Isla San Esteban, Isla San Pedro Martir

Mar 30, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion


Up at O’dark-thirty and headed to the arroyo on Isla San Esteban for a pre-dawn photography opportunity. The sun rose above the Mexican state of Sonora right on schedule, much to the satisfaction of all the photographers who left the comfort of bed to create art during the golden hour!

I could hardly sleep last night, as today is perhaps my favorite day on this remarkable journey, for I know we will encounter large lizards in magnificent splendor! We will be looking specifically for spiny-tailed iguanas and the San Esteban pinto chuckwalla, two very large lizards that always delight and entertain all who venture into the Sonoran Desert here on this isolated island in the Sea of Cortez. Our morning couldn’t have been more productive as we found juveniles and adults of both species basking in the morning sun and posing as our cameras clicked and whirred!

Our afternoon found us at Isla San Pedro Martir, one of the most remote islands in the entire Sea of Cortez. This island is a magnet for life, as evidenced by the white guano frosting that makes the entire island look as if it is made of snow. California sea lions welcomed us with their barking, blue-footed and brown boobies wheeled in the sky above us, and brown pelicans stared in curiosity as we drifted by. Perhaps the most intriguing birds though were the red-billed tropicbirds, which are currently nesting in the scree slopes on the flanks of the island. Time and again these lovely birds would show off their long tail feathers by flying directly over our heads after returning from sea with food for their young.

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About the Author

Michael Nolan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez.

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