San Jose del Cabo

Feb 05, 2020 - National Geographic Venture

Today we awoke in view of Friars Rock, at the arches by Cabo San Lucas. The air was cool, the sky was clear, and the promise of a fine day was as real as it gets. As National Geographic Venture rounded the arches, guests made their way to the forward deck to see these magnificent rocks, and the highly developed landscape of Cabo San Lucas that we would soon leave behind in favor of the harder-won treasures of San Jose, and the Gorda Banks.

We arrived at the mouth of the San Jose del Cabo marina and ferried guests to the dock, and busses, only having to stop once, or twice for passing humpback whales! San Jose del Cabo is a wonderful town teeming with art, and history. While some of our number headed to the old part of the city to take in the history and perhaps a few of the famous paletas (popsicles) available in mango, coconut, hibiscus, and sores of other wonderful and exotic flavors. Meanwhile, the rest of us headed out to the estuary of the San Jose River.

In the estuary, the assortment of birds that greeted us did not disappoint! There were great egrets, white-faced ibis, snowy egrets, osprey, yellow legs, and many other species that were a treat for even the most seasoned birders in our company. As we approached the mouth of the estuary, our beautiful ship could be seen riding the swell, just over the beach that was separating us from the Gulf of California, and the whales beyond! On the path we found a palapa roof, recently torn out by high winds, and offering a study in rustic geometry by the side of the path. A bit further down the path a coachwhip lizard decided to warm himself on one of our guest’s trouser legs, as she surveyed a Belding’s yellowthroat.

At noon, we headed back to the ship for lunch and an afternoon cruising for whales off the Gorda Banks. However, this was not to be a normal day of searching for whales! Almost immediately, we began to see spouts both near and far. And, as we moved a bit further from shore, closer to the heart of the banks, the sighting became more numerous, and often interspersed with tail lobs, tail slapping, spy-hopping and even breaching! Eventually, the pace of whale encounters became somewhat frenetic, and we found ourselves unable to decide where to look, as we were literally surrounded by whales! This continued for several hours, and eventually the whales tired of teasing us, and came directly up to the ship where they mesmerized us with a series of spy-hops and tail lobs that were so close it sent many of us scurrying for smaller lenses! As the day closed, and the winds picked up, most of us retired to the inner recesses of the ship where many of the more seasoned naturalists among us were heard agreeing that this was one of the best humpback encounters they had ever experienced!

As always, diner and drinks were a welcome treat, as the ship made her way north towards a rendezvous with tomorrow’s destination.

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About the Author

Jeff Campbell


Jeff Campbell fell in love with the ocean while attending boatbuilding school in Eastport, Maine. Since completing his MS in Marine and Estuarine Science at Western Washington University, he has worked for NOAA documenting the ecological impacts of transoceanic fiber-optic cable; the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife developing an aging method for sixgill sharks; the Lummi Tribe as a Harvest Biologist; Northwest Indian College teaching Fisheries and Wildlife Biology, and as a volunteer for the Whatcom County Marine Mammal Stranding Network. He has been involved in research developing mitigation methods for harmful algae blooms, sterilization methods for oil tanker ballast water, and techniques for screening refinery effluent for harmful ecological effects. He also served as Principle Director on a USDA-funded grant using student interns to study the impact of nutrient-rich run-off on seasonal dead-zones in Bellingham Bay.

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