Isla San Esteban and Isla Rasa

Apr 05, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion

Dawn over the Sea of Cortes is spectacular to behold. Our first morning light was seen from the beach of San Esteban Island. The Cardon cactus and our ship offered silhouettes for the dramatic arrival of the day.

We returned to the beach after breakfast to search for the endemic spiny tailed iguana.      Walks went up each side of the arroyo. The morning began to get hotter and lizards of various kinds scuttled under the vegetation. The large Cardon cactus bloomed. White flowers seemed to spring from the sides of these massive plants. Ashy throated flycatchers and green tailed towhees flew from bush to bush. The heat of the day was just beginning and with it the right conditions for the iguana. Right on time, the iguana appeared. The soft buds of the coming flowers attracted the iguana to the tops of the Cardon. Here the iguanas feasted on the sweet flowery treat, while others lounged on thorny branches.

Back on board for lunch and a transit to Isla Rasa. That was Plan A. That is not what happened. Ahead of the ship a circle of sky was dark with the bodies of birds hovering and diving into the water. We switched course to go investigate. The water was white with the splashing of the birds. That was not all. The white water was also caused by the hundreds if not over a thousand long beaked common dolphin. We chanced upon a super pod. There were dolphin as far as the eye could see. Some leaped from the water in unison with 4 or 5 others, some jumped way above the surface of the sea making an audible slap when they landed. The concentration of pelicans and gulls moved on to another school of fish and we all followed.

We did get to Isla Rasa this afternoon. Here 90 percent of the Heermanns gulls and the elegant terns nest. Our zodiacs provided the perfect platform for viewing the thousands of birds arriving for breeding season. The island was loud with birds. California sea lions played in our wake and pelicans in perfect formation flew over our heads. 

The day was so beautiful and the temperature so comfortable that we had cocktails outside on the sundeck with delicious Sangria, chips and ceviche.

A film about Isla Rasa, Bird Island, played in the lounge after our Mexican dinner was served.

The sun set for today but tomorrow holds treasures yet to be discovered.

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About the Author

Marylou Blakeslee


For the past 20 years, Marylou Blakeslee has traveled the world sharing her love of wild places. She lectures on a number of topics from the bears and wolves of the Arctic, to the leopard seals and whales of the Antarctic, as well as the turtles and fishes of the Great Barrier Reef.

About the Videographer

Dexter Sear

Video Chronicler

Dexter grew up in England where a love for exploring the countryside ignited a lifelong passion for discovering natural history and embarking on adventure. As a teenager, two trips to India sparked a fascination with insects and a desire to share a “hidden” macro world was born. He produced a popular insect website and authored a reader digest about cultural entomology.

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