Cabo Pulmo and Los Frailes, 12/14/2021, National Geographic Venture
National Geographic Venture
Located just 60 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, Cabo Pulmo encompasses over 7,000 acres of marine-protected land that brims with life. Cabo Pulmo houses eight fingers of hard coral reef, providing a habitat for countless invertebrates and fish species within a complex labyrinth of crevices. Corals are composed of numerous polyps living and working together to form the beautiful reef.
This morning, some of us snorkeled with a massive school of bigeye jacks in the rich waters off the coast. Those on pangas (fishing boats) enjoyed watching humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins dancing in the waves.
In the afternoon, we landed on a verdant shoreline for beach walks and birding in Los Frailes, located just outside park boundaries. Birders headed to the estuary for a glimpse of migratory species and local waterfowl.
Kathy Moran is National Geographic magazine’s first senior editor for natural history projects. A 30-year veteran of the Society, Kathy has produced feature stories about terrestrial and underwater ecosystems since 1990, and she has edited more than ...
Today we traveled through Hull Canal, a shallow passage with mangrove forests and dune ecosystems on both sides. This passage is located between the southern part of Bahia Magdalena and the northern area known as Boca de Soledad. Lagoons are created by barrier islands. A local pilot navigated the thin, challenging channel, making it a truly special area to travel. Our naturalists hung out on the ship’s bow, pointing out various bird species and encouraging guests to look over the side to see bow-riding bottlenose dolphins. After lunch, we explored a very narrow part of Bahia Magdalena via pangas operated by local fishermen. This part of the bay is an incredible nursery ground for gray whale mother and calf pairs. The babies fatten up on their mother’s milk as they exercise in the currents and prepare for the long migration back to the feeding grounds of the Bering and Chukchi Seas. We were treated to an awe-inspiring experience as these curious calves swam under our pangas and attempted to nurse, which included rolling around and bringing their cute, barnacle-free heads out of the water. We were lucky enough to observe multiple pairs and lots of activity. Thanks to low tides in the afternoon, we cruised close to shore on the way back to the ship, photographing herons, ibises, willets, and even a few howling coyotes. After warming up on the ship, we all met in the lounge for a Mexican fiesta and danced to a performance by local musicians, Los Coyotes.
Our final morning aboard the National Geographic Venture begins along the east coast of the Baja Peninsula. We are awe stuck at the jagged cliff sides that are illuminated by the morning pink hues and some of us are fortunate enough to see the green flash at sunrise. Our afternoon comes to a close after sailing through the Gulf of California in search of whales. We are grateful as the sunsets once more along the striking beaches of Isla San Jose.
The sun rose in pink-colored hues over the tiny fishing village of Los Frailes, just as a squadron of local pangueros rounded the corner from Parque Nacional Cabo Pulmo to welcome us to another day of adventure aboard the National Geographic Venture . A breakfast of salsa roja chilaquiles kickstarted us into our first snorkel of the voyage—and what a place to do it! Cabo Pulmo National Park is a jewel of the global “Marine Protected Area” project, a stunning example of how an aquatic community can rebound and thrive if it is freed from extractive pressures and given the time it needs to heal. Once nearly-barren from decades of overexploitation, this 27-square-mile piece of piscine paradise had been set aside as a no-take marine reserve since 1995, thanks to the dedicated efforts and oversight of Cabo Pulmo’s ocean-minded community of residents and expats. The park—which also oversees the northern-most coral reefs of the Pacific Coast of North America and only reef-building coral community in Baja California—has seen its ecosystem rebound almost beyond comprehension, with a biomass surging over 400% in the past 30 years. We spent the morning snorkeling along these as-near-to-pristine reefs, encountering full “emergen-sea rooms” of yellowtail surgeonfishes, resplendent dent wrasses, parrotfishes, moorish idols, pufferfishes, damselfishes, bennies, hawkfishes, groupers and countless tropically influenced swimmers, all communing around corals, sea fans and sponges. Open-ocean passers-by of green, trevally and blue jacks swam by as pompano and cornetfishes chased closely behind. Though the water was chopped by the wind and relatively cool with the approaching winter, we explored throughout the morning until hands were thoroughly pruned and hot showers were extra-appreciated. Chicken tortas powered us into an afternoon of cruising, whale-watching, and learning from National Geographic Exporter John Francis about sustainable tourism. An evening of presentations about the park featuring dive footage from the day left our memory-bellies full for the tomorrow’s final full day of expedition fun. One could say we had experienced Cabo Pulmo-nary Resuscitation… Onward!