The morning started with National Geographic Sea Bird anchored in Bahia Almejas. As the sun broke through the clouds, everyone excitedly prepared to set out whale watching. The pangas took us to the mouth of the bay and we found ourselves surrounded by gray whales! It was amazing to look around and see the giants in every direction. After the up-close encounters with the whales, the ship moved to Isla Magdalena. Everyone went ashore for a short hike through the sand dunes to the Pacific. We explored all along the way and naturalists pointed out beautiful flowers, intriguing animal tracks, and revealed the hidden mystery of sand dollars. The sand was as fine as flour and felt amazing under bare feet as we all walked back through the last light of the day.
National Geographic Sea Lion
Another day in paradise! We awoke to a gloriously sunny and warm day with beautiful light anchored off of Isla Santa Margarita. Following breakfast, we boarded local pangas (small boats) with local drivers and proceeded out to the mouth, or “boca,” where Bahia Almegas meets the Pacific. There we visited a large colony of birds resting on the sandy beach – cormorants, great blue herons, pelicans, and gulls all clustered together. Periodically a pelican would stretch its bill skyward or a raven would circle overhead, surveying the grounds for prey. The smell of all this wildlife became increasingly more experiential as we got downwind. There were gray whales in moderate numbers around the boats, lumbering back and forth in the wide pass. Blue skies and even bluer water were optimal for the photographers among us as the whales came up to breath or wave their flukes in the air. A few boats saw a whale or two spyhopping, which involves the whale lifting itself vertically out the water. Yet another stellar chance for our photographers. A passing sea turtle made an appearance, as did a sea lion or two. All in all, an excellent morning! After lunch, we headed to shore. Many guests went out on kayaks to paddle around a sheltered cove with a large mountain at one end. The beach was lengthy and covered in shells of all shapes and sizes. Ecology tours and even more choice photo ops came as we strolled the beach, making our way up an arroyo and onto a small road. The island presented entirely new environment to us, complete with a wide variety of cacti and a handful of wildflowers in bloom. The highlight was when Adrian, one of our naturalists, caught a rattlesnake, weighed and measured it, and let guests pet it. He was extremely excited because this is the first time a rattlesnake has been discovered on this island! Dinner consisted of a casual barbecue on the beach with tiki torches, a community fire, and camp chairs lining the shoreline. After sunset, we returned to the ship for the slide show documenting our journey and an evening to chat with friends both new and old. So ends our expedition among the gray whales of Baja California!