Location: 25°01, 05N 110°34, 2W
This morning we awoke to another glorious day with temperatures of approximately twenty-three degrees at 0800, not a cloud in the sky and a slight breeze. As breakfast finished, all onboard slowly made their way out onto the decks for wildlife viewing and to await the first of our morning’s lectures as we approached our first expedition landing of the voyage.
Richard Harker’s lecture “Mastering your Digital Camera, Beyond the Basics” easily pulled us away from the sun, which we were to enjoy for the rest of the day, as all onboard have a keen interest in getting all they can out of our digital cameras. For some of us, Richard was able to give us a refresher on our gear, while the rest of us learned of features we didn’t know our camera had. Most importantly though, we were taught little intricacies for shooting that would allow us to take shots that we had thought you could only get if you were using an Digital SLR camera. It has as much to do with the eye as with the camera!
Between lectures, deck time was once again enjoyed. While out on deck some of us were able to spot Red Billed Tropic Birds – a beautiful white bird with a long tail and, as the name suggests, a red bill. Other species spotted during this deck time were Frigatebirds and a Sabine’s Gull among others that were much too distant for a positive I.D.
As many of us were out on deck, we had forgotten that it was also the time for guests to be meeting with some of the other expedition staff to be fitted for snorkeling gear that we would be using this afternoon! An announcement was made and we all rushed from the decks with the excitement of this afternoon’s first expedition landing! With all of the commotion, we actually created a backlog and delayed our second lecture of the day: “What is a Marine Mammal?” presented by Dr. Tony Huntley. During his lecture, Tony engaged us in an interesting discussion on characteristics and adaptations of marine mammals. To properly show adaptations of marine mammals, Tony employed Christian Walter to don several layers of clothing, flippers, goggles and snorkel. Not only was this a fantastic example of these marine mammal adaptations it also sent us all into a fit of laughter seeing Christian on stage in all of this gear!
As Tony’s lecture progressed, we finished our approach to Isla de San Jose and our destination of Punta Colorado. As if by an unspoken signal from our marine mammologist, two Sei Whales appeared off of our port bow while our Expedition Leader and some of the expedition staff headed out to scout our landing for this afternoon.
Throughout lunch in The Restaurant, the excitement amongst the guests could be felt. Their first expedition landing, their first time out in the Zodiacs, snorkeling, hiking… it was all they could do to not rush themselves. As the expedition staff and deck crew prepared the landing gear and side gate, guests headed back to their suites to lather themselves in sunscreen. We were to be snorkeling for a few hours before heading out on a hike with our Baha guides, Anibal and Rodrigo, or out on Zodiac tours with some of the expedition staff.
As we approached our landing, Expedition Leader Suzana greeted the guests, and before exiting the Zodiacs, she explained where snorkeling would take place, and how long we could stay. She also informed the guests that Brent and I would be running shuttles between the ship and shore so that they would be able to return to the ship at any time they pleased before their next activities.
A short walk from our landing sight, guests were greeted by expedition team members Claudia and Ignacio whom would give guests snorkeling 101 if needed. Otherwise, they were shown where they could snorkel and what they might see beneath the waves. Guests were also reminded of the hand signals that Robin had taught the day before so they would be able to communicate to the staff on shore, or to JJ whom was in a Zodiac off shore, in case help was needed.
During the swim, several of the staff tried counting the different species of fish that were seen. Some stopped at 15 and another 25, while Bob Rubin, whom is very well versed in the Sea of Cortes, gave up his count at 31. Some guests remained in the water right until it was time to return to the ship to prepare for the hike or Zodiac tours while others soaked up the sun for a few minutes before taking advantage of the shuttle service provided.
With the scorching heat within the ravine that we had planned to hike, only seven guests decided to join Anibal, Rodrigo, Ignacio, Val, Brent and Christian. Even with the heat of the day, it was well worth it as we were able to see several plant species including Agave, Copalquim and Torote Colorado. Several cacti were pointed out by Rodrigo and Anibal, along with several reptiles and birds. Reptiles included the Zebra Lizard, Orange Throated Whiptail, Desert Iguana and the endemic Whiptail of Isla de San Jose! Birds seen on the hike were Turkey Vultures, Verdin and the amazing sight of a Costas Hummingbird sitting on its nest. Some thought they saw the male Costas, but it was gone in a flash so they were unable to confirm this sighting.
While the hike was going on, most had opted to spend time on the water with the Zodiac cruise. As we left the ship, we headed south along the coast of Isla de San Jose viewing the spectacular scenery while encountering Turkey Vultures, with one Black Vulture mixed into the group! We even had a Crested Caracara posed perfectly on top of a cactus awaiting his five minutes of fame as the shutters snapped in our cameras. From one of the Zodiacs, guests were able to pick out a Spotted Sandpiper along the shore as well. Being their first day in the Zodiacs, it seemed that all guests enjoyed themselves immensely, returning to the Prince Albert II with ear-to-ear grins on their faces. Could they have ever imagined the fun they were going to have?
Once back onboard, we had time to shower before heading up to The Theatre for the daily recap and briefing. Richard showed some amazing photos he had taken with his underwater camera during the snorkeling and Tony discussed the sexual orientation of several of the species, after which Christian presented his ever-funny International Enquirer presentation before handing over the floor to Suzana for a briefing on the next day’s events.
If I could speak for everyone onboard, I must say that if this is what Expedition Cruising is about – we are hooked!