Gaviota Island and Balandra Bay -- Friday, 3/18/16
After sailing the night, Ruby approached La Paz. Again, my eyes popped open as the Eastern sky lightened, and I was able to watch Ruby slide into port from the buoyed channel. So amazing to watch this leviathan of a ship execute a 180⁰ maneuver so as to bring the ship alongside (starboard side) the quay. We are docked at a commercial pier, roughly a half hour out of La Paz proper. The Gulf of California is packed with whales -- Gray and Blue, even a few Orca, and we see them every day. Cool beans!
Jimmy and I booked a half-day snorkeling excursion before leaving home. Gathering on the dock at 7:20 am, it's quite the change from yesterday's late start. The wind is still blowing from the north (like a Santa Ana wind) which adds a "wind chill" factor to the partly-cloudy morning. The sea is still choppy, but we boarded a real boat with a good crew, and -- hi-ho, hi-ho -- it's off to snorkel we go!
We traveled maybe 30 minutes across the turquoise water to Gaviota Island. The captain said, "look carefully, you'll see the island is white." One of the crew called it "guano island." A younger girl asked what that was. His reply: "Birdshit." It's a massive volcanic rock island, which makes it a natural refuge for hundreds and hundreds of seabirds: Brown Boobies, Blue-footed Boobies, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants. On the other side are Yellow-footed gulls and nesting Herons.
The birds are neatly camouflaged on guano island.
Dots of blue are the Blue-footed Boobies.
Fairly dripping guano!
Before this trip we'd never seen pelicans with bright red gular pouches (red necks!), but here off Baja, the breeding males are sporting these spicy-red enticements!
Reddish Egrets and Great Blue Herons nest amid the Cholla cactus. Baja is considered part of the Sonoran Desert and instead of swaying palm trees, the dry land is covered with spiny cactus. Saguaros dot the hillsides, just like in Arizona.
The original plan was to snorkel first off Gaviota Island and then spend time swimming or relaxing on one of the soft sandy beaches of Balandra Bay. Our crew switched it up, thinking later in the morning would be better for snorkeling (as in, warmer). So, the boat continued on to this absolutely beautiful cove.
Jimmy and I climbed up to the top of the ridge, sinking in white sand, soft like talc, much like the Destin area of the Florida panhandle. The difference is this sand is surrounded by sharp volcanic rock. We walked around as much as we wanted and then "parked it."
The crew was handing out full-length wetsuits, which meant the water temp for snorkeling wasn't much higher than in Cabo, so we will definitely appreciate wearing a wetsuit.
Heading toward our snorkeling destination off Gaviota Island. But first! The rocky outcrop dead ahead is home to sea lions (one excursion features snorkeling with them), so we'll circle around for a close-up.
King of the Heap!
Yes, the water was chilly, but we snorkeled off the boat to a coral reef, alive with colorful fish. I wish I cold identify them, but (alas) I can't ... so many pretty fish. Plus sea urchins, sea stars, anemones, even a sea cucumber or two, along with mounds of coral, kept our interest in tooling around the reef long after we chilled. Our adventure was supposed to be 50 minutes, but I doubt any of us lasted that long. We sure enjoyed it, tho. Jimmy shot lots of underwater GoPro video, but we haven't processed it yet.
Back by Noonish, we grabbed lunch and then passed out on the bed for an hour or so -- tired -- trying to get and stay warm is exhausting! We got up to play a few rounds of Yahtzee and then it was dinnertime (so delicious).
Goodness gracious - would you look at this? I'll tell you what it is: White chocolate cheesecake with vanilla mousseline and strawberry preserves. "The chef added silky smooth white chocolate ganache to the delicious cheesecake mixture. He then created a white chocolate shell that holds a delicious mousseline and fresh strawberry preserves." Do I know what that means? Nope. The thin red disk is chocolate, along with the curl. All I know is that this exquisite concoction was one of the richest desserts I've ever had, and also one of the best.
Ruby departed La Paz at 4:30pm. Once out of the Bahia de la Paz, she set a northerly course up the Gulf of California, aiming for Loreto. Both La Paz and Loreto are new territory for us, which is kinda neat. No snorkeling tomorrow ... it's a walkabout day. So, after a turn on the Promenade Deck, we retired really early and slept well.