The San Rafaelito sea lion colony is within the Bay of La Paz, in the southern part of the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez. This colony is home to about 140 adult sea lions, which are known for their playful behavior. The females seem to love to interact with snorkeling visitors and sometimes literally dance in the water twirling, swirling, to the delight of visitors. Although we caution visitors to not touch or pet the sea lions, they are so friendly at times they will rub up against a swimmer and literally stick their nose under your arm to get you to play with them.
The San Rafaelito colony is located on a small rocky islet just off the coast of La Paz and is only accessible by boat. It is topped with a navigation aid for mariners. Visitors can take boat tours to see the sea lions up close and observe their natural behavior within their habitat. On one side of this rocky little island the water ranges to about 10 feet in depth and it is covered with corals and lots of colorful fish making it perfect for snorkelers. On the other side of the island the open bay drops off to over sixty feet in depth making it a nice place for scuba. The best time to visit the colony is from December to April when the sea lions are most active, but they remain in place year-round.
The San Rafaelito colony is an important breeding ground for California sea lions, and it is essential to protect their habitat and ensure that they are not disturbed by human interference. The Mexican government has designated the colony location a protected area, and visitors are required to follow strict guidelines to avoid disturbing the sea lions, especially during the breeding season. No one is permitted on this little island or the rock outcroppings where the sea lions are most at home. The exception is when a crew of locals, typically led by marine biologists, schedule a clean-up project, which happens once or twice a year.
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