This whale watching captain is here to stay

The happy crew of Cabo ExpeditionsI am the second oldest person here. And I’m actually proud of that. Imagine, I’ve been with Cabo Expeditions for 16 years now!

I guess that makes me the happiest person here, too. If there’s one thing that makes Cabo Expeditions one of the best companies in Los Cabos, it’s the fact that they take their employees’ happiness seriously. I’ve known that the longest. In every day of my stay here.

Zodiac whale Watching AdventureCabo Expeditions whale watching tourToday, I set off to sea as boat captain of Cabo Expeditions’ whale watching tour. It’s what I’ve been doing since I left Acapulco to work here. And it never grows old. Not one tour is ever the same. Except that it always ends in happiness. Nothing compares to the genuine thrill of seeing mother whales and baby whales playing in the water. It’s always fulfilling to see how the guests enjoy watching them and telling me that they would love to come back.

David and Goliath: The small Zodiac boat and the massive cruise shipYou see, Cabo Expeditions does whale watching very differently. The tours are well-prepared, very organized. And conservation is indeed given top priority. Some whale watching tours in the bay use bigger boats and come closer than 260 feet (80 meters) to the whales. The roar of the big boats’ engines drives the whales away. That’s very disrespectful. But because our boats are smaller, we have better chances of seeing the whales up close–especially when they decide to come to us! It’s no wonder some of our most loyal guests have been coming back to Cabo Expeditions every year, for 10 years now.

Conoce BCS ConferenceAnother thing I like about Cabo Expeditions is that it keeps me inspired to learn. You’re never too old to learn. Up to now, I still read books and research on the internet about new information on humpback whales. In fact, after today’s tour, I’ll share what I’ve learned with my fellow captains. We like that. We do a course at the start of each season every year to share information with each other. In 1999/2000, we even went to a lecture on whales conducted by the Sea World of San Diego.

New knowledge, new experiences, new friends–there’s always a new reason for me to stay here at Cabo Expeditions. To me, it’s not work. It’s home. And that’s why this old boat captain is here for life.

I Swim With The Gentle Giants

Beto doing an orientation on the whale shark tourI’ve been told that I have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. I’m a Cabo Expeditions guide. And I swim with whale sharks.

Exciting? Yes. But dangerous? Not at all.

These whale sharks may look scary at 30-feet long, but they’re actually gentle giants. You see, every week I do online research on these beautiful creatures to prepare for a new tour. That’s how I learned that they’re filter feeders. So swimming near them poses no risk to divers or snorkelers.

whale shark coupleI remember once taking a young group on our Swimming with Whale Sharks tour. I was up by 6:00 a.m., like I usually am on a whale shark day. But they were up even earlier. They were too excited! Good thing we immediately saw two whale sharks when we reached the observation area. One was 9-feet long, the other was a full 20-footer. I jumped in and showed them how to approach these docile creatures. That moment for them was unforgettable. They said it was their first time to swim with anything that big and that peaceful!

An older woman on the tour said swimming with the whale sharks was on her bucket list. She was almost teary-eyed when she thanked me for finally making a huge dream come true.

underwater school busBut sometimes, things don’t work out as planner. On one tour, I readied the equipment the day before as always, we set sail at our usual time, but after circling for an hour —we still hadn’t spotted anything. That’s how it is when tours happen in the wild. Our tours are right in the whale sharks’ natural habitat. But, even during the best season, it’s still the whale sharks’ decision whether they want to make an appearance or not.

Everyone on the boat was starting to get frustrated. I was disappointed myself. As a guide, I always want my guests to come home with an amazing whale shark story to tell their friends and families. But it looked like that wasn’t happening that day.

peek-a-boo whale sharkAnd that was when three gigantic whale sharks popped out of the water! The captain immediately stopped the boat and we got ready to swim with them. Later on, the guests said those 40 minutes in the water —alongside the biggest fish in the world— had been absolutely magical. It’s true. I do this all the time and it still amazes me!

I guess that’s the exciting part about my job. Sharing my whale shark experience with the guests and seeing their own experience move them. I do what I love doing, and I love sharing it with others. Up to now, I keep in touch with some of them through Facebook or by email. As soon as they ask when the next whale shark tour is going to be, I know I’ve done a good job.

A Blog from the Sea of Cortez – Part 6

Read Part 5 →

human cardon cactusDay 12, June 11th (Catalina Island, where we did some hiking, and Puerto Gato, where we spent the night)

I love the hiking. It’s a form of meditation for me. This is what happens: When you’re hiking, you’re not always watching the summit. When you are concentrating on the path, that’s when you’re truly happy. When your mind is where your steps are, when your mind is just on your breathing, your mission is to just keep going.

resting after a hikeYou have to be prepared and take care of yourself. I hike with my back pack, my cameras, and everything. Sometimes you have to go down to take a better road, but if you are taking one step at a time, not going off into the past or the future, you’ll be in the present—where there is more serenity.

If you’re hiking, you leave your cultured self. You just see the panorama and say “Wow! I’m so happy.” As with life, you don’t want to carry too much weight on your shoulders. It’s always good to travel light.

giant barrel cactusOne of the amazing plants on uninhabited Catalina Island is the giant barrel cactus that lives just here, nowhere else. We found some between six feet and almost nine feet. Last time we found a huge cactus that was the height of two persons.

We were puzzled how plants could grow so large in this dry and withering climate. We discovered the answer: when you cross the island, in the middle there are clouds. For fifteen minutes we were cold. But that’s why the plants here are so healthy, even though it rarely rains – they get water from the mist of these clouds.

Day 13, June 12th (Las Animas and San Francisquito, where we spent the night)

Tio Guero and his freshly caught fishWe did some free diving here. Las Animas is one of the best places in the Sea of Cortez to go spear fishing. We didn’t have any spears – I don’t like the killing part, just the eating part! Our chef Tio Guero has a lot of knowledge of the area. He caught three fish – a snapper, a grouper and a triggerfish.

Tio Guero is always laughing and telling tall tales about his experiences, then says “I’ve got the pictures to prove it.” He’s a man of the sea; he likes what he does and knows what he’s doing. He’s very good at reading people and anticipating their needs. A great asset for Cabo Expeditions.

Day 14, June 13th (Los Islotes, Espiritu Santo, El Tecolote beach–where we had carne asada again, then La Paz)

We gave thanks to God that we all arrived safely and had a great time. While we were making the carne asada to celebrate we saw four fin whales! These giants are second only to blue whales in size! Their long bodies are really streamlined. What a great way to end our journey.

Beto without his expensive sandalsWe learned to look around at the smallest creatures, the geology, not just the big animals. The smallest ones are just as important as the bigger ones. The rugged geology of this region makes you wonder “what happened here?!”

Today Beto admitted (eleven days later) that he left his very expensive hiking sandals behind on Espiritu Santo. He mentioned it to a crew member from another company, who told him that he saw the sandals on the beach, but thought they belonged to one of the guests who were snorkeling close by at the time. These sandals come with a lifetime guarantee, but the guarantee doesn’t cover lost pairs!

Lessons learned for Cabo Expeditions:

1. We had to hone our skills – how to set up the tents, in what direction, how to anchor, how to set up the sleeping pads and equipment, etc. in order to be efficient.

2. We had fresh food and ice water on the first couple of days because we came from the mainland, but we realized in the coming days that those were a luxury that we wouldn’t have until we reached Loreto. (Fresh fish we could catch, but not ice water…)

3. When we travel, our true selves shine. I like to observe people because it tells me a lot (in the way the person sets up the tent, sleeping pad, etc.).

4. It’s a time to let go, knowing that the next day is going to be different. Don’t think about things that are going to happen when you come back.

5. We had to learn patience. We like things to be a certain way, but each person is different.

6. This is not just a trip, but an experience. It’s a trip within yourself; an opportunity to know yourself and get out of your comfort zone.

7. You realize how much water you use on little things such as washing the dishes.

8. You learn to conserve your energy by staying in the shade, because the sun saps your energy even when you’re not doing anything!

watching the movie Titanic on the islandOne night when we were on Palma Sola Island, we pretended we were in a drive-in, watching a movie projected on the huge rock wall that borders the beach.

It turns out that Oscar Ramirez made a composite photo of us that he presented to us at the end of the journey. In it we are sitting on the beach facing the wall, where he added a scene from the movie “Titanic.”

Unlike that ill-fated ship, the only mishaps on our happy voyage were the loss of two pairs of sandals!

We headed back to Cabo San Lucas with a contented spirit, eager to share our adventures with our friends.

A Blog from the Sea of Cortez – Part 5

Read Part 4 →

Isla del CarmenDay 9, June 8th (Isla del Carmen)

Isla Carmen has been called the most scenic of the bay of Loreto’s islands and we could see why. The island shines in the National Park of the Bay of Loreto. The marine park was created in 1996. There are five islands in the park—Isla del Carmen, Isla Catalina, Isla Coronado, Isla Danzante and Isla Montserrat.

Before the park was created there were no restrictions on commercial fishing companies and shrimp trawlers – both are now illegal in the park, but sport fishing is still allowed.

Balandra Bay at Isla del CarmenOne of the places I hadn’t been to before, Balandra Bay, is so beautiful. It’s very healthy in marine life. Not many boats stop here, so there’s not as much sun block in the water. The starfish don’t get so stressed from the chemicals in those lotions.

People don’t realize that most commercial sun block cream is toxic to sea life. It’s important to protect your skin with sun block, but make sure it’s the reef-safe eco-friendly kind.

On the land, it’s desert, but it’s full of life. It’s alive! How do plants and animals survive with no water? But they do!

Day 10, June 9th (Danzante Island)

What’s so great about our Zodiac boats is that they can get into places that big boats can’t go, like coves and caves. Some caves have roofs studded with fossils. It makes you wonder “what happened here?” The boats with their twin four-stroke 115-horsepower engines are quiet and don’t leave an oil sheen on the water.

High-speed ZodiacsJose is a very good driver and has an eagle eye for wildlife. He’s quick to spot anything moving in the water. He always points out whales, a manta, or a fish jumping out of the water.

So many people think Baja is just dusty rough desert roads – they’re surprised to see hundreds of whales of all sizes and species patrol these plankton-rich waters in what some people call “Mexico’s Secret Ocean” – the Sea of Cortez.

Danzante Island’s Honeymoon Cove is one of the highlights of our trip. Danzante Island was the meeting place for the three indigenous cultures of Baja California Sur—the Cochimi, Pericú, and Guaycura tribes. They would travel long distances to come together here where they danced for days and days.

Danzante IslandThey would be praying to their gods to supply water for their communities. They used peyote, a cactus containing the hallucinogen mescaline to get into a trance. In their hallucination they would ask for the most precious thing—water.

Day 11, June 10th (Agua Verde)

Here is a community of 300 people, with two churches and now two little stores. When you spend a little time with the locals, the fishermen, you learn a lot from these people. There are things that they can teach you. They see things that you don’t see.

Once we met two brothers there. One came to Cabo San Lucas, but he couldn’t get used to the urban energy of Cabo! Now he lives in a little ranch with four adults and three children – that’s the whole town. He taught me how to hike, how first you got to be sure you’re not going to fall.

The next day’s hike would reveal the mystery of one of Baja California’s unique and rugged survivors.

To be continued…

An Unforgettable Birthday at Espiritu Santo Island

“We went on the Espiritu Santo Island Expedition to celebrate my birthday and I will cherish the memories.”

It’s a full day but everything is taken care of for you. We were picked up at 6am for the 2 hr trip to La Paz. Along the way we stopped for an authentic Mexican breakfast which was the perfect way to break up the ride. The roads are new and our driver was awesome covering the miles at a safe but quick pace to get us to La Paz.

The highlight of course was snorkeling with the sea lions. Alberto snorkeled with us. There were 12 of us on the boat which worked out well. After having lunch on the most beautiful beach and relaxing we stopped at another snorkel site and saw beautifully colored fish.

The day was long but completely worth it and an experience I highly recommend. We found many of the locals where we were staying haven’t been to La Paz and Espiritu Santo Island and were asking questions. Special thanks to our guide Alberto, boat captain Javier and our van driver whose name escapes me. They were all super professional and well versed for this expedition.

A guest celebrates her birthday with Cabo Expeditions at Espiritu Santo Island. Please follow this link to read the full review on TripAdvisor.

A Blog from the Sea of Cortez – Part 4

Read Part 3 →

Honeymoon CoveDays 5-6, June 4th-5th (Danzante Island)

I like the energy that this island has. It has so much intense, positive energy. There’s a labeled hiking trail that identifies the plants that you see along the way.

The Honeymoon Cove is the most beautiful cove in the Sea of Cortez. We snorkeled in a place outside the cove, which we decided to call “Stars Under the Sea” because the bottom was full of different kinds of sea stars. They looked so healthy, unlike in some places where people using a lot of sun block swim.

Another thing that I like about this island is when you’re hiking during sunset. Suddenly you see a flock of pelicans coming back from fishing to go to sleep. They sail in a long line low over the water.

Ana Maria always makes sure she has her own quiet time at sunset, when she meditates to find her inner peace.

Coronado IslandDay 7, June 6th (Coronado Island)

Coronado Island is famous for its colorful landscapes, and we can see why! White sand beach contrasts with green shrubs, black volcanic rocks, and the blues and greens of the sea.

During the night we realized that we always had to be conscious that on every island there could be dangerous wildlife, such as a rattlesnake—which Tio Guero discovered on his way to the bathroom! It was a reminder that these animals live here, this is their home and we need to show respect.

Tio Guero and his carne asadaTio Guero always surprises us with delicious dishes. This evening he made a delicious carne asada. Miguel always makes the best salsas, and tonight was no exception. His specialties are guacamole, pico de gallo, red salsa, and a killer chile habanero. He’s a great cook and always on top of everything.

Just before Loreto, we pulled up at beautiful Puerto Escondido just south to fill up with gas, and take a fresh shower. Then you really realize how easy you have it at home! And how much water we routinely waste.

It’s interesting to see different cultures and how they adapt to the place. The new people who came to this land, sometimes we don’t want to leave our customs, and we want the place to adapt to our needs. We sell ourselves short. The place has more to offer us than what we think we need.

Post-islands expedition meal in LoretoDay 7, June 7th (Loreto)

Everybody was tired when we arrived at Hotel Angra—a small and simple hotel in Loreto—in the morning. The first thing that people did was to take a fresh shower, turn on the air conditioning, and sleep. Back in the comforts of city life!

We had a delicious lunch of almeja chocolata—chocolate clams. The Sea of Cortez is well known for these large, tasty clams, their shells streaked with brown and the meat partly the color of caramel. Aaron was very skilled at opening and cleaning clams. He also makes a good arrachera, tender meat for tacos.

We restocked our supplies for the southbound exploration and waited for the next group to arrive.

Three new guests bring the manifest to eleven for the southbound journey. It’s no accident that people who love beauty, nature and photography predominate! This is the place to be with a camera.

Gabriel FonsecaGabriel Fonseca Verdugo is a local videographer. Hector Salgado, a filmmaker, joined Oscar on the first islands trip back in May 2009 as well as on other trips outside of Cabo Expeditions.

Don Hirschaut is the owner and president of Earth, Sea, and Sky Vacations. He shares Oscar’s passion about nature. You can read his bio here: www.cabovillas.com/staffbios.asp

The crew remained the same except for Miguel. His back’s acting up so he’s traveling tomorrow for Cabo San Lucas from Loreto by road. We had dinner with both groups.

On the next leg of the journey we were to witness the scene where indigenous people of Baja California Sur, now mostly vanished, reached out for the gods with dance… and sacred drugs from the cactus.

To be continued…

A Blog from the Sea of Cortez – Part 3

Read Part 2 →

Chilling out on the islandDay 3, June 2nd (San Jose Island)

“Cafe Grande please!” That’s Michael. He’s a late riser and a big person. By this time, Tio Guero knew he would have to prepare enough coffee and food for Michael. Michael always starts his morning begging for a grande coffee.

Luis, who was showing off his very nice-looking Puma sneakers for hiking, was put out when the soles fell off yesterday. “Now I realize why they were selling it two-for-one!” They look more like boxing shoes today.

Pod of common dolphins in the Sea of CortezAfter breakfast, we gathered our things so we could move to the next point, which was San Jose Island. We became more efficient in what we did through the course of the journey.

It’s not just about arriving to the island, but also getting there. You see a lot of marine life along the way. The vast sea seems as empty as the desert until suddenly a dark beast bursts through the surface. We were laughing with excitement at a big school of common dolphins herding us along on the way to El Pardito, where we made a quick stop.

El ParditoThe guests said El Pardito was an impressive little island. The family (and three previous generations) who lives there is very warm and hospitable; they always invite people in to their home. Some of us asked, “How can people live with so little and be so happy?”

In 1916, a fifteen-year-old seeking the life of Robinson Crusoe on his own desert island settled here. Don Juan Cuevas Ramirez died at age 75, but not before he had sired three generations closely linked to the sea.

El Pardito VillageEl Pardito is about 150 km northwest of La Paz, between the islands of San Francisquito and San Jose. Its little chapel, school, solar-driven desalinization plant and radio help the isolated, tiny family community survive in this remote outpost on the Sea of Cortez.

These days overfishing by big international entities and illegal poachers threaten their modest livelihood. The need for national and international conservation pressure is great to preserve our Baja legacy.

The tiniest fishing village in the Sea of CortezThe younger generation has turned to music to supplement the islet economy – three of them have formed a ranchera band. The songs of Los Grandes Del Pardito celebrate the life of the island family.

We left the little island fishing village and headed to the mangroves of San Jose Island. First it was ocean and desert, and then suddenly you come into an area that is so green that the contrast between the colors is hard to comprehend.

Palma Sola BeachOn the way to the beach Palma Sola Island we saw another school of common dolphins churning up the blue. Palma Sola is called “lonely palm tree” because there is one sole palm tree on the beach, making you feel like you came across an oasis in the middle of the desert. But we couldn’t feel alone in the wilderness with that friendly squad of dolphins racing alongside.

We camped on this island beach for the night. First we anchored and then immediately provided shade and fresh water to everyone. This time people were more energetic and knew what to do.

Agua VerdeDay 4, June 3rd (Agua Verde Island)

Agua Verde is a beautiful place. The water is greener here because the type of sea bottom, the color of the rocks and sand there is lighter.

Oscar Ramirez, the other Oscar on the journey, expressed amazement at the beauty of his land. He feels prouder than ever to be a native of Baja California Sur and share his Baja heritage with us.

Ricky Ricky et alWe saw Don Jose, a person whom we met on our first islands trip back in 2009, during the flu outbreak.

Ricky Ricky is Mr. Everything. He cooks and helps out with everything. With his positive attitude, nothing is too difficult for him. Cabo Expeditions is lucky to have him on our team!

As we prepared for sleep tonight, we drank in the beauty of the stars so close and bright. The next day we would discover stars of many colors at the place we were to name “Stars under the Sea.”

To be continued…

Biodiversity: Mexico’s Way of Life

Danzante Island, Baja California SurMexico is no stranger to biodiversity. Conservation, preservation, and awareness of the importance of safeguarding the environment have long been championed in this region even before biodiversity became a byword for every nature protection cause.

It is more than an advocacy. For Mexico, it is a way of life. After all, Mexico has always been one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Between 10 to 12% of the planet’s species are found in its territory, totaling to more than 200 thousand species. It has always lived to share its wealth with flora and fauna.

With this bountiful gift of nature, it’s only natural for Mexico to take the responsibility of biodiversity quite seriously. In fact, it has 17 million hectares of natural protected areas.

Humpback whales blowing in the sunsetCabo San Lucas Bay – One of the world’s deepest bays has one of the richest ecological communities. The reef fish and marine flora is joined by the majestic sighting of the humpback and gray whales from December to early April each year. This, on top of frequent encounters with orcas, dolphins and pilot whales. This, over and above witnessing marlins, sailfish, swordfish, dorados, roosterfish, and tarpons co-existing in perfect harmony.

Flight of the vultureSierra de la Laguna – Between the municipalities of La Paz and Los Cabos, there’s a mountain range in the middle of the desert where you can find the only dry jungle of the entire peninsula. The only pine-oak forest throughout the peninsula’s southern half. The only forest with around 70 plant species –15% of which are endemic.

Among the glory of fauna, the reserve is also home to woodpeckers, quails, hummingbirds, white-winged doves, hawks, owls, deer, coyotes, black-tailed jackrabbits, bobcats, mountain lions, gray foxes, over 40 species of reptiles and almost 100 different insects.

Night dive in the Sea of CortezCabo Pulmo Marine National Park – The 25-thousand year old, 3-kilometer long and 2-kilometer wide only living coral reef in the Americas resides here. It is earth’s most valuable underwater treasure. Its 7,000-hectare stretch serves as the natural habitat for 100 species of fish, 40 species of algae and sea fans, as well as pelagic species like the bull, tiger, blacktip sharks.

“Friends of Cabo Pulmo,” an assocoation here, promotes ecotourism in order to keep the park’s flora and fauna safe.

Whale shark in La PazBay of La Paz – One of the most biodiverse marine areas in the state and all throughout Latin America, the Bay of La Paz looks after its whale sharks. Nearby, in the island archipelago of Espiritu Santo, a sea lion rookery is also given much attention.

Likewise, the undersea wrecks “Salvatierra,” “Lapas 03,” and “Fang Ming” —fully covered in corals and other wonderful, colorful organisms— are kept safe.

Blue whale in LoretoLoreto Marine National Park – Within Loreto Marine National Park’s 200-hectare boundaries live 30 species of marine mammals, a host of endemic reptiles, amphibians, and birds. In the sea below, the marine life is even more overwhelming. Sportfish such as the dorado, yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, roosterfish, grouper, sea bass, and snappers. Bivalves and crustaceans such as oysters, octopus, chocolate clams, scallops, shrimp, crabs, and lobsters.

Even the guests that drop by a few times a year —manta rays, dolphins, sharks, killer whales, pilot whales and even blue whales— make this natural protected area worth protecting.

Gray Whale underwaterLagoons of Magdalena Bay – Magdalena Bay is preserved for its complex natural architecture. In this bay, two big currents converge: cold water that comes from Alaska, and warm, tropical water from the south. Together, these streams generate large amounts of nutrients that attract species such as squid, crab, shrimp, sea bass, red snapper, yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, sardines and others like flounder as well as several species of birds, turtles, sharks of various kinds, rays and, of course, gray, blue and finback whales.

El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve – With over 2.5 million hectares, El Vizcaino ranks as one of the largest biospehere reserves in the world. It has a vast collection of ecosystems —from extremely arid land to mangroves, lagoons and wetlands of high ecological value. It has gray whale sanctuaries. It cares for a wide variety of birds: the osprey, the collared goose, the northern pintail, the red heron, and the swallow, to name a few. Even endangered species have found a haven here: the golden eagle, the white-headed eagle, the peregrine falcon, the white-tailed deer, and the bighorn sheep.

MangrovesIt’s good to know that more and more organizations and nations are taking notice of the significance of biodiversity. It’s better to know that before everyone else, Mexico has started the quest. And continues to live the quest as a natural way of life. With its experience and expertise, the world is assured that biodiversity is here to stay.

A Blog from the Sea of Cortez – Part 2

Read Part 1 →

The Cabo Expeditions crew at Costa BajaDay 1, May 31st (La Paz)

We arrived in La Paz and checked in to Pension Baja Paradise, a small and simple pension house. Everyone was very excited.

We had a meeting on the rules and regulations for the trip, plus a safety briefing. People didn’t ask too many questions yet as they were still shy.

We went to the marina to check out everything, prepare our luggage, and make sure that we had all the supplies that we needed.

Day 2, June 1st (Espiritu Santo Island)

We set off in the Expedition VII and Expedition VIII, with guests in one boat and most of the crew following in the other.

Serenity in the Sea of CortezThe first thing you notice out on the Sea is something you hear, or don’t hear. It’s a sound that can’t be recorded, bottled or sold. Silence. Quiet. Peace.

Maybe that’s where the name La Paz came from. The quiet is as close and immense a presence as the sky and the water. You can’t see it in a photo.

When we grew close to the long, rugged island of Espiritu Santo, we couldn’t stop remarking on the sugar-white sand and utterly clear turquoise water. It was the first time for everyone who was not part of the crew and their first impression was “WOW!” It was great to see the reaction of guests and how the team conducted themselves during the trip.

Arrival at Espiritu SantoWe pulled up on the sand, formed a human chain, and unloaded the equipment. The first order of business is always shade and water. I reiterated to the group how important under the sun it is to conserve our energy and keep ourselves hydrated throughout the trip. We set up the tents. Anchoring the Zodiacs out from shore, we used the kayaks to go back.

When it was time to go in the water, we supplied each one with his or her own gear. “You’re each responsible for your own equipment.”

We gazed in wonder at the fish, corals and scenery for hours. When we came out of the water, we listened to the sounds of nature. When you don’t have too much noise in your head you can turn around and find the source of the sound.

Sunset kayaking at Espiritu SantoWe realized an important thing: going to the bathroom is an intimate ritual; when you don’t have those comforts, it’s hard to concentrate. We set up a portable bathroom with shade and made sure that it was always clean for the next user.

We did a little bit of kayaking. Some people were shy at first, but as they saw others doing it, they joined in. People just needed a little push.

Sunset… It’s amazing how we’re used to checking the time every so often and keeping a running commentary of events. People would say, “Wow, it’s still early, but we already did a lot of things!” This trip was the time to put away our watches. We were not going anywhere.

Each sunset is different. There is a short window during the day when it’s not daytime, nor is it nighttime.

Fifteen minutes before and after the sunset is when the colors are the most beautiful – the colors of the rocks change and the water takes on a fiery glow.

Little cave at Espiritu SantoAt dinner we provided lamps for everyone. All of a sudden we could see how many stars there are. It’s so nice to watch the stars without the bright lights of the city; you could actually see shooting stars (and satellites?) pass by. The stars seem big and soft and almost within reach out here.

It was difficult for some people to sleep on the first night even though they were tired, because they were still excited.

We had to learn that it’s a time to let go, knowing that the next day is going to be different. We reminded ourselves not to think about things that are going to happen when we come back.

The next day would be a revelation for us all. On the faraway island of El Pardito in the Sea of Cortez, we found ourselves asking “how can people live with so little and be so happy?”

To be continued…

A Blog from the Sea of Cortez

Sea of Cortez islands expeditions May 2012All my life I’ve wanted to explore the islands of the Sea of Cortez. The world knows little about these remote places, but UNESCO does—they’ve been designated a World Heritage Site.

I started organizing this journey four years ago. The first two years were tested out with the Cabo Expeditions team, and then I invited three friends along on the third trip. In May 2012 fourteen of us set off for a fourth island exploration of our Baja heritage. Six were guests and the rest of us crew.

We wanted to select a group with a wide range of personalities and backgrounds. That was on purpose—we wanted to find out the likes and needs of different kinds of people, with the hope that one day we can offer a similar adventure to all our guests.

Floating family northboundSo here’s the cast of characters:

My brother Miguel and I led the group. For good measure we included two doctors: Luis Landeros, a Mexican, and Richard Hull, an American. Richard also represented the older generation. His son Michael is the owner of Cabo Submarine.

We wanted the feminine viewpoint too, so we invited our friends Ana Maria Yarza and Adriana Siller, both from Cabo.

Winning photo of Oscar RamirezOscar Ramirez is a photographer and owner of Ola Design, and one of our main sponsors in the annual Beach and Underwater Cleanup. Oscar won this trip as the winner of the photo contest I set up. Whoever’s photo posted on Facebook got the most “likes” won—that was the other Oscar.

We had an outstanding crew, too. My brother Miguel Noriega captains the Expedition VII and Jose Calvario, our most senior employee, captains the Expedition VIII. A third whale-watching captain, Richard Enrique Garcia—”Ricky Ricky“—joined up, filling in as a deckhand.

The boats are Zodiacs—known for their stability, durability and speed. I remember when I bought my first boat. I was scared to take on the financial responsibility. But my friend, who is now my accountant, said “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll just have to tell your lender that you can’t make the payments and give it back.”

High speed ZodiacBut it didn’t happen that way, the business took off and I was able to pay off the boat and buy thirteen more. When I made that last payment, my lender said “You have an open line of credit with me.”

So these boats mean more to me that just modes of transportation. They stand for the way the right people show up in our lives when we take those first steps toward a dream.

Captain Jose Calvario is one of the most popular captains on Cabo Expeditions’ whale watching tours. It must be those years of experience – or the twinkle in his eye!

The Crew MusketeersThe last three crew members included Aaron Rosas, our van driver, the brother of Rosario who works in the office. Jesus Ramon Hernandez , or “Chuy,” is our kayaking and snorkeling guide. We call him our “Calvin Klein,” because he supplied the eye candy for any photos I was taking.

Jose Alberto Haro Romero aka Beto is a guide to the wilds of both islands and cities. He knows his way around the remote and rocky Espiritu Santo Island as well as busy Cabo city tours.

Last but certainly not least is Manuel “Tio Guero” Salvador, Beto’s uncle. He’s the grand senior guide of the region. He’s been doing tours for years, has great leadership skills – but most of all, he’s a great cook! The key to a great trip.

From a feminine standpointSo these were the people who formed a floating family as we headed north, destination Loreto.

We were to take the van from Cabo to La Paz, overnight there, then embark to Espiritu Santo. It took us four years to organize this trip and to determine the composition of the group. We would soon discover that the true personalities of people come out when they’re out of their comfort zones!

To be continued…