San Francisco Island – Gulf of California

Jan 27, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


We had a lovely last day on our exploration of Baja California. Strong winds in the Gulf of California led us to anchor in idyllic Half Moon Bay on the small but stunningly beautiful and wild island of San Francisco.

Some of us opted for snorkeling along the rocky side of the bay, where we experienced the amazing underwater world of Baja, complete with colorful and fascinating fish. The guineafowl puffer was a favorite, as were the long skinny cornetfish.

Others of us went on an adventurous hike on the island. We climbed to lofty ridge that overlooks the bay for some awesome views. Along the walk we came across some iconic plants of Baja’s desert: the elephant tree and Adam’s tree. We also spotted a black-throated sparrow, verdin, Costa’s Hummingbird, and a pair of ospreys tending a nest.

Another activity was tide pool exploration. Naturalists Berit and Emily took groups to the rocky shore on the far side of the island. Beneath the rocks, they found wonderful creatures such as a sea cucumber, hermit crabs, a nudibranch, and Sally Lightfoot crabs.

Some guests chose to explore the island on their own, or just relax on the pleasant beach. The day gave us one last chance to really soak up the beauty and mystery of Baja’s Sea of Cortez.

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About the Author

Ivan Phillipsen

Naturalist

Ivan is a passionate naturalist with a background in scientific research. He has participated in studies of a diverse assortment of organisms: aspen trees, cactus wrens, aquatic snails, frogs, and beetles. He holds a M.S. in biology from Cal State San Bernardino and a Ph.D. in zoology from Oregon State University. The population genetics of freshwater animals was his area of focus. He has published a series of papers on the evolutionary biology of amphibians and aquatic insects. Ivan’s scientific work invariably involved backpacking into remote wilderness areas to find his secretive research subjects in their natural habitats.

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