SEA-LIONS ARE TYPICALLY a treat we get to enjoy only in cool waters, making negotiating a drysuit or fighting thick neoprene part of the price of diving with them.
The one place that breaks that rule is La Paz in southern Baja, Mexico, in the autumn. At this time of year the water is balmy 3mm territory (in fact, I see lots of people diving in just shorts) and, even more importantly, it is when the new pups start playing in open water.
The Californian sea-lions in the Sea of Cortez give birth in early summer and the pups hang out in ankle-deep nursing pools through mid-summer.
While sea-lion dives here are great fun year-round, there is definitely something very special in visiting during the eight week period from mid-September to mid-November, when the pups start exploring unsupervised.
This is when they are at their most mischievous, curious and photogenic.
The pups are still very small, similar in size to a Jack Russell and, powered by high-octane mum’s sea-lion milk, equally energetic.
If you have ever watched a puppy constantly hassling an older dog, you’ll understand why the adult sea-lions seem happy for their youngsters to work off their excess energy on us.
Few things get underwater photographers as excited as subjects that repeatedly swim right up to the camera, especially when they are as cute as a button to boot.
Surely there must be a photographic downside? There is, sea-lion pups have black, light-sucking fur, they like hanging out in shady places and they move really, really fast!