Baja - Among the Great Whales
Pack your sunscreen and a hat, throw in your swimsuit and a pair of hiking shoes, don't forget your camera - it's time to head out on a Baja California expedition! Just a short plane ride away from Los Angeles, step into a world of timeless beauty. The uninhabited midriff islands in the Gulf of California are truly a world apart.
Traveling aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion, every day was an adventure. We were awed by the sight of blue whales - the largest creature ever to have lived on the earth; amused by the preening of nesting gulls; and thrilled by the sight of pelicans, cormorants, and herons in flight. The red-billed tropicbird, with its beautiful long tail, was the subject of numerous camera shots throughout the trip. When sighting dolphins, pilot whales, orcas, sperm whales, and California sea lions from numerous vantage points on deck, we were often close enough to hear the mammals breathe! Snorkeling opened up a whole new world of life with puffer fish, delicate sea fans, sea stars, and colorful parrot fish, just to name a few, in abundance.
Each day brought a stop at a different uninhabited island, some with species of plants and animals endemic only to that particular location. A massive cordon cactus, with a spiny-tailed iguana feeding on its flowers, was a sight to behold. Isla del Carmen, with its abandoned buildings and blue water salt flats, was a favorite of the photographers. There were always numerous choices of activities and opportunities for small group interactions led by knowledgeable staff. Short, medium and long hikes were offered along with guided rambles with a naturalist and photographers' walks with assistance from the professional photographer staff. The afternoon often brought a chance to kayak or to take a dip in the cool water, swimming and snorkeling. The on-board videographer was always on the job, documenting each day and creating a wonderful DVD of the trip.
While I will treasure the memories of all these new and unique 'firsts' that I saw in Baja, my strongest impression of those days were what I didn't see - no towns, no people, no traffic, no buildings, no cars; it was a chance to immerse myself in the silence of the wind and the waves, a chance to relax under the hot noontime sun and the star-studded night sky, a chance to reconnect with this planet and with myself.