The sun rose as we walked the valley path, firing the surrounding desert hills crimson and gold. The sun had yet to dry the night’s dewfall and the succulent undergrowth was darkened with the moisture that was critical to its survival.
Standing on the shore of our island we looked east into the risen sun, still low on the horizon and not yet heating the pleasantly cool morning air. Walking back down the trail we passed through the mangroves, where we had interrupted snowy egrets as they probed for their breakfast.
I waded out to our anchored skiff through warm, clear water, and pulled it ashore so we could return to Westward, anchored in deep water a half mile from the shore of the small cove.
Starting the engine we raised the anchor and got underway for our next stop, a pair of islands which host not only a colony of California sea lions but also nesting blue footed boobies and a group of transient frigate birds. A few circling turkey vultures complete the airborne population. Obviously this is a biological focal point.
Anchoring well off shore we launched the skiff and prepared to snorkel along the steep shores. The nocturnal sea lions are drowsing in the morning sun, and barely raise their heads to acknowledge our proximity as we drift by 20’ from their rock day beds. The waters team with fish, sergeant majors, trigger fish, parrot fish, snappers, and damsel fish crowd against us as we swim, inches from our masks. Like butterflies they alight on our outstretched fingers only to fly away again with our smallest movements. It is like swimming through an over stocked aquarium.
Finally a young sea lion took an interest in us, and dove from his rock perch to check us out; flashing by us with a twisting glance he made an impossibly tight U-turn and came back for another look, now a bit closer, he passed within a foot of my now tucked in arms, and rose next to a guest, giving her a surprise kiss on the hand!
Floating in the current we drifted toward the eastern most island, and positioned ourselves to swim through its’ arch. The darkness under the arch combined with the slightly murky water (still roiled from the high winds of two days ago) to make me slightly nervous, and I had to stifle an involuntary hoot when a pair of playful sea lion pups joined us to transit the arch. The dim light enhanced the color of both the plants and animals, and as we swim slowly through the heart of the islet I could see both fish and sea lions silhouetted against the white sand bottom twenty feet below me.
Once through the arch the skiff is waited to pick us up to return to Westward. As soon as we were rinsed off and aboard we got underway. This time our destination was a tiny island, about 1.5 acres in size, that is home to a secluded fishing village. Settled in the 1920’s by families of fishers who sought a quiet place that would provide insulation from marauding armies, revolutionaries, banditss and biting bugs. They have been here ever since; raising families, burying their ancestors, and making a good life.
Anchoring in front of the island, we skiffed to their landing beach where we received a warm welcome from Silvestre and Pablo, who were salting the morning’s catch of mobula ray and angel shark. Under a trio of overlapping umbrellas other men were filleting sting ray. A box of colorful fish awaited cleaning and chilling in preparation to be taken to market in La Paz. A tour of the island takes only a few minutes. A magnificent new mural, just completed by a group of artists based in La Paz takes us by surprise. The artists are still on the island and are able to explain the symbol-rich painting to us, and it becomes even more significant with our new and deeper understanding.
Visiting the home of Clara and Pablo several of us are able to tick off most of our Christmas shopping lists when Clara shows us the jewelry she has made from shells, bones and other found objects around her tiny island home. It is both remarkable and charming to listen to the stories behind some of her necklaces and ear rings.
Back aboard the anchor is raised and we make the 4 mile run to our night’s anchorage. The sun is quickly sinking into the Sierra Giganta Mountains to the west as our guests make a quick visit to the island to look for the remains of a salt evaporation pond where the fishers we just visited used to make their own salt. Recent hurricanes had heavily damaged the salt pond, but we are still able to collect some beautiful sea salt, some of the crystals are almost ½ inch across!
We enjoy a blender full of Pina Coladas as the sun disappears and the stars begin their nightly dance across the sky.
After sharing a wonderful dinner, a glass or two of wine, we are all ready to turn off the lights and head to our cabins before 9:00 PM.
It has been, we all agreed, a perfect day.