Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Jan 06, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


Our morning onshore at Isla San Francisco was an outstanding continuation of a fantastic Baja California Sur expedition. On arrival, brown pelicans and Brandt’s cormorants were dancing together in a large group above the water directly adjacent to the large boulders lining the harbor. Swirls and splashes continued late into the morning as we rode our Zodiacs to shore and began exploring our latest destination.

This morning on National Geographic Venture began with a delicious breakfast, soon followed by opportunities to go to shore to take part in a variety of activities. It was difficult to decide between natural history hikes, a tidepool walk, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling from shore, and a desert exploration guided by a National Geographic photographer and a photo instructor. With several hours on the island, many were able to take part in more than one activity and experience the unique attributes of the Sonoran Desert.

While walking past cactus, succulents, and small desert flowers, many fellow expeditioners were able to see lizards moving across the rocks like the chuckwalla, scorpions hiding from the sun, and even hold a live tarantula! Photographers made images of diving pelicans and soaring frigates above their heads. Snorkelers felt the excitement of swimming in warm water through enormous schools of needlefish, colorful Panamic sergeant majors, grunts, and silvery sardines. Tidepoolers crossed the island’s isthmus through a salt flat to find a long stretch of exposed rocks where they searched the high intertidal zone for life that is accustomed to being exposed to air at times and also covered by sea water. Gastropods like murex , keyhole limpets, rock snails, nerites, and dove shells were found as small groups investigated the coastline along with the slender, twisted shells of worm snails molded to a wide range of substrates such as clam shells and volcanic rock. By the end of our visit, we all had magnificent stories and felt fortunate to have felt the beauty and to witness firsthand the surprising wildlife of this desert island in the Sea of Cortez.

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About the Author

Christine West

Undersea Specialist

Christine was fortunate to grow up in the Pacific Northwest on the shores of the Puget Sound. After graduating from the University of Washington, she decided to pursue her love of the ocean and exploration. Her passion for marine biology has inspired her through over 4,000 scuba dives around the globe in temperate and cold-water conditions, as well as snorkeling and freediving in extraordinary habitats such as in river beds with spawning salmon, in recently de-glaciated bays and lagoons filled with ice and glacial silt and in deep blue water with large marine animals including humpback whales, hammerhead sharks and pilot whales.

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