I grew up in a city with a pretty impressive zoo. Every trip included a visit to the sea lions, who were often performing for the onlookers, whether their trainers were there or not. While I was never naive enough to believe that wild sea lions would behave in the same way as the domesticated versions living in the zoo, I had no idea just how different, and how much more incredible they would be in the wild. I was given my change to see sea lion in Mexico on my latest trip to Loreto. 

My boat ride to and from Isla Coronado near Loreto, Mexico was just supposed to be transportation to a good snorkeling spot. As it was only the second time in my life I would be snorkeling outside of an over-chlorinated pool, my focus was almost completely on the sea creatures in the water.

However, in the end, it was the sea lions that stole the show. 

On the way back to the dock, the driver took a quick detour and explained that we could spot a colony of sea lions that lived nearby. Even as the vague outline of them in the distance began taking shape, I knew that this wasn’t going to be anything like those lame shows at the zoo. I got my camera posed and ready, and prepared myself for the approaching animals. 

They were incredible. Seemingly three times the size of any zoo resident I had ever seen and exponentially more majestic. The friendly giants may not have been trained to do flips or catch fish in their mouths, but they seemed to perform for us in their own way. Flippers waved and clapped as the sea lions barked their hellos. A baby lifted his sleepy head off his mother’s sunbathing belly to see what all the ruckus was about. 

I snapped photos wildly, without even looking through the lens. I knew at least a few of the photos would turn out, and I wasn’t willing to take my eyes off the amazing animals lounging only a few feet in front of me. I could have stayed in that boat for hours, waving and staring at the sea lions and taking hundreds of photos, but eventually, the boat had to fire up the engine and head back to shore. I said a silent farewell to the sea lions, but I knew I’d do whatever I could to catch more of them in the wild again someday.