As the sun rose into a cloudless sky, three single gray whales and one mother-calf pair swam near National Geographic Sea Bird as we cruised to an anchorage near Bocca de Soledad. The whales turned out to be a great omen, as the three-hour whale watching excursion from pangas after breakfast was in the ‘wow10’ category! Unusually flat seas revealed so many whales that the collective blows at any one time resembled a geyser field in Yellowstone. We saw another mother-calf pair, flukes upraised before a dive, numerous breaches and spy-hops, and individuals surfacing so close to the pangas that we could smell the breath and feel the mist. All the naturalists said that it was unlike anything they have ever experienced. It definitely was a morning to cherish and re-live through mental images and photos.

After lunch, we sailed south through the Canal de Soledad, again observing all sorts of water birds in the mangroves and along the shore. Bottlenose dolphins were observed occasionally and a few briefly rode National Geographic Sea Bird’s bow.

Mid-afternoon, we anchored off a small beach and hiked over the ever-changing sand dunes to the majestic and expansive Sand Dollar Beach facing the open Pacific Ocean.