Whale Watchin’ – La Isla Bonita

Day 1 – San Diego Harbor

9:30pm – We left San Diego and headed towards Baja California Sur on a whale watching quest. Along the way, smell a bunch of seals, run into exotic birds and give the whales some love.

When leaving the harbor, barking California sea lions were hauled out on wooden platforms in the middle of the channel between Point Loma and Coronado Island. A cacophony of seal grunts, cheerful humans, camera shutters and the boat engine permeated the air. Pelicans squawking, I may have been dreaming.

Day 2 – Islas de Todos Santos

8:00 – 9:30am – Sailing on the choppy Pacific Ocean, bright blue streaks spruced up moving clouds, an indication that the weather was going to turn around later in the day, as expected. We saw one of the two lighthouses on Islas de Todos Santos, a pair of islands, at a distance. Off Ensanada, Todos Santos is a popular surfing destination and on the other side there’s an ocean fish farm set up by Pacifico Aquaculture that breeds striped bass (large fish with black stripes) to feed the growing world population of 8bio says the founder.

It wasn’t the fittest surf dudes/ettes breaking world class waves we saw, but thousands of playful Common and Pacific White Sided dolphins porpoising alongside our boat. They rode our bow waves and were just as excited as we were. Festivities lasted for an hour and a half.

Surface visibility reduced, the sky obscured by clouds while we sailed along the grey waters off Ensanada island, Mexico’s second busiest port and not my kind of tourist destination. We were called out to see a silhouette of a Mola Mola (ocean sunfish), the heaviest bony fish floating on the surface to sunbathe. It flopped the tip of its fin out of the water. Friendly hello.

Day 3 – Islas de San Benitos

7AM – We approached the largest of the three islands that make up Islas de San Benitos and landed close to a deserted fishing village invigorated by lazy seals with a case of trouser coughs lazing under the sun. The island once invaded by nonnative bunnies in the 90s is only inhabited during abalone fishing season.

I needed to shake my legs and breathe fresh air, so I set off on a 6km (out and back) hike over undulating rocky terrain for 3.5 hours towards the other end of the island. Razor sharp leaves of Yucca plants dispersed in the desert landscape. We were warned to avoid cholla spines (a type of cactus) that jump (yes) and hitch a ride by sticking to our feet. It’s the easiest way for them to grow. Of course, I stepped on one.

We looked for the old lighthouse from the 1930s. It was totally out of the way on a hill. Nope. We turned back and found amusement in two ospreys nesting on a cliff edge. Meanwhile, Guadalupe fur seals, a population recovering after almost being extinct, camouflaged with the rocks that surrounded the cove, waves crashing into tiny nooks. They barked and pushed one another in the water while I loitered around in the background eating my sandwich.

On the way back, I creeped up on light grey Northern elephant seals, none with bulging snouts, which implied they were all female or calves. I heard a male lurked somewhere in the background. Not unusual practice.

1PM – We were back on the boat, heading south on the migratory path of the Gray Whale. At 3pm, we spotted a Fin whale off the coast of Cedros Island, surrounded in nutrient rich waters that attract a massive population of marine life. We chased the whale for an hour and a half. It glided in and out of the water, occasionally lunged and showed off its white jaw on the right side. The second largest whale did not fluke despite our relentless chase.

And then, the sweet sun set.

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