Boca de Soledad and El Barril, Baja California Sur, México

Anticipating one more chance of an encounter with the large mammals that had traveled so far, we skipped across the choppy surface in our very sturdy Zodiacs towards the ‘boca’ or mouth of the lagoon. Suddenly, rising up in front of us, with green water spewing from her back, a gray whale cow with her calf close by interrupted our thoughts. The cool morning air was filled with the moisture and mucus expelled forcefully from the nares of these leviathans. Our seating arrangement shifted constantly as we strived to get a better look. Counting several more pairs of cows and calves, they surfaced between the dark swirling waves close by. Watching in awe and amusement, a young calf, experimenting with newfound fluke and flippers, rolled onto its back. But then our morning ended too soon, and reluctantly we tore ourselves away and motored back to the Sea Bird.

Relishing our ice cream treats after lunch, we cruised south on our transit of the Hull Canal. An ebbing tide allowed us many more opportunities to spy more wading birds in great numbers: blue herons, willets and whimbrels to name a few. Red-breasted mergansers, double- crested cormorants and royal terns crisscrossed our bow.

Once securely anchored at El Barril, we raced off to explore the finger channels found here amongst the vast mangrove ecosystem. The term “mangrove” refers to an ecological assemblage of plants. Intertidal mangrove swamp communities dominate the world’s tropical and subtropical coastlines. They create habitats for a diverse and characteristic community including numerous mangrove dependent organisms. Water was beginning to creep across the sandbars and flats as the tide started to rise and the shore birds were still plentiful. A graceful looking bird with wide outstretched wings arced over our upturned faces, binoculars glued to our eyes. White plumage, pink facial skin and black tips on the primaries defined this bird as a white ibis.

A mutiny almost erupted after it was declared that we must return to our ship. We reflected in muted silence momentarily on the days past. It was hard to believe that we had shared so many wondrous moments together in such a short time here in a magical place called Baja California.