While snorkelling in the pristine waters off the Baja Peninsula, naturalist Brian Keating experienced a rare interspecies interaction with this "fire-eyed goofball," of a sea lion.
The playful pup swam right up to Keating and mischievously tugged on his fin at a place called Los Islotes, a 250-metre long rocky island just north of La Paz.
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"We had dancing sea lions all around us, quite literally, sometimes up to four of them," he said.
Intelligent, agile predators
Between May and August, Los Islotes serves as a breeding ground for sea lions.
After a 12-month gestation period, the females give birth and remain with their pups for about 10 days before heading out to open waters to hunt.
Initially, the mother limits the length of her foraging trips to three days so she can return to the nursery to suckle her young. Once the pups begin to mature, her hunting trips can last up to two weeks at a time.
Sea lions are primarily nighttime predators that rely on their long and highly sensitive whiskers to help track the various species of fish and squid that they eat, Keating said.
"They're intelligent, agile predators.
"Sometimes they opportunistically team up with dolphins," said Keating, who was lucky enough to witness the event first-hand.
'Amongst this unbelievable, jubilant joy'
While in an area known as the "Golden Triangle," Keating and his crew came across a superpod of long-beaked dolphins.
"We could hear them clicking and squealing under the water," said Keating, who estimates there were roughly 1,000 in the area.
"For the next little while we were in amongst this unbelievable, jubilant joy. It was really a celebration of life with dolphins all around us, sometimes coming and riding our little bow wave that we would create on the Zodiac," he said.
"During the mayhem, I did see a sea lion in amongst the dolphins, no doubt taking advantage of it all."