The Gulf of California never disappoints, but today—our first on this grand holiday ad-Ventureinto the Vermilion Sea—was something special. We left behind the sumptuous sierras of Loreto yesterday evening and rose to dramatic, stormy skies above Santa Rosalia and the day’s destination of Isla San Marcos. We snorkeled through glorious rain showers, exploring a shallow, rocky reef filled with the classics. We observed everything from schools of Panamic sergeant majors to fleets of king and Cortez angelfish, cryptic scorpionfish and brilliant blue damselfish, burrito grunts and zebra perch, triplefins and rainbow wrasses and Mexican hogfish and scissortail chromis and porcupinefish… The list goes on, and it’s long! We were grateful to come across many gulf sun stars (Heliaster kubiniji), which were hard-hit by the last decade’s oceanic heatwaves.

After a delicious pozole lunch, we returned to shore a few points over to hike into the arroyos and to explore the seaside by foot, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard. Clear waters, light winds, and incredibly photogenic skies watched over us until sunset behind the peninsular mountains. That all would have been enough without the highlight of the day: a young guest happened upon a recently washed-ashore female paper nautilus and her famous spiraling egg case! These open-water octopuses make a living in the offshore realms of the gulf and are rarely encountered intact on the shore. It was the highlight of highlights to come across such a beautiful creature within minutes of our first landing. The pelagic magic of the gulf continues as I type, bioluminescent plankton glowing with the flowing water across our bulbous bow on our way to Isla San Esteban. ¡Vamos!