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Day 8 |
Sep 24, 2008

Los Islotes, Isla Partida And Isla Espiritu Santo, Mexico

By Dr Brent Stephenson, Ornithologist

Noon Position: 24 degrees 35'N ; 110 degrees 24' W

Weather: Hot, humid, with some overcast skies, a little cooling rain in the afternoon, and magnificent skies for sunset.

As we have become accustomed to, the Prince Albert II cruised smoothly into its anchorage off of the Los Islotes, two small basaltic rock stacks that strangely looked as if they had been dusted with snow during the night. Of course it didn’t take too much to realize that this was of course not snow, but the phosphate rich by-product produced by seabirds! These islands, as well as being a popular California Sealion rookery, are also home to magnificent frigatebirds, brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, and yellow-footed gulls. Whilst not wall-to-wall birds, there is a fair bit going on in the air as well as under water, and this is exactly what we were here to see.

After breakfast, we boarded Zodiacs, with a choice of snorkeling with the sealions or doing a Zodiac cruise of the small stacks. Many chose the snorkeling, whilst some opted for the more leisurely Zodiac cruise. During the cruise, we of course got up close and personal with the sealions, as well as with the birds. We were able to see the large male sealions holding their territories along the water’s edge, guarding their harems of females. As the females had given birth to their pups around June, there were lots of small playful pups on shore and playing in the water, and it was of course these that the snorkelers hoped to encounter. The males were very territorial, and we watched as they vocally defended their territories and females from interloping males, sometimes the interchange was more than vocal! But it was all pretty spectacular, and the animals seemed to show no concern at our presence.

Of course THE main highlight was the birds (sorry I’m an ornithologist!). There were small numbers of blue-footed boobies perched on the cliffs, and frigatebirds wheeling over the island. Every now and then an aerial chase ensued, with the frigates chasing a lonesome booby. Brown pelicans, with adults in their attractive breeding dress were perched on many of the rocky outcrops and occasionally dived in front of the Zodiac on a school of fish.

Finishing the Zodiac tour, several guests opted to join the snorkelers who had been having amazing encounters with sealions in the water. Young pups and sub-adults were the most playful, bobbing and weaving amongst the guests, and although not out of place on land, these animals were truly spectacular underwater. There was no end to their maneuverability and speed in their ‘real’ environment. But all too soon it was time to reboard the ship, and during lunch we relocated to our next stop: Isla Espiritu Santo.

Again, the scout boats headed out, and managed to find a great snorkeling location, and a beautiful beach from which we could swim. So the early afternoon was designated to water sports, and Silversea even set up a ‘Beach Bar’ onshore with chilled champagne and cocktails. After relaxing onshore, we then had the opportunity to do a Zodiac cruise around the coast of Isla Espiritu Santo, and through a narrow channel between it and Isla Partida. The scenery was spectacular with arid desert and cacti, plus agave, flowering bushes, and beautiful geology (yes, even I had to admit it!). The sandstone of the islands had been sculpted by the wind and rain, with honeycomb-like patterning in the rock. We managed to spot a few birds along the way, with yellow-footed gulls, Royal terns, great-blue herons, and even a couple of Western gulls.Again, the scout boats headed out, and managed to find a great snorkeling location, and a beautiful beach from which we could swim. So the early afternoon was designated to water sports, and Silversea even set up a ‘Beach Bar’ onshore with chilled champagne and cocktails. After relaxing onshore, we then had the opportunity to do a Zodiac cruise around the coast of Isla Espiritu Santo, and through a narrow channel between it and Isla Partida. The scenery was spectacular with arid desert and cacti, plus agave, flowering bushes, and beautiful geology (yes, even I had to admit it!). The sandstone of the islands had been sculpted by the wind and rain, with honeycomb-like patterning in the rock. We managed to spot a few birds along the way, with yellow-footed gulls, Royal terns, great-blue herons, and even a couple of Western gulls.

Back at the ship at 1800, we came back onboard in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset as the ship started to head south for our next day’s adventure.

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