Saturday, June 2, 2007- Day Six – our final day of the trip
Our day began at the time a day should—at dawn. Before sunrise most of us mustered on deck for trip ashore and a walk in the cool sunrise desert of Isla Santa Catalina. As usual, a small contingent of birders fell behind the main group, lingering to listen to Verdins, Black-throated Sparrows, and woodpeckers. We enjoyed excellent views of Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. I was surprised to see Northern Cardinals, the same species that visits our feeder in the snows of winter, flitting brilliant red among cacti and thorn bushes. We got uncommonly good looks at Loggerhead Shrikes and Ashy-throated Flycatchers.
After breakfast a dozen or more people went on a long, vigorous walk much farther up the same arroyo (dry streambed) where we’d been birding at dawn. They enjoyed numerous cordón, barrel, and low-branching cacti and views of the granite structure of the island as they climbed upward, looking for lizards and the endemic rattle-less rattlesnake (they saw the former, not the latter). The hike entailed not a little effort and a bit of upward scrambling over loose footing. But it was worth gaining the ridge and a high commanding view of water on both sides of the island.
After a brief rest the group descended by a different route. Round-trip time: two and a half hours. A much smaller group went scuba diving at a site called Northwest Elephant Rock. Divemaster Vicky Showler led divers down to about 45 feet, for 40 minutes. The divers observed clouds of minute mysid shrimp and tiny iridescent blue copepods called Copilia. Fishes were abundant, with about 28 species seen, including Green Morays, King and Cortez Angels, various snappers, balloonfish, goatfish, guitarfish, puffers, surgeonfishes, pompano and Pacific Yellowtail.
Before lunch I spoke briefly about fisheries as a way of starting a “Lindblad Expeditions Forum” discussion about the state of the oceans and our role as seafood lovers in advancing conservation by choosing seafood caught with best practices. The discussion was animated, with lots of good comments from passengers and crew alike. It was great to be with people who want to highlight the plight of the oceans and discuss solutions, rather than sweep problems like overfishing under the rug and pretend everything in the ocean is “nice.” One passenger commented that she did not feel lectured to, but that the new understanding felt enriching. That was great to hear.
After lunch we re-positioned to the island Danzante. There people kayaked or snorkeled or just relaxed on the beach. We were treated to views of Mobula rays leaping repeatedly, flapping their fins in the air as though attempting to gain altitude. They looked joyful, and some of us started to swim to them hoping to get a glimpse from underwater, until I thought that maybe their exuberant leaps were frantic attempts to evade an attacking Bull Shark. We’ll never really know, but a new tongue-twister was born: “Multiple mobile Mobulas.”
So closes a wonderful trip, my first with Lindblad Expeditions and likely not my last. The crew was great, the boat was great, the scenery and wildlife often spectacular. The commitment to better awareness was evident throughout the ship, in the seafood choices, in the different waste containers for paper, plastic, etc., in the interest in discussing issues of the environment, and in various other details of how the trip operated. I felt comfortable with all of this. The ship, the beauty, the wildlife, the people—it made for an excellent week for me and for my family. I recommend it.
Friday, June 1, 2007 – Day Five
The destination was Isla Carmen, where I presented my work on albatrosses, talking about my book and about my recent travels to the world’s greatest albatross colonies for National Geographic. Activities included scuba diving on a protruding wreck that was home to numerous fishes, or, alternatively, a walk to a ghost town. The town was abandoned a couple of decades ago, except for a few people saying on as caretakers for the owners who run hunting trips. Most buildings stand empty, the basketball court unused for years. The church had statues of saints with offerings at their feet including shells and shark jaws. The walk continued to abandoned salt-evaporation ponds, where brilliant white salt looks like snow drifts in the tropics.