The first day of our expedition to explore the beautiful Sea of Cortez was a success! The first light of the sun found National Geographic Venture sailing parallel to the peninsula of Baja California, heading to the northwest. Several of us on the bow, and everyone doing the early morning stretch class on the sun deck, watched the sun rising from the east. This is definitely one of my favorite times of the day, full of peacefulness and hope. We were able to see a couple islands ahead of us, the more distant Tortuga Island and San Marcos Island, our destination for the day. Every single island in the Sea of Cortez is different, and each has a distinctive flavor. San Marcos stands out for having quite dramatic and colorful rock formations, and it is particularly dry; it is also one of the few islands with a resident human population. On the southern part of the island, there is a gypsum mine and a company town. The island is also home to a variety of reptiles, birds, and other creatures, and we went ashore to explore it. We divided into different groups to go hiking and had a great time learning about a variety of topics, from the history of the island to its geology. We also learned about a myriad of adaptations made by plants and animals in order to survive in the Sonoran Desert. We observed some of the key species of this environment, like the cardon cactus, and we had a good workout exploring a couple dry riverbeds, called arroyos in this part of the world.

During the second part of the evening, we went back to San Marcos with our snorkel gear to explore the marine life. The extremely productive, nutrient-rich waters were a bit on the murky side, but everyone watched a good number of invertebrate and fish species, including the Gulf sun star, the gorgeous king angelfish, the electric bullseye ray, and big schools of anchovies, among many others.

Back onboard, we learned about our plans for tomorrow and enjoyed a delicious dinner. As I write this late at night, National Geographic Venture continues her way further north, heading into the Midriff Island region to continue our journey exploring the wonderful Sea of Cortez.

Photo caption and photographer: Hikers exploring San Marcos Island in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Photo by Carlos Navarro