The first day of our expedition around Mexico’s Baja California peninsula could not have been better. A glorious sunrise over Santa Catalina and Montserrat painted both ocean and sky with fiery red tones and left everyone on deck speechless. What a spectacular start as we sailed the southeastern portion of Loreto Bay National Park in search of wildlife. The perfectly still and calm seas allowed us to see far. We spotted numerous small birds that are normally difficult to see in choppier conditions, including eared grebes and the most tropical member of the puffin family, Craveri’s murrelet. Eventually, we spotted not one or two but five or six blue whales! The largest animal that ever lived on this planet, blue whales were very heavily hunted during the so-called Industrial Era of whaling in the twentieth century. It is believed that only around 10-15% of their population survived. Loreto Bay National Park was created in 1995 in part due to the abundance of krill and other planktonic creatures that attract the blue and other whales that feed there. It is one of the best places in the world to see this most impressive creature. It was truly a privilege to watch them today!

After leaving the blue whales, we continued sailing towards San Jose Island, our destination for the evening. The calm seas presented us with another marvelous encounter: a large group of long-beaked common dolphins! Their sleek, muscular bodies with tan-colored patches on the side surrounded the ship, and it was exciting to watch them swimming around and riding the pressure wave in front of our bow.

We eventually arrived at San Jose Island and anchored off a place called Punta Colorada, where many of us went snorkeling in an absolutely gorgeous sandstone amphitheater. The cold water was a small price to pay to admire healthy coral and abundant fish, including charismatic species like the balloonfish and the Guineafowl puffer. After we finished snorkeling, we went ashore and explored a canyon. We learned about the numerous plants and animals that call the desert home as we wound up an absolutely wonderful first day exploring the Sea of Cortez.