The day began with an absolute whale of a morning! A gray whale mom-calf pair decided to hang out just off the bow of National Geographic Sea Bird. Within seconds, our pangas arrived and stood off at a respectable distance to observe their interactions. The calf was a bit feisty, swimming from one side of mom to the other, then venturing off for a few minutes, only to swim back to mom’s protective presence, who was pretty laidback about everything. After watching the pair for about an hour, our pangas dispersed to find other whales. One group encountered another mom-calf pair who simply rested on the surface (a behavior called ‘logging’) and slept as whales do (half the brain on low alert, the other half sleeping). It must have been a long night for both, as the pair ‘slept’ on the surface for over an hour with minimal movement. Other pangas in our ‘fleet’ found more pairs, and one experienced a curious calf. With the whales, the flat seas, a clear and sunny sky, and no wind, the day was most memorable.

We returned for lunch and sailed south again through the almost unnavigable Hull Canal – but not for the shallow-drafted National Geographic Sea Bird and our skilled local pilot – to Sand Dollar Beach. The canal offered more views of the mangroves, herons, egrets, frigatebirds, cormorants, and dolphins. We dropped anchor midafternoon and made a wet landing on the east side of Isla Magdalena. Then we hiked through the unique dune environment to the beach on the Pacific side. The beach is aptly named, as sand dollar tests (skeletons) ‘litter’ the sand, along with notable items like the skeletal remains of sea lions, pelicans, and sea turtles; a large variety of clam shells; and various forms of drifting flotsam/jetsam. The hikes, either alone or with family/friends, and weather provided a peaceful and serene experience.

After the traditional evening recap, we enjoyed another Baja California tradition of National Geographic Sea Bird: Mexican Festival Night with traditional Mexican cuisine, music, and decorations. The evening concluded with stargazing from the sun deck. And tomorrow? Another expedition!