sarah gets cold at the best of times, we’d initially thought she should wear a wetsuit, something she let herself be talked out of earlier that morning (by a crew member, not by me!)

Unfortunately, the water wasn’t as warm as they’d hinted (or perhaps they’d underestimated her tolerance), however it wasn’t unbearable, and within minutes of immersing ourselves, there, sharing the same body of water, were the Sea Lions!

I’m sure I looked pretty odd to this lady!

I’m sure I looked pretty odd to this lady!

This was an unbelievable experience, and it wasn’t long before I had to remember to conserve the batteries in our underwater camera, ready for our waiting encounter with the Whale Sharks!

Frolicking amongst the Sea Lions was wonderful, and the only cause for care we seemed to have was on occasion when the incredibly large males drifted a bit too close (they can apparently get quite territorial).

One of the bigger boys lurking around the colony

One of the bigger boys lurking around the colony

They were easily identifiable with their larger size, and bump on their forehead, so it was with little difficulty we were able to avoid them.

There were plenty of fish to see as well, so in the odd occasion when we weren’t faced with these marine mammals, we had plenty of other sights (including snorkelers from other vessels) to keep us entertained.

We took some time out to relax at this point (back on board our vessel) as we waited for the divers to return, rest, before returning to the water when they began to dive on their 2nd tanks.

We’d been advised that if we swum through an arch, there was a coral outcrop just on the other side, and after a short swim here, I couldn’t resist going back to retrieve the camera.

The incredible world through the arch!

The incredible world through the arch!

This place was incredible, and it was worthy competition for our attention with the antics of the Sea Lions (a few of which also swam around the arch area as well).

It was also some of the healthiest coral we had seen in some time, so I can only imagine there was some correlation between this & the abundance of fish.

My fish I.D isn't great. Possibly a Lunar Wrasse?

My fish identification skills aren’t great. Possibly a Lunar Wrasse?

Eventually we found the strength to drag our eyes (and ourselves) away from this beauty, making our way back through the arch, and thankfully conserving some of the remaining camera battery.

That left us time for one last swim amongst the Sea Lions before this rather content couple returned to the waiting boat.

Sarah making her way through the arch

Sarah making her way through the arch

One last swim with these ladies

One last swim with these ladies

On board, we consumed a lunch as we departed these waters (returning 5 of the divers, Javier amongst them to a luxury motor yacht), and began the search for some Whale Sharks.

As it was not truly the Whale Shark season, we had earlier held some reservations about our chances, but when we’d originally purchased the trip, we’d been assured that many were still about.

I’m sure you can already see where this tale is headed…

We searched… scanning the waters (although Sarah & I weren’t sure what signs we were searching for) to no avail.

Eventually the captain, with some resignation, decided today would sadly not be our day.

Thankfully, the additional fee we’d payed to try and snorkel with these incredible creatures was returned, but we’d obviously much preferred to have actually seen and swam with them.

For another time we hope!

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10 Responses to The Aquarium of the World: Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez

  1. Beautiful underwater photography, Chris! What a cool experience. Too bad about the no-show Whale Sharks. ~Terri

    • Chris says:

      Thanks Terri, the underwater photos are very hit and miss (you should see the rejected ones!), especially with our cheap waterproof camera.

      That said, a few did turn out ok 🙂

      At least we’ll have other chances to try for the Whale Sharks in Central America!

  2. Looks like quite the adventure, Chris! I absolutely love being around aquatic life. Makes me feel so alive and connected to the life force. May you have many more wonderful adventures on your journey.

  3. shussey27 says:

    Looks like a cool experience! You must have a good camera as my underwater shots always come out blurry or discolored! 😦

    • Chris says:

      Our camera is just a cheap thing (we weren’t sure how it would go), and there are many more shots that get rejected than kept.

      So many are blurry as you say, but with a bit of patience it does the job.

      If only the battery lasted longer!

  4. Susan Aksu says:

    I love sea lions! I work near a marine mammal care center in San Pedro, Calif. and they are constantly rescuing sick sea lions and release them once they’re all better, but I love going in there and watching the pinnipeds get healthy and play together. I love your photos of them under water, what an awesome chance to swim with them and see other sea life. Sounds like it was a good time. Too bad the water was cold though!

  5. theburningheart says:

    I used to go snorkeling in Espiritu Santo every weekend way back in 1979, and1980 great place! 🙂

    • Chris says:

      It sure is! Was an ideal first place on our trip to dip our feet in the water.

      We’ve just (finally) gotten around to getting our PADI Open Water certification, so would love to go back and dive it sometime as well! 😀

  6. Pingback: Galapagos: Interpreting San Cristobal | theworldwithchrisandsarah

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