Hull Canal & Sand Dollar Beach

Mar 07, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird


There are amazing places on this planet, and amazing people as well. And when one gets the perfect formula, combining both, life experiences become richer and more luminous.

There is a family who decided to share a magical region to world visitors. They found the right ship, crew, naturalists, but also, they created bonds with the locals, learning from their ancient knowledge and experience. Every year now, since 1977, a few people ¨migrate¨ to the Pacific lagoon of Magdalena, as the gray whales do. This is the meeting place for human beings and marine mammals.

Lindblad ships sail an officially non-navigable channel, the Hull Canal, from south to north and north to south, to search for mother whales and their calves, for adults in breeding behaviour, and to share a piece of ocean and skies with these giants of the sea—gray whales.

Some weeks we are more fortunate than others; sometimes we have up-close encounters. But it does not really matter how many inches away from the whale we are. What matters is that we breathe the same air, next to each other, and that we both marvel upon our existence on this planet.

Sven Lindblad was aboard National Geographic Sea Bird, renewing our inspiration for exploring and for caring. We saw new places along the same waters we have sailed for more than 40 years, and today, for the first time, we kayaked the narrowest part of the canal, at Devil’s Bent. Sergio Camacho, the grandson of Lindblad’s first pilot in Magdalena lagoon, observed from the bridge. His family’s relationship with Lindblad goes back three generations.

We were all explorers, we all felt part of a community, the community of Lopez Mateos, of Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic, and of the gray whales. The afternoon found us playing in sand dunes. We climbed and slid and walked the sands to get to the Pacific side where we could hear the waves breaking on Sand Dollar Beach. We were kids again and ended our day with a BBQ at the beach, contemplating the stars.

Sven reminded us: “We live in a world that has a lot of beauty, but we have to be careful and we have to be supportive.”

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About the Author

Paula Tagle

Expedition Leader

Paula grew up in Guayaquil where she obtained an undergraduate degree in geology from the Polytechnic University of Guayaquil. She enjoyed many field trips all around Ecuador and during her vacations traveled in Central and South America in the hope of learning more about her people and culture. The last year of her studies she worked at a mine looking for a more ecologically responsible way of recovering gold. Interested more in volcanoes than in raw materials, she came to Galápagos, a mecca for geologists, in 1992. She was bewitched by the other wonders of the islands and became a naturalist guide for the Galápagos National Park.

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