Glassy waters and a green flash greeted early risers this morning as we cruised slowly along the east side of Islas Espiritu Santo and Partida. A group of common dolphins diverted us before breakfast when they appeared on the horizon. We spent a few minutes surrounded by these charismatic animals. We could look into the water from the bow of the ship and see their single blowholes open and close in less than one second as they surfaced to breathe.

At the little rocky islets known as Los Islotes, we observed Brandt's cormorants and a brown pelican sharing a rock during our Zodiac tours around them. These dramatic formations are eroded remnants of volcanic ash from an explosive period of vulcanism which occured millions of years ago. The red rocks are whitewashed with guano from the birds that nest and roost here. Blue-footed boobies, brown boobies and yellow-footed gulls could all be seen. Many magnificent frigatebirds soared overhead and a great blue heron was on a nest among Palmer fig trees.

Not much other vegetation, besides a few cacti, survives in this harsh environment. California sea lions also frolicked and lounged in the area, awaiting the coming breeding season, when the males will be more aggressive and territorial.

On our way to Isla San Francisco we spent some time with two fin whales (the second largest whale species) and then encountered more common dolphins -- hundreds of them. We decided to put the Zodiacs in the water and cruise among them. The sights and sounds were overwhelming and exhilarating as we became part of the herd. High leaps signaled unfathomed communiction between mammals that live in a completely different realm from us. Yet we felt accepted in their presence.

The remainder of the afternoon was taken up with various activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking on the island in the pleasant sunshine. The day culminated with a barbecue on the beach, s'mores, and singing around the bonfire.