Staring at the enchanting waters surrounding Espiritu Santo Island, I keep thinking what might be awaiting under its blueish surface. Even though is a windy day and the waters start to build up, we jump in the panga that will bring us to the island. The ride is wild and we are soaked and salted all the way through. We finally reach calmer waters on the easter side of the island, and we can better appreciate the interesting geological features, characteristic of Espiritu Santo Island.
A unique site with the most intact ecosystem in the region, withholding several endemic species, including the blacktailed jack rabbit, five species of marine turtles, resident sea lions, migratory and regional bird species and a ring-tailed nocturnal mammal famous for visiting kayakers at night. For its relevance as one of the most ecologically significant islands in the Sea of Cortez, we are here to document a place that not very long ago, was almost sold to private investors for housing and tourist development. Its designation as a protected area by the Mexican government, has allowed the process of slow recovery for a terrestrial and marine ecosystems heavily impacted by unregulated fishing and habitat destruction from tourism.
After gliding over the turquoise waters of its numerous “ensenadas” and exploring some of its hidden coves, we finally arrive to our most awaited destination: La Lobera. A medium size rockery found north of the island that shelters a Californian sea lion colony year round.
As we get closer, the water becomes clearer and shallower. I can see giant rocks beneath the surface, surrounded by pending jewels: tiny colorful fish feeding on the coral beds. Once in a while with unexpected elegance, a golden silhouette spins gracefully under my hanging feet. I want to submerge, fill my senses with that marine joy happening below.
I am finally able to fit in my wet suit and finish struggling with the mask and my long hair. Soon the cold water of the Sea of Cortez runs down my spine. It awakes me with a sudden heart beat, urging me to get a deep breath.
When I plunge my eyes under the water, the cold goes away. Underneath, there is a world beyond my imagination. Huge rocks fill the area all adorned with fish and corals of all sizes. Down, below the rocks, I discover a pair of inquisitive glowing eyes: a group of sea lions hiding underneath the rocks, looking at me.
I miss the words to describe what an incredible feeling it is to have a close encounter with sea lions under the water. Playful and full of curiosity, they approach carefully to inspect you thoroughly. If you turn and dive with quick moves, they get excited and follow you closer to see what might be happening next.
Once in a while I stay still and contemplate in awe their play. Twists, turns and swirls. Ballerinas of the sea, dancing an harmonious underwater performance.
I once belonged to the city, yesterday I fell in love with the wildness of the mountains. Today, if I continue to submerge in the waters of this fascinating ocean, I might soon start growing scales and turn into a mermaid.
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