Isla San Pedro Mártir and At Sea

Apr 04, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird


As the National Geographic Sea Bird made her way to Isla San Pedro Mártir, the star-filled early morning sky gave way to an ever-increasing glow of the rising sun. Fiery orange from the east reflected in the graciously peaceful seas as pelicans, brown boobies, and blue-footed boobies flew to and from the island.

This morning we explored the near shorelines of this steep, guano-covered island and its islets from our inflatable boats. San Pedro Mártir is a World Heritage Natural Site and Biosphere Reserve, its waters cool and rich with plankton, supporting big colonies of pelicans, boobies, and tropicbirds, as well as wonderful sea lion colonies. The sea lions were endlessly entertaining, leaping around us, following our boats and the engine bubbles, curiously checking us out, and soaring below us in what seemed like endless play. Along the shoreline, sea lions lounged, draped over rocks, and we watched and photographed as minor territorial disputes erupted.

Leaving the island for an afternoon at sea, we were quickly diverted east for a sighting of a group of a hundred or so bottlenose dolphins. We watched as they milled about, occasionally astounding us with amazing leaps, then suddenly bursting forth into high-speed and high-spray pursuit of an underwater prey.

The day progressed into something of a zigzag route south, and a series of presentations were slightly interrupted by marine wildlife sightings. A group of about 30 short-finned pilot whales were found and the close-up views were excellent. Then another group of bottlenose dolphins were found, followed by a second group of pilot whales dazzling in the glittering sun streak, then lazily surfacing right under our bow. The skillful maneuvering of the bridge was appreciated at every sighting.

It was a glorious day in the Sea of Cortez, with perfect sailing conditions, completely living up to the productivity and terrific marine mammal sightings we’ve always enjoyed seeing in this region.

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About the Author

Rikki Swenson

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Since 1995, Rikki Swenson has traveled widely with Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic, and was a founding member of the Photo Expedition program. A graphic designer for 20 years, Rikki owned a small agency, handling projects for large corporate clients. In 1995 she began a book project for Lindblad Expeditions that changed the course of her career. Working as photo editor and designer, she collaborated with Jack Swenson, Sven-Olof Lindblad, and Ralph Hopkins, to produce Baja—A Special Expedition to Baja and the Sea of Cortez. After that, her focus and passion moved to the expedition travel industry.

About the Photographer

Jack Swenson

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Jack is a Seattle-based guide, wildlife biologist and professional photographer. For the past thirty years his photographs have appeared in prominent magazines, calendars and books including publications by Smithsonian, Audubon, and National Geographic. He has co-authored a photographic book on Baja California, and also a photo identification guide to the killer whales of Southeast Alaska.

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