Friar’s Rock and San Jose del Cabo

Mar 26, 2019 - National Geographic Venture

We positioned ourselves east of Land’s End just in time to watch the colors of predawn lighten and glaze over Friar’s Rock. It was like watching an unknown world come to life, one with humpback whales, California sea lions, and a variety of sea birds. A gorgeous moon shone overhead and was joined by a bright Jupiter. Shortly thereafter, we were delighted by a magnificent show of a humpback whale calf breaching over and over again in the distance. We neared until we saw the mother and a male escorting the pair. The calf breached went on with its breaching routine, at times coming quite close to our vessel. Other whales meanwhile gave us splendid displays of their flukes as they dove. To find ourselves in such unadulterated wilderness this early in the day was certainly a great start.

We then transited northwest to the city of San Jose del Cabo for further wildlife encounters. While some explored downtown, many guests made their way to the estuary in town. This preserve is known well for its diversity of bird life. We were welcomed by Gila woodpeckers calling from the tops of pines, along with phainopepla perched just above our heads. Walking along the flowing river afforded wonderful views of many wading birds below and soaring osprey above. Belding’s yellowthroat, one of the endemic species to Baja California, can be found here at this estuary. This small warbler keeps close to the ground and typically stays in the reeds. Pairing a little patience with diligent looking, we obtained great views of this wonderful species. All in all, we walked away having spotted approximately 42 different bird species!

Lunch was a series of local delights held at Hotel Ganza. The outdoor seating and the accompanying breeze were welcome reminders to the fact we had just entered the tropics. We spent the remainder of the afternoon with the humpback whales, which went on entertaining us with dives and playful behavior until the evening. A bright red sunset sent us out onto the bow, concluding another wonderful day in this amazing region.

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About the Author

Steve Backus


Born in the mountains of East Tennessee, it was easy for Steve to fall in love with the wonderful natural environment that surrounded him. What started as a childhood passion to scan the creeks and ponds for all they would reveal evolved into a studied desire to understand the environments around us.

About the Photographer

Mike Greenfelder

Undersea Specialist

Mike learned early on that the best way to escape Ohio was to become a marine biologist.  During college at Wittenberg University he attended a semester at Duke University's Marine Lab — that time only confirmed his love for all things oceanic and maritime.  After graduation, Mike promptly moved to Catalina Island in California where he taught marine biology to school kids.  Since 1999, Mike has been working and traveling chasing his three loves: marine critters, photography, and birds.

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