0645, dawn on the Sea of Cortes. A cool breeze, if you can call it that, greets us as we head on deck to watch our approach to this morning’s landing at Isla Catalina.
Our plan for today was disembarkation at 0800 for a hike through the dry riverbed above the beach with Rodrigo and Anibal, but first we needed to go ashore and check the conditions.
As Captain Fabien Roche brings us to anchor, we begin to prepare for the lowering of the Zodiacs and heading out scouting. As the scouting party approaches the beach, we are welcomed ashore by a large group of Brown Pelicans and a lone Great Blue Heron. We pause for a moment as the beautiful bird takes flight leaving the beach to us. With our landing site cleared, we begin to bring our guests across for what should be a perfect walk. At 0800 in the morning it is already noticeable that it will be another hot day here in the Sea of Cortes.
With our hikers away in search of the endemic rattle-less rattle snakes and Barrel Cactus, the rest of the staff go about preparing for the rest of the morning. Snorkel gear is brought ashore for those who would like to swim from the rocky beach, while our divemaster Robyn sets off to anchor a Zodiac in a tiny cove. This will act as a snorkeling platform for our guests. Groups of schooling fish can be seen grazing amongst the rocky shores within the little cove he has chosen.
For those guests who decided to pass on hiking, shuttles would be ready as soon as they were prepared to head out. Slowly, as our first group of hikers returned to our landing site, guests came from the ship in search of marine life. As they entered the water, they could be sure we were keeping a close watch on them. In case anyone became too tired to return to shore or the platform, I was circling away from the group in the safety boat.
As they slipped into the warm waters, they were greeted by schools of fish. Sergent Majors, Threebanded butterflyfish, and Bumpdead parrotfish were some of the species encountered amongst others darting in and out of coral and in between the rocks.
Before we knew it, it was time to pull everyone in so our Captain could heave anchor and set us on course to this afternoon’s landing on Isla Carmen.
Loreto National Marine Park offers many possibilities for viewing marine wildlife. With hopes of this, I had an early lunch and headed out on deck to spend our short transit watching for wildlife. With the call of lunch so strong, many guests who had joined me on deck headed in before they were able to see Manta Ray jumping from the water, Least’s Storm Petrels and Blue-footed Boobies. However, they would have other opportunities.
On a last minute suggestion, we decided to change locations from our original landing choice on the island. It seemed that farther south along the shore there was a sandy beach with a nice reef just off shore. As we approached this new landing, Ignacio, Robyn and myself headed out in a scout boat while our AB Arman headed off to do some soundings of the area for the ship’s records. I dropped Ignacio on shore to scout the beach while Robyn jumped into the water to check the snorkeling. Curious as to what we might see, I patiently waited in the Zodiac for his return. As Robyn surfaced, I gave him a questioning look and his response was, “I have never been surrounded by so many fish in my life”. It seemed we had chosen well.
With a slight current, it was decided we would anchor two Zodiacs so guests would be able to drift from one to the other rather than struggling through it to return. Shuttles from one back to the other would be provided while the rest of the guests enjoyed some sun on the beach before heading out on another walk with Rodrigo.
As the first guests made it across to the second Zodiac, they came aboard with amazing news – there were several groups of small Manta Rays swimming below the Zodiac! With this, the word quickly filtered amongst the group and all were ready to get their chance. After a long day in the sun it was time to head home to the Prince Albert II and reflect on another enjoyable day here in the Sea of Cortes.