According to the navigation chart, we leisurely cruised through the Hull Canal, officially designated unnavigable. No, we were not trying to escape from a squadron of thieving frigate birds… We were able to sail the canal since National Geographic Sea Lion holds a transiting permit specific to this region, but also due to the ship’s small size, shallow draft, and presence of a local pilot on board for guidance. The pilot is third generation (all of whom have piloted company vessels through the canal), so we were in good hands as we navigated the complex and changing shoals. To date, no other cruise ship has been granted this privilege of passage through the canal.
Hull Canal is a fascinating and important area. The surrounding mangroves are an exceedingly rich habitat for a plethora of marine organisms (both attached and free swimming) and birds of all kinds. Additionally, dead mangrove leaves accumulate on the benthos and are an important sequester species of carbon. Following a presentation by our naturalist on the birds associated with mangroves, we roamed the decks wielding binoculars and cameras and energetically scanned left and right shores, as well as the skies above. We also had bottlenose dolphins riding the bow wave and a close view of a gray whale off the bow, as well as several distant blows.
In the afternoon, we anchored in Boca La Soledad where scheduled activities included biking on the beach with fat-tired bikes, leisurely hikes among the dunes, and whale watching from our inflatables, which were piloted by local pangueros. The whale watch trumped everything, however, as it was simply several levels beyond awesome! A mother and her calf spent the entire afternoon going between our watercraft, gently soliciting innumerable rubs and touches. Everyone had ample time to interact and most also experienced a face full of mama and baby breath. Our joyous shrieks and shouts echoed across the water. Both mom and calf truly enjoyed our attention, perhaps as much as we enjoyed theirs.
Cocktail hour featured spirited music by the Los Coyotes de Magdalena, setting the tone for a lively dinner followed by more music and dance by women from Lopez de Mateos. And so ended another magical day on board National Geographic Sea Lion in Baja California Sur.