My Exhilarating Exploration Around The Sea Of Cortez, Told In 8 Days

Cabo Expeditions crew departing Cabo San Lucas for La PazOne thing I like about working at Cabo Expeditions—the never-ending thrill of discovery. Like this 2-week trip to the islands in the Sea of Cortez which Oscar organized for the group. It was an exploration mission. But to us, it was a field trip. And we were giddy like school kids.

We were northbound, from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz to Loreto. The ‘giddy school kids’ were me, Ana Maria Yarza, Adriana Siller, Oscar Ramirez, Luis Landeros, Michael Hull, Richard Hull, Richard Enrique Garcia, Aaron Rosas, Jose Alberto Haro Romero, Jesus Ramon Hernandez, Jose Calvario, Manuel Salvador, and Oscar himself.

Miguel helping a stranded mola mola back out to seaDay 1, May 31st in La Paz
We arrived in Costa Baja Marina in La Paz. We used inflatable skiffs with me driving the Expedition VII and Jose at the helm of the Expedition VIII. Not long after we set sail, Jose already got his first dose of excitement. He saw a Mola-Mola that looked like it got lost and got stranded in the harbor close to the rocks. Jose and I managed to help the sunfish back into the sea. From being disoriented, the huge fish then happily swam away.

Snorkeling and hiking on Cabo Expeditions' Islands ExpeditionDay 2, June 1st at Espiritu Santo Island
It was midday when we got to Espiritu Santo. Here, we camped at Candelero Bay. We spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling and hiking. I went diving in the pristine waters for which the island was known. We then spent the night in the camp we set up earlier. We were exhausted, but invigorated for the day ahead.

Day 3, June 2nd at San Jose Island
Normally, we stay on the northwest side of this island. But the winds had us camping on the northeast side instead. We stayed right Palma Sola beach or ‘lonely palm tree’ —so named because of the lone palm tree guarding the beach. Staying here feels like being in an oasis in the middle of the desert. Except for the fact that we snorkeled, hiked, and kayaked. This trip was really becoming less of a job each day.

Camping on Agua Verde IslandDay 4, June 3rd at Agua Verde Island
This time, it was my turn to witness an extraordinary scene at sea. One mile before reaching Agua Verde Island, I saw 2 groups of orcas! One group was made up of 2 adults and a calf. The other was a pair of adults that swam around the first group. It looked as though the four adults were teaching the little calf to hunt! What an amazing sight. It made us all think of that adage, ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child…’

Later in the day, the fun continued. More snorkeling, hiking, kayaking and collecting almeja chocolata. Yup, chocolate clams!

Sunrise at Honeymoon Cove at Danzante IslandDay 5, June 4th at Danzante Island
We were feeling adventurous today so we tried our hand at fishing. And learned the hard way that we weren’t good at it at all. After hours of repetitive casting and waiting, we finally caught a single small bonito. We gave it to the seagulls for breakfast. Then we went back to activities we were better at: snorkeling, hiking, kayaking…

Hiking and camping on Danzante IslandDay 6, June 5th at Danzante Island
We were still at Danzante Island when our adventurous streak struck again. We hiked up the mountain! I’ve always loved hiking because it reminds me of life—sometimes you have to take two steps back and find another way to reach your destination. This hike, however, proved to be more challenging than we thought. There was no visible hospitable path to trek on. It was a climb worthy of seasoned hikers. And we were way too out-of-shape to be considered that! Haha! We failed to reach the summit but still, the experience was guaranteed unforgettable.

Come sunset, I saw two more orcas, which made me realize that orcas are indeed social animals. They rarely travel alone. Just like us.

Chilling out and reading a bookDay 7, June 6th at Coronado Island
Just like the previous nights, everybody—except for a couple of us—slept on the beach. I waded back to the skiff and readied myself for bed. Once in the skiff, however, I simply ended up reading a book.

It was peaceful, until I heard splashes in the distance. It sounded like a humpback whale, breaching. But the water was already pitch black that I couldn’t see even a shadow of the mighty breacher. The splashes sounded again, piercing through the night. It went on for a good 45 minutes! The whale must have been at least 200 meters away but the sounds it made resonated. It could have just been the acoustics of the bay we were moored in. Still, the possibility of a whale right out there got me so keyed up that I had to rouse the others. I told them what I heard, I told them what I thought. I was completely animated! And… they went right back to sleep. Didn’t they believe me? Sigh. It was the highlight of the whole trip for me, nonetheless.

Relaxing in Loreto after 6 nights of campingDay 8, June 7th in Loreto
It was our last night in the north. We were now due south for the next leg of the trip that would take us from Loreto to La Paz to Cabo San Lucas for another 7 days of exploration and escapades. Again, my adrenaline brimmed. Unfortunately though, my back wasn’t cooperating. The pain had become a constant discomfort that I was forced to simply come back home to Cabo San Lucas by road the next day.

Compared to the past 8 days, that trip, of course, had been uneventful. So I simply spent it dreaming about my mysterious night time whale. And smiled contentedly.

That Fateful Day in February 2011

A video coverage of Cabo Expeditions spearheading a humpback whale rescue found its way to the BBC News in England and Latin America, CBS Early Morning Show, Televisa, SKY Net TV and more.  The following details were released to the press.

PRESS RELEASE: On the morning of February 8th, 2011, an unfortunate Humpback whale probably miles upon miles from shore was caught up in a fisherman’s net.  Oftentimes, a whale’s natural tendency can be to swim to shore whereas they may beach themselves.  In this instance, it seemed very likely that this adult-male Humpback whale was headed to the shore with a 75% chance of drowning or being beached, had Cabo Expeditions and the Mexican Navy not gotten to it in time.

Around 10 A.M. local time, a number of phone calls were made from local fishermen on their fishing boats and other whale watching companies to Cabo Expeditions with a whale in distress.  Immediately, the SCUBA diving, boat captain and marine biologist teams prepared themselves. Administrators at Cabo Expeditions notified the Mexican Navy who works in conjunction with whale rescue efforts.

Approximately 1 ½ miles from the shore, in front of the RIU Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, an adult Humpback whale weighing approximately 35 tons with a length of 40 feet had its torso down to the tail wrapped in fishing net.  Cabo Expeditions and the Mexican Navy were ready with a total of 10 people.  One team of divers works in unison with another team who place buoys around the whale as it surfaces and dives down.  The buoys are tied at either of end of a rope, widthwise.  Light-weight hooks are then attached to either side of the net eventually allowing the whale to try and swim free.  The process and cutting away of the net has to be repeated until the whale is completely freed.

By 12 noon, Cabo Expeditions along with the Mexican Navy had successfully freed the fortunate Humpback whale.  Oscar Ortiz, owner of Cabo Expeditions said, “Over the last 7 years now, we have been prepared as a company internally to help save and ultimately rescue whales.  Thankfully, we have also been blessed by saving a total of 10 whales’ lives.  The protection and preservation of these amazing animals is both our passion and mission in Los Cabos.”

Each year, the migration of thousands of whales from the cooling arctic oceans migrate to the warm waters surrounding the Baja Peninsula where the Pacific Ocean meets with the Sea of Cortez.  Annually, from the beginning of December through approximately the second week of April, Los Cabos becomes the Mecca for whale watching on water or sightings from land at local resorts or hotels.

These incredible mammals celebrate over a 10,000-mile journey each year and then repeat this natural process.  Once in a while, a whale will get tangled in a fishing net dozens of miles from the shore.  For some time now, fishermen and their nets have been monitored in Mexico by a variety of governmental agencies who implement standardized regulations.  Fishermen always abide with the fishing regulations but sometimes, a whale will not recognize the hazard and gets tangled inadvertently.