Noel and Jackie had talked about heading out to Pichilingue which is a point out on the Sea of Cortez, where you can drycamp on the beach. We wanted to camp out there and take a boat trip from the beach around the Isla Espiritu Santo which is just across from Pichilingue.
We decided to drive out there in our truck and leave the campers at Casablanca. We'd rather not haul them all the way out there if once we got there, we decided we didn't like the camping spot.
The drive through La Paz was very nice. The downtown area is very cool with a huge waterfront malecón (Waterfront Seawall/Deck) with plenty of shops and restaurants. Once out of town, you follow along the coast, past the ferry to the main land Mexico before arriving in Pichilingue.
This open beach is very nice, and would be perfectly safe to camp on in my book. We parked by the restaurants and talked with the guide about the daily boat trips. He told us it was $55 per person, which included a lunch on one of the islands beaches, and also included snorkeling with the islands sea lion population.
That was all he needed to say for Cindy and I to pay up. Noel and Jackie talked it over and both decided that it's one of those once in a lifetime trips, so why not go for broke. I really like the way they think. Very much like Cindy and I do, that if you're on a trip like this, don't worry about the money side of it, just experience everything you can while you have the opportunity.
It was still early in the morning, so we just decided that rather than go get the campers, we'd just leave them at Casablanca and head out on the next boat trip.
Quick Run Down about the day trip - Isla Espiritu Santo, is a 23,383-acre island in the Sea of Cortez — one of the most biologically diverse marine areas in the world. This island is just a short boat ride across the water from Playa Tecolote.
The Island has the most intact ecosystem in the region. Several animals on Isla Espiritu Santo are found nowhere else in the world, including the blacktailed jack rabbit, ground squirrel and two species of snake.
The island is home to 53 regional endemic plant species. The waters surrounding the island support coral reefs, resident colonies of sea lions, and 500 species of fish.
For only $50 we spent the afternoon circling the Island on a nice boat with English speaking guides who told us about the native species, showed us many secluded coves and allowed us to snorkel with Sea Lions!
If ever in the La Paz area of Baja California, make sure to visit Isla Espiritu Santo!
There were 8 people total on the boat, which was very nice and it even had a Bimini top to keep us shaded from the fierce sun. We headed out towards one of the islands protected beaches.
When we were pulling up, I was asking Cindy "Why are we stopping on this beach?" I couldn't see any sea lions and it just looked like a quiet empty beach.
As we got closer, I noticed there were two young couples on the island with a bunch of camping gear. The boat captain said we were picking up some couples who had camped on the beach last night and who were going with us for the days excursion.
How cool would that be to sleep out on a deserted island with nothing but the stars and the surf to entertain you!
Once they were on board, we were off to explore the craggy coast. This island is very wild because every few miles of coast line was completely different. It was almost like we were passing by many different islands. Some sections had very steep cliffs covered with bright, smooth sandstone. Other sections had giant boulders that fell from the top all the way into the sea below.
One section had tall pinnacles carved from lava rock that we could barely fit through with the boat. The captain inched us into a big, dark cave with crystal clear water and bright red crabs crawling up the surrounding walls. Then we spotted a little island that looked like it was covered in snow.
I pointed it out to Cindy and she said "I bet that is all Bird poop!" As we got closer we could start to hear the loud cries from the sea lions and could see them bobbing around in the waves. We also found out that the white covering was from years of bird droppings and when the wind shifted just right, the smell just about knocked you off the boat.
The water was crystal clear and you could see sea lions swimming all around us. The shoreline was covered with these big furry creatures all barking out various sounds to one another.
When the 1st Mate dropped the anchor and pulled out the snorkeling gear, I was tempted to say "I think I'll just stay in the boat!" Then I thought for a second and came to my senses. How often do I get the chance to snorkel with sea lions? Not that often!
I knew with Cindy's ankle, there was no way I could get her into the water, so I didn't even try to argue or beg, I just handed her my camera and said "Stand Back, I'm gonna expose the belly!"
Noel was into the water before me and with the look on his face, I knew just because it was a pretty color blue, it wasn't tropical temperatures. When I jumped in, I think the family jewels became hardened marbles and I let out a yelp as the cold water engulfed me. Wasn't I just sweating a few seconds ago in the boat?
Swimming towards the shore, I was amazed at the beautiful fish that were all around me. Amazing colors, big schools and loads of species I had never seen before. I was so pissed off that I didn't have an underwater camera! Why when we found out ours had broke only days before we left, didn't we go buy a new one?
Then I noticed a few sea lions swim past me and my heart started racing. For some reason when there is something in the water larger than you, even though they are supposed to be harmless, it sort of freaked me out.
I was sitting there floating in about 12 feet of crystal clear water watching two big bulls fighting under water when in an instant, one of them turned towards me with a mouthful of teeth exposed.
Before I could start to swim backwards, he was within inches of my face showing me that he meant business. I've never in my life been so scared and I think I crapped my pants right there in the water. Or at least I would have if I wasn't screaming so loud through my snorkel that I think I scared the bull lion as bad as he scared me.
I was backpaddling so fast I thought my fins were going to kick up a wake. When I was far enough away from the two bulls, who were now back to fighting, I noticed everyone else in the group was over by a pod of baby seals.
I figured if they could sit and swim with them, then maybe I would be safe over there. I sat still just floating for a few to let my heart calm down. I was worried that everyone else could hear it since it was still the only thing I could hear.
I watched one of the girls from our group swim with these two sea lions who were playing with a piece of coral. They were fighting over it like two puppies would over a bone. At one point she was able to grab it out of their mouth and they both sat waiting for her to do something with it. Sort of like saying "Throw it already!"
When she let it go to sink to the bottom, they both went after it playing the whole time like the kids they were.
At this point I headed back to the boat because I was starting to go into the early stages of hypothermia. I should have known when the 1st Mate and the Captain had on full wet suits that the water was going to be a bit cold.
Once back on the boat, Cindy, Jackie and I all sat watching the sea lions swim around the boat, bobbing around in the turquoise water. The 1st mate whose name is Louis, swam up to the edge of the boat with a few treasures he had found on the bottom.
He placed a few different varieties of sea stars on the edge for us to look at. I had never seen star fish like this before and each one was so unique. They were still alive and there arms would curl around anything you set them on. Cindy sat holding one as it grabbed ahold of her with its thousands of little suction cups hands.
When everyone was back on the boat, we headed off towards a nice warm beach so we could have some lunch and dry our cold bathing suits on the hot sand.
After lunch, the guides were showing us various landmarks around the islands when I pointed out a heavy flock of birds to the captain. He dropped the throttles and raced towards the feeding frenzy. This was exactly like I remembered the large pod of dolphin while I was paddling off of Playa Santispac, only this time instead of 50 or so dolphin, there were hundreds.
Once in the middle of the pod, he eased up on the throttles and allowed the boat to just float in the middle of what was the largest pod of dolphins I have ever seen. I looked back at Cindy who had tears streaming down her face and said "Can you believe this?"
Every now and then a dolphin would come shooting out of the water and you'd hear the group of tourists on the boat let out a loud "WOW!" It didn't matter which direction you looked, the water was just boiling with dolphins jumping all around us.
When the captain finally said "Ok, we have to go home now" he started driving towards the shoreline with dolphin thinking it was now a game to play in the boats wake. There were dozens of dolphin right under the front of the boat that would race along only a few feet from the front of the bow. Every now and then a few of them would race ahead and come shooting out of the water, some so close we would get splashed when they would land back in the surf.
As we came pulling back up to the beach, everyone was talking about the beautiful sights we had encountered on our 4 hour excursion. What a great day on the water, and we couldn't have asked for a better ending. Make sure to check out our Gallery of Isla Espiritu Santo
By the time we got back to Casablanca, I was ready for a nap. Instead, we showered up and got ready to go walk along the malecón in downtown La Paz. For such a large city, I think it's quieter than it was in Loretto. Except for the owner of the campgrounds barking dog, there isn't the constant sound of booming radios, no chickens crowing all night long, and the city seemed very clean and well kept.
Finding parking for my truck was a different story. The downtown was packed tonight and parking in a parking structure is out of the question with our roof racks.
Once we got parked, we strolled along the malecón with the sun setting over the Gulf of California. There were street vendors selling anything from hot dogs to tacos to balloons. We found an open air restaurant overlooking the street and ordered a round of margaritas. With a toast to a perfect day spent with great company, we finished off the night with good food, strong drinks and great conversation.