Off the coast of Uruguay, five miles (eight kilometers) south of the sea resort of Punta del Estelies is the small Isla de Lobos. The island is located along the outer limit of the Rio de la Plata estuary and belongs to a natural reserve with Gorriti Island.
The island was known to the first Spanish explorers in the area around the 16th-century. In 1858, the Uruguayan government built the first lighthouse on the island, which was restored in 1906 and was turned into the country’s first automated lighthouse in 2001.
Since 1992, the island has become part of the Coastal Islands National Park in order to protect the local fauna. The island is home to the largest colony of sea lions and fur seals in the southern and western hemispheres. In a 2005 census, over 1,500 sea lions and 250,000 fur seals were counted on Isla de Lobos.
While these animals are clearly the main population of the area, other species visit the island as well such as elephant seals and various species of birds. In addition, the island is a whale-watching spot, as Southern right whales often pass by the area when wintering around the Uruguayan coast. This is also one of the few places in the country where orcas are present.