Gulf of California

Welcome to the Gulf of California!
by -- April 29th, 2013

Few places in the world have the magnificence and diversity found in the Gulf of California. Since we started our trip to the peninsula, nature has not stopped surprising us.

Our first part of the trip is sailing in an old fishing boat called Pez Sapo, through the corridor region of Punta Coyote – Agua Verde. The first natural spectacle is about Mobula rays coming out of the water with big jumps; it seems that they are flying. Shortly thereafter, blue whale’s blows appeared at the distance and looked so impressive. At that time, my mind was full of questions like where they come from and where they go.

The topography of the peninsula and islands, uninhabited almost entirely, allow us to enjoy the desert contrasting with the blue of the ocean. Our first stop is the Espiritu Santo Island and near there we move into pangas for visiting San Gabriel Bay where there are a few patches of mangroves. This is the home of some species of sea birds which are caring and feeding their young.  Afterwards, we snorkeled at Los Islotes which is the north tip of the island and where a resident population of sea lions (Zalophus californianus) lives.

On our return to El Candelero, one of the beaches on the island and where we set up the camp, the Gulf gave us another show: a group of bottlenose dolphins was rounding up a group of fish, to the extent that these desperate leaped into the surface. Some of these dolphins also swam to the side of the panga and made the trip even more emotional.

Our next stop was El Pardito, a small island with a group of fishermen who have inhabited it since early last century. In this area the ocean is painted in shades of turquoise. Our second camp is San Jose Island, it is amazing to get to the beach and observe tracks of different animals (birds, mammals and reptiles) that are evidence of what happens during days and nights in these isolated places. In an area near the beach, we found a whale skull and vertebrae, completely clean but still smelling of rotting meat. I’m enjoying taking photos of the scene.

Another show, that many of us living in big cities have left to enjoy, is the festival of stars at night. From the camp and in total darkness, the number of stars in the sky is overwhelming. Having the opportunity to be in places like this is just a luxury. What more could you want than being with the stars and the ocean?

We continue our journey north and do a bit of hiking to cross San Jose Island and get to a place called Palma Sola. A fisherman named Tacho joined us and talked to us about his experiences at the ocean, his life on the island and the use of many plants for medicinal purposes. We then move to Tambabiche and La Ensenadita where our third camp was set up. Along the way we witnessed one of the best events I ever seen in my life:  a large group of seabirds and more than one thousand common dolphins in a feeding frenzy of a school of sardines. It is truly amazing how the interaction between the species is and how they catch the sardines. Even outside of the water one could hear the dolphin sounds. Later we found three amazing humpback whales.

The ocean is alive at all times. At sunset, diurnal animals leave room for the nocturnal ones and in this context bioluminescent animals get our attention. It was beautiful to see the light projected on the waves generated by pangas on our trips to the beach.

Our days are ending in the corridor but we could not leave without taking fishing lessons. Agua Verde fishermen lead us in different fishing boats and teach us. It is truly a difficult art, and after losing a lot of baits, finally we caught some Pacific creole-fish, finescale triggerfish, and a pufferfish that we left floating on the water surface.

We continued down to Puerto Escondido where we finally landed to continue our way overland to Santa Rosalia. It’s a bit nostalgic to leave the ship and its crew. There were days where the Gulf gave us a small sample of the explosion of life still in it, where we met fishermen, where we learned some aspects of the fisheries, where we experienced the strong connection we have as species with nature, and where we recognized the enormous responsibility we have to continue working for the preservation of the ocean and its biodiversity.

We all agreed that we were going to miss Tito meals and camping on the islands, but we are also excited to continue the journey and find out what the Gulf has for us on the other side.

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