Puerto Los Gatos, Baja California Sur

Dec 31, 2018 - National Geographic Venture

The first day onboard National Geographic Venture was a wonderful last day of 2018. After leaving the dock in La Paz last night, our officers took the ship around the outer edge of Isla San Jose – this gave us a clear, unbroken view of the eastern horizon as the sun rose. With the energetic Barre + Yoga class on the sundeck, those looking for a calmer start to the day wandered to the bow where the natural history staff members were all waiting for the sun to break the horizon. As we stared, we were graced with a rare phenomenon – the green flash – that is normally only observed at sunset, if at all. Requiring very specific atmospheric conditions, the green flash occurs with a cloudless sky and unbroken sightline to the sun as it peaks above or sinks below the horizon.

After breakfast, we were in for another treat – naturalists had spotted dolphins in the distance! As National Geographic Venture inched closer, they debated which species they may be, whether they had dorsal fins, and if they would come play with the boat. It turned out to be something much rarer than anticipated: a pod of about 200 eastern spinner dolphins (stenella longirostris orientalis). This is a subspecies of spinner dolphin, which is found in many different regions. Most commonly recognized are the gray or Hawaiian spinner dolphins, which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Very little is known about the eastern subspecies, as it is a predominantly offshore subspecies not generally found in areas frequented by humans. Spinner dolphins are nocturnal – they feed on deep-water lanternfish and squids that migrate vertically at night to depths of about 400 meters. Eastern spinner dolphins are commonly associated with both Pantropical spotted dolphins and yellowfin tuna, which has led to a Vulnerable classification by the IUCN. Fishermen often use pods of eastern spinner dolphins as surface indicators of the presence of tuna below and have caught many in their purse-seining nets while going after the fish that are their target species.

Our interaction with them was quite special, as we watched them porpoise around and leap 10 feet into the air as they flipped over and over. After half an hour, we turned away to let them go to sleep, and we continued to our anchorage for the afternoon. At Puerto Los Gatos, the deck team offloaded every single water toy onboard National Geographic Venture. We hiked, kayaked, paddleboarded, and snorkeled. Chill yoga started on the beach as others hiked to learn more about natural history and photography from our expedition field staff. Back onboard the ship, a New Year’s Eve piñata had been hung on the sundeck, as our youngest guests took turns taking swings to break into the candy treats inside.

After dinner, the forward lounge was transformed into a center for festivities for the new year. Decorative hats and headbands were distributed, a photo booth complete with props was stationed in the library, and posters to document wishes and resolutions were hung around the room. With a festive soundtrack and 40-year old video of Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s playing, we rang in the New Year at East Coast Time – we have an early morning tomorrow!

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About the Author

JIll Niederberger


Jill is an aquatic biologist, naturalist, divemaster, and captain with a love for everything living in and depending on water. Whether sailing catamarans, leading snorkeling tours, or assisting with cetacean field research projects, she enjoys connecting others to the wilderness around them. Her most recent adventures have led her into a focus on marine mammals – those creatures with fur and blubber that defy the odds by living in or depending on an environment in which they cannot breathe.

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