This morning, the sunrise looked like it was competing for an award, and it had been practicing for months! An early, intensely orange beam crested the horizon, blossoming into a majestic blaze of fiery orange that perfectly illuminated Punta Colorado in its namesake colors.

Shortly after landing on the beach at Punta Colorado in preparation for a series of photo walks up the arroyo, two of our seasoned guides (Adrian and Rich) spied a beautiful speckled rattlesnake. Adrian, a seasoned handler of these animals, moved the snake to a location that was safer for it and our guests so that it could be photographed safely. He then returned the snake to its home patch of arroyo, minimizing our impact as we moved on. As we ventured up into this amazing desert ecosystem, it wasn’t long before we spotted another rattlesnake, a larger red diamondback! This was now officially a banner day for pit vipers at Punta Colorado! Other reptile species were also seen, including side-blotched lizards, a couple of whiptail lizards, and a chuckwalla as well.

The plant life in the Sonoran ecoregion is also amazing. The stark disparity between the rocky landscape and the brilliant flowers that punctuate it after a rain is special indeed. Cholla cacti with magenta blooms and the ocotillo with its brilliant red flowers seem to laugh at the harsh conditions that challenge most species here. And yet, life in the desert is hard. While many species have incorporated adaptations that allow them to live in these places, the margins for survival are thin. While species may proliferate, many individuals, like the young, mummified Xantus’s hummingbird we encountered, do not survive.

The afternoon found us cruising for whales, and we encountered several pods of bottlenose dolphins, a large school of mobula rays, and a couple of humpback whales.

The skies were cloudless, and the temperatures were perfect!