Today we woke up to a beautiful sunrise! The swell was looking a little big, but once we made it to Isla San Benito Oeste, we were able to tuck away from it and get some beautiful weather. The beach landing was at the base of a small fishing village with lots of interesting little houses and a chapel. This is definitely a secluded island. Some of us completed a long hike to the peak of the island at a 660-foot elevation. Others took it slow and hung around the elephant seal haul out. The females had young pups nursing, and the rest were napping with the occasional argument taking place. Along the trail, we managed to see Cassin's auklet burrows everywhere! We also observed some human-made burrows for the auklets that were placed for nest monitoring. After the hike, we went on a Zodiac tour of the island and managed to see all four pinniped species found in Mexico: elephant seal, harbor seal, Guadalupe fur seal, and the California sea lion. What a treat! We also saw blue herons, black turnstones, terns, and two species of cormorants, brants and double-crested. The geology of the coastline was beautiful. After our morning of activities, we returned to the ship for lunch and started on our way to Magdalena Bay. While we cruised, we enjoyed two talks, one on whales and one on camera composition. After dinner, there was a watercolor activity where we painted whale tails.
National Geographic Sea Lion
National Geographic Sea Lion ’s first Baja trip of the season is off to a great start! We began in Bahia Almejas, where we were picked up from the ship after breakfast by the local pangueros, who hold the permits required to watch whales in Magdalena Bay. Their small fiberglass boats are a great platform for viewing the stars of this itinerary, the gray whales. We zoomed out toward the mouth of Bahia Almejas in the speedy pangas, getting great sightings of hundreds of birds congregating on the sand bars. And then, a spout! And another, and another! A dozen or more whales dotted the horizon in every direction. The whales were unusually active. While full body breaches are usually a rare occurrence in this species, we saw multiple breaches from multiple animals throughout the morning. All in all, it was a beautiful introduction to these animals that we hope to know better as the trip continues. The pangueros delivered us back to National Geographic Sea Lion and we lifted our anchor to relocate to Puerto Magdalena, a small fishing village. Photo instructor Chelsea gave a presentation about smartphone photography as we completed our repositioning, and then we disembarked once more for the afternoon. Some of us opted to go for hikes, which provided beautiful looks at native and endemic plant species. Others chose a fat tire bike ride, or a leisurely afternoon at the restaurant on the beach. Those who chose the Zodiac tour had a nice surprise when they encountered a large pod of bottlenose dolphins. After a long day of play in the sun, it was time to return to the ship and have a well-deserved dinner. Following a beautiful meal, naturalist Sofia gave a talk in the lounge about gray whales. Tomorrow, we journey north for new adventures!