Gulf of California

Trip for 7 to sea of Cortez – Whale and bird watching, snorkeling, meals included, private boat, bilingual naturalist guides
by -- March 24th, 2010

How much would you pay for this trip? Ok, easier question. When was the last time someone told you it was past your bed time?

In preparation for day long trip out to San Pedro Martir marine reserve, the most oceanic island in the Gulf of California, we were given strict orders by our professor/parental figure to be in bed by 10:00pm. Considering the station’s cat slept on my leg all night and our friendly neighbor revved his boat engines at four in the morning, I felt pretty good for our 7:00am start.

Armed with two coolers full of snacks and family-sized sunscreen, we piled into Prescott College’s impeccably maintained fishing boat and were off. The weather was amazing! Wind from previous days had died down leaving the water glassy. We gunned the boat and I embraced my inner dog leaning out of a window during a car ride. I was just enjoying the breeze through my nearly non-existent hair when the boat slowed down. I peered over the edge and saw an unmistakable column of mist on the horizon. Cosme, our driver who happens to be one of those rare individuals who look good sporting a mullet, spotted a group of fin whales. A triangular fin broke the surface and we all turned into paparazzi.  At one point we were close enough to feel and smell the cool, fishy spray from the whale’s blow hole on our faces. Mmm plankton.

red billed tropic birdAfter that detour we continued on our way and eventually saw what looked like snowcapped mountains. That was San Pedro Martir.  After millennia of hosting huge breeding populations of birds such as boobies and tropic birds, the island was white with guano. Sharing the island’s air space with the birds were these sesame-sized flies with a deceivingly cute name (“bobito”- small silly thing) that thrive on a diet of “people’s hate and seabird’s tears”. If you picture chocolate ice cream with vanilla syrup and copious amounts of sprinkles, that would be the island.

We drove half way around the biological reserve marveling at its incredible landscape before deciding to take yet another detour in search of sperm whales. Cristina jokingly prayed to the gods of the sea for luck but after over an hour of waiting, we saw nothing and turned back. We were nearly back to San Pedro Martir when Cosme abruptly stopped panga and cried out “Cachalote!” No way. Just as we had given up on seeing them, several sperm whales had just surfaced from a lengthy dive and were catching their breath around our boat.

sperm whaleEventually the whales recuperated and dove so we returned to the island and went snorkeling. That was my first time doing it and I probably drank enough sea water to mummify me from the inside out but it was totally worth it! The water was clear enough to see the bottom and tons of sea lions were close enough to touch. The group was more than satisfied with the day but Cristina decided to pray for blue whale and orca sightings. Yeah, whatever.

group in pangaSo we started home, our butts getting incredibly sore from a day of speeding along in a panga (imagine getting whacked by a 2×4 every few seconds) when Cosme slowed the boat down yet again.  We found ourselves surrounded by pilot whales presidential caravan style. Whales all around left, right, front, back, under, and yes, even over. Some whales leapt completely out of the water like secret service agents taking bullets. Whoever says wishing out loud to the “sea gods” doesn’t work should try it sometime. The caravan escorted us for an hour or so before we reluctantly left and got back to Kino bay just in time for a perfect sunset on the ocean. Is that an amazing run of luck or what? Actual retail price for the trip to the sea of Cortez? Priceless.

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