Boca de Soledad/Puerto Lopez Mateos, 3/2/2022, National Geographic Sea Bird
National Geographic Sea Bird
We enjoyed a day packed full of panga rides through the mangroves and dune ecosystems of Boca de Soledad. The morning consisted of a few gray whale sightings, but other wildlife came out to give us the real show. Bottlenose dolphins swam nearby to get up close and personal with our pangas. We spotted many of the birds of Baja that utilize mangroves for nesting and resting spots, including ibises, frigates, pelicans, and even a nesting bald eagle!
Later in the evening, we went ashore for our beach barbeque. We walked the sand dunes, caught the sunset, and even enjoyed live music from local musicians, Los Coyotas. We danced, gathered around the fire, and a few of us even roasted dune s’mores! As the stars came out, we headed back to National Geographic Sea Bird to get some rest for our last full day of the expedition.
Growing up in Washington, Kelly has always felt connected to nature and the outdoors. With the Puget Sound and Cascade Range in her backyard, it came as no surprise that she decided to study environmental science, graduating from Santa Clara Universi...
The day began with an absolute whale of a morning! A gray whale mom-calf pair decided to hang out just off the bow of National Geographic Sea Bird. Within seconds, our pangas arrived and stood off at a respectable distance to observe their interactions. The calf was a bit feisty, swimming from one side of mom to the other, then venturing off for a few minutes, only to swim back to mom’s protective presence, who was pretty laidback about everything. After watching the pair for about an hour, our pangas dispersed to find other whales. One group encountered another mom-calf pair who simply rested on the surface (a behavior called ‘logging’) and slept as whales do (half the brain on low alert, the other half sleeping). It must have been a long night for both, as the pair ‘slept’ on the surface for over an hour with minimal movement. Other pangas in our ‘fleet’ found more pairs, and one experienced a curious calf. With the whales, the flat seas, a clear and sunny sky, and no wind, the day was most memorable. We returned for lunch and sailed south again through the almost unnavigable Hull Canal – but not for the shallow-drafted National Geographic Sea Bird and our skilled local pilot – to Sand Dollar Beach. The canal offered more views of the mangroves, herons, egrets, frigatebirds, cormorants, and dolphins. We dropped anchor midafternoon and made a wet landing on the east side of Isla Magdalena. Then we hiked through the unique dune environment to the beach on the Pacific side. The beach is aptly named, as sand dollar tests (skeletons) ‘litter’ the sand, along with notable items like the skeletal remains of sea lions, pelicans, and sea turtles; a large variety of clam shells; and various forms of drifting flotsam/jetsam. The hikes, either alone or with family/friends, and weather provided a peaceful and serene experience. After the traditional evening recap, we enjoyed another Baja California tradition of N ational Geographic Sea Bird: Mexican Festival Night with traditional Mexican cuisine, music, and decorations. The evening concluded with stargazing from the sun deck. And tomorrow? Another expedition!
The day began in Northern Magdalena Bay, with flat, calm seas and clear skies. Those of us who enjoyed our morning coffee on the bow of National Geographic Sea Bird listened to the distant calls of coyotes carrying across the dunes. Some of our guests began the day ashore, exploring the untouched sand for the tracks of wildlife that had passed through in the night. The rest of our party started with whale watching, and our trusted pangueros treated us to an eventful morning with a variety of wildlife. We were delighted by the playfulness of several gray whale babies, but the day was made even better by an especially friendly encounter with a dozen bottlenose dolphins. These charmers rode under the bow of the pangas and surfed in their wake. We could even hear the squeaks of their echolocation through the hull of the small boats. Another unexpected highlight of our whale watching was the incredible birdwatching! In addition to the more common brown pelicans, we sighted a group of American white pelicans, whose wingspans measure nine feet. This was followed by close looks at a colony of magnificent frigatebirds perched in mangroves right on the shoreline. An encounter with a group of white ibises was the cherry on top of a beautiful morning. In the afternoon, we boarded the pangas once more to search for whales. We enjoyed several close encounters with mother gray whales and their calves, made all the better by the beautiful, sunny weather. In fact, it was such a lovely day that we were able to have our dinner alfresco, with a barbecue on the beach! As the sun set over the dunes, we were serenaded by local musicians, Los Coyotes de Magdalena. After riding back to the ship in the waning light, we relaxed in the lounge with drinks and listened to a historical presentation from naturalist Mauro. We can’t wait to see what the friendly whales of Baja California have in store for us tomorrow.
Overnight, the captain and crew repositioned National Geographic Sea Bird to El Barril, where our plan was to explore the mangroves by kayak and Zodiac. Before even getting in the boats, we were lucky enough to observe a vibrant rainbow across the mangroves. Although we had some waves on the way over, it was nice and calm in the channels. We got to learn all about the red and white mangroves that we saw. Everyone got into hunting for the fauna that uses the mangroves as a nesting or fishing platform, including the green heron and the yellow and red mangrove warbler. Sergio, our pilot, guided us through Canal de Soledad, which was not an easy task given that we were transiting around shifting sandbars at low tide. The exposed sandbars were teeming with life; some of the highlights were the white ibis and the great blue heron. The biggest excitement, though, was the arrival of bow-riding common bottlenose dolphins. They didn’t stay long, but we had a few groups pay us a visit. Today wasn’t supposed to be about gray whales, but we were introduced to them with a few cow-calf pairs nearby and one pair really close to the ship. Jim Coyer, one of our naturalists, got us up to speed with a presentation on gray whales. Then Sue Forbes, certified photo instructor, taught us about photographic composition and how to get the most out of our smartphone cameras. The wind was with us as we transited the canal, so we arrived in northern Magdalena Bay early. Our panga drivers met us to take us to shore in Puerto Lopez Mateos. It was nice to see where some of our panga drivers live, and we were entertained by some local dancers before walking to see the gray whale skeleton. On the way, we saw lots of ospreys on the nesting platforms around town.