On the Sea of Cortez

21 Dec

I’ve told you about our kayak. One of the great things about it, is it allows us to go further, faster. That means we can decide we want to head out for a leisurely paddle over to Danzante Island, stopping here and there to explore the many coves and beaches that abound on it’s shores, and still get home in time for Happy Hour!
The water here this year, due to a slightly lower than normal temperature, is crystal clear and even in depths of 20 feet the bottom is clearly visible and so are all it’s inhabitants.
Over the years, we’ve had problems with dust getting into our cameras, so last year we purchased a couple of small, digital cameras capable of underwater shots and movies. This not only does away with dirt and sand getting inside them, it also offers us a new perspective when out on the water.
We headed out last week to explore the coast of Danzante, cameras in hand, hopping for a few sightings of fish and fowl to record for posterity, and to get a little exercise. As we headed out past Coyote Point we could see a great deal of splashing ahead of us, so we aimed for it, then stopped paddling to wait and see what it was. What it was was Manta rays, hundreds of them! They were doing an intricate dance around one another that included leaping clear of the water, moving back and forth around and under us, in a fabulous mating display. It was like watching a carefully choreographed ballet and continued for as long as we wanted to watch.

Manta Rays mating dance

While I was shooting in every direction I could think of and getting quite a few good photos, I inadvertently got a shot of this fellow. They’re called Needlefish, they run about 2 feet long, and are a major predator in the waters here. The name describes both it’s body shape and the multiple needle sharp teeth in it’s jaw. They are also a very pretty blue colour as are it’s flesh and bones.

Needlefish investigating us

Coasting around a bay towards a sandy spit which we intended to land on, we became aware of a California Sea Lion, feeding in the deep drop off at the end of the spit. We watched him for a while enjoying his antics, then noticed a pod of Dolphins, either Roughtoothed or Bottlenosed, on the other side of the split, playing. They had quite a few young ones with them and seemed to be doing nothing more than having fun, leaping and splashing about.
Both animals remained in the cove, seemingly keeping us company as we explored the beach and surrounding area. Just as we decided to hit the water the dolphins disappeared, but we realized that the Sea Lion hadn’t. As a matter of fact it had gone to sleep on the surface about a 100 yards off shore, so we snuck up on it. We got quite close before it noticed us and simply slipped below the surface with barely a ripple to show where it had been.

Wakey, wakey!

We turned our boat back towards the shore we live on, but a fair ways further south, intending to work our way up the coast and check out a few of the small Islets on the way. The weather held, warm and calm, just another beautiful day here on the Baja!
There was unexplained slashing going on just ahead of us, in close to shore, so we paddled over to see what it was. Imagine our surprise when the head of this came out of the water. It was a 20 foot long Whale Shark, a plankton feeder, sieving through the huge volumes of Krill that had appeared in the Sea over the last week or so. It swam with it’s top jaw above the surface, pushing massive amounts of water through it’s gills, turning constantly to keep within the waves of Krill. This was a once in a lifetime happening! Most never experience the thrill of seeing one of these massive creatures. It swam so close beside us we could touch it and a couple of times it went under the kayak and it’s dorsal bumped us as it went past. We sat with it for a good 20 minutes just enjoying seeing one of the oceans largest and gentlest creatures. When we returned home and told our neighbours about our exploits, they told us we were very lucky, they had sailed the world’s oceans for 25 years and had never seen one nor did they know of anyone else who had had a similar experience. We felt extremely privileged to have been witness to one of natures rarer displays!

Heading under the kayak

The next day we were invited to go out on a friends motor boat to see more of the coast than we can reach with our kayak. They were also planning to take us to one of the numerous hot springs in an area we have difficulty accessing in our vehicles. We headed out early, tossed the lines overboard just for fun and started to learn more about this beautiful and rugged area.
Rounding a point south of Ensenada Blanca (White Cove) we spotted a net pen in the bay. Our hostess explained that the women of the small village in the cove had a business Cooperative, diving for Angelfish and selling them into the Aquarium Market in the US. They didn’t take many fish, just enough to make a little money. The business was successful enough to buy clothes and school supplies for the children of the village as well as a few other necessities.

Cortez and Queen Angelfish

Over the next hour both our host and Richard caught, fought and released small Roosterfish, both under 10 pounds and lots of fun, both for those doing the fighting and those who watched. We had just released one when another pod of Dolphins appeared off our bows and played around and under us as we made bow and stern waves. Eventually they grew bored with us and went on their way as did we.

 

Dolphins toying with us

We rounded a point into a crescent bay with a spit of rocks leading to a small island. During high tide the spit is underwater. We anchored in the middle of this rocky spit and both of our friends made comments about hoping we had made it here during the right part of the tide. Richard and I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about until we got off the boat and up onto the spit. Right there in front of us, in the middle of this rocky finger was a pool. a hot springs! The only time it can be accessed is during low tide and it’s obviously been in use a long time as patrons over the years have pulled more and more rocks out of it to make the pool larger. It reminds us that the Sea of Cortez is just an extension of the San Andreas fault and that volcanic activity isn’t very far below the surface. It was a most welcome respite and we were loath to exit it, but there were others who had shown up to use it and we vacated to let them enjoy the warm waters as well.

It's nice and warm!

Heading into the last bay, a place called Agua Verde, (which mean Green water and it’s a very apt name as the water has an almost emerald colour to it) our host noticed fishing activity and dropped the gear, almost instantly we were into a large fish and the rod was handed to me. I fought it for a good 10 minutes before we even sighted it and even then we couldn’t figure out what it was. We’ve come to realize that even those who fish this sea all the time are often surprised what appears on the end of their rods. Another 10 minutes went by before we caught enough of a glimpse to identify it as a big Roosterfish. Finally after another 10 minutes I managed to wear it out enough to get it to the side of the boat for assessment and photos, where it was promptly released. From past experience I figured it to be between 25 and 30 pounds and it was one hell of a fun fight!

A great fight then a quick release.

We headed back home after that, thanking our hosts for another memorable day on the Sea of Cortez and wondering what more it holds in store for us the next time we venture out on it! Sights and experiences never to be forgotten!

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4 Responses to “On the Sea of Cortez”

  1. bluebarracuda December 22, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    Beautiful photos of a beautiful place – thanks for sharing!

  2. Michelle Savarie December 22, 2010 at 4:47 am #

    Really awesome pics!! You guy’s are really living the life!!Feliz Navida!

  3. Richard Brown July 23, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    Hi there
    Great photos! I am with Leisure Boating South Africa and I was wondering if you’ll let me borrow the roosterfish pic?
    Please let me know..
    Kindest,
    Richard Brown

    • Alexis Thuillier July 23, 2012 at 8:16 am #

      Hi Richard,

      How can I resist, since you and my brother-in-law share the same name. Go right ahead and use the photo and thanks for reading my blog.

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