Excitement was palpable when pulling up to anchor off Isla San Pedro Martir, the most remote island within the Gulf of California. This designated Biosphere Reserve is teeming with breeding birds and sea lion colonies. Rats were eradicated in 2004, and the island has rebounded with life. It hosts two endemic lizards and nesting colonies of blue-footed boobies, brown-footed boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, brown pelicans, and California sea lions.

As National Geographic Venture maneuvered into anchorage, birds swirled above and gave fleeting glances of what was to come as we approached the island. At the time, we didn’t know that we were beginning the Zodiac ride of a lifetime.

Once set at anchor, the cruising began. Zodiacs were able to get really close to the island for amazing views of boobies, pelicans, and red-billed tropicbirds. As the five Zodiacs cruised along and rounded the corner of the island, a large pod of bottlenose dolphins began interactive play, including bow-riding, jumping, and zigzagging from boat to boat. Curious juvenile California sea lions chased one another in the wake of the Zodiacs, periodically popping up to get a look at the strange creatures encroaching on their environment. Zodiacs made multiple passes back and forth, and the acrobatics of the dolphins and sea lions never wavered. All guests were able to take part in this very rare experience. With SD cards full of videos and pictures and smiles spread from ear to ear, it was a once in a lifetime day around Isla San Pedro Martir in the Gulf of California, Baja.