Overnight, the captain and crew repositioned National Geographic Sea Bird to El Barril, where our plan was to explore the mangroves by kayak and Zodiac. Before even getting in the boats, we were lucky enough to observe a vibrant rainbow across the mangroves. Although we had some waves on the way over, it was nice and calm in the channels. We got to learn all about the red and white mangroves that we saw. Everyone got into hunting for the fauna that uses the mangroves as a nesting or fishing platform, including the green heron and the yellow and red mangrove warbler.

Sergio, our pilot, guided us through Canal de Soledad, which was not an easy task given that we were transiting around shifting sandbars at low tide. The exposed sandbars were teeming with life; some of the highlights were the white ibis and the great blue heron. The biggest excitement, though, was the arrival of bow-riding common bottlenose dolphins. They didn’t stay long, but we had a few groups pay us a visit. Today wasn’t supposed to be about gray whales, but we were introduced to them with a few cow-calf pairs nearby and one pair really close to the ship.

Jim Coyer, one of our naturalists, got us up to speed with a presentation on gray whales. Then Sue Forbes, certified photo instructor, taught us about photographic composition and how to get the most out of our smartphone cameras.

The wind was with us as we transited the canal, so we arrived in northern Magdalena Bay early. Our panga drivers met us to take us to shore in Puerto Lopez Mateos. It was nice to see where some of our panga drivers live, and we were entertained by some local dancers before walking to see the gray whale skeleton. On the way, we saw lots of ospreys on the nesting platforms around town.