Day 6 |
Oct 05, 2008

Los Islotes & Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California Sur, Mexico

By Christian Walter

Noon position: en route to Bahia del Candelario

As the sun started to rise behind the Prince Albert II, we made our approach to the small rocky islets known as “Los Islotes”. A bit of a breeze came out of the east, funneled between Isla Partida and Los Islotes, and the temperature was actually cool. The anchor was dropped shortly after 7 a.m., but the wind caused such a swell on the south side of the islets that Captain Roche decided to change anchor position once everyone had left on the Zodiac tour. One of the requisites to board the Zodiacs was to put on a Mexican “National Park bracelet”, indicating we had complied with pertinent regulations and knew what we were allowed to do (or not to do…). Unfortunately, hidden from our view, a private yacht had already set up their position on the other side of Los Islotes, and had actually sent some people ashore! A clear indication that they did not respect the rules regarding wildlife within this protected area. As soon as we neared, they started to round up their passengers and left (somewhat in a hurry). Most everyone went on the Zodiac cruise along the shore and around the islets. Not only could the Californian seal lions be admired, but there were also some plants – hardy enough to withstand the accumulated guano - and many birds. Frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans and gulls circled the islets, and even turkey vultures were seen. Every so often the frigates were harassing the boobies after they had plunged into the water to catch some fish. Depending on the wind-direction, the smell of the guano was quite strong – somewhat reminiscent of penguin sites in Antarctica.

Having seen the basaltic islets from the Zodiacs, it was time to put good use to the snorkel equipment that had been handed out the day (well, actually evening) before.

Robin had set up a snorkel platform consisting of two Zodiacs tied up to one of the buoys provided for this purpose by the Mexican authorities. The sea-conditions were good: not much of a current, a pleasing water temperature, good visibility once closer to the rocks, many schools of fish, and, of course, the sea lions. There was a constant noise of the bulls bellowing, with many females and pups in the water. A “seven-foot” rule had to be followed, meaning that one could not be closer than two meters to the rocks or the animals. A group of some 20-25 sea lions was hanging out, or better ‘hanging in’ in the water; and the experience of having sea lions coming close to you and diving around you was treasured by many. Eventually, even the Captain came out to dive with the inquisitive youngsters – alas, at 11:30 a.m. everyone had to be back onboard, as we were to visit Espiritu Santo during the afternoon.

The Prince Albert II cruised down the west coast of Isla Partida, before anchoring in front of Isla Espiritu Santo. Once again snorkel equipment was prepared, and this time two snorkel sites selected: one next to a basaltic rock with many cacti – using an anchored Zodiac as the ‘base’, the other ashore on a sandy beach. Two other groups had decided before us to use the same beach; luckily one group was about to come only the following day, but the operators knew Rodrigo (one of our Baja Boys) and gave us free access to their tents (and SHADE)!

Apart from snorkeling or swimming, sunbathing and kayaking was practiced. Uta, our Maitre d’, was very pleased when she got a chance to go out on one of the kayaks, while Claudia gave snorkel instructions and hints to first-timers. Eventually, a group of four guests and four staff-members went on a hike around the bay.

At 6 p.m. all staff and guests had returned to the ship, and the upcoming recap and briefing was being prepared. Apart from Chris’ recap on Californian sea lions, I hosted another version of the “International Enquirer”, before it was Val’s turn to show some footage taken at Los Islotes. Alas, the Prince Albert II uses PCs and Microsoft, while Val uses a Mac – causing some minor delays in communication between Val and his computer and between Val’s computer and the shipboard system. Ignacio bridged the time explaining tomorrow’s activities, and eventually Val got a chance to show the sea lions in action. While Chris was being called to look after a Black Storm petrel that seemed to have been attracted by the ship’s lights, Jarda announced that dinner was going to take place on deck under the stars. After dinner, the sundeck was transformed into a dance-floor, and a very entertaining evening was enjoyed by all.