View the photos here.
It’s hard to believe that our first Stars to Sea trip of 2018 is already over. We dream and plan for months for that one week in Baja that always seems to fly by much too fast, faster than any week in our “real world” lives. But I suppose that is what happens when you make every single minute of every day matter. Make it count for something, drenched in purpose.
Like swimming with over 100 devil rays near Coyote Cove and Punta Don Juan. We could see individual rays leaping from the water into the air, a hotly debated behavior. Are they removing parasites from their skin? Showing off to a potential mate? They certainly stole our hearts as we slid into the glass-like early morning water to swim among them.
Then there was the chance meeting with Alfonso Hernandez, an ornithologist with Conservación de Islas, who accepted our invitation to visit the field station for a lunchtime presentation on his shorebird work, specifically his passion for Craveri’s Murrelet (Synthliboramphus craveri). His presentation was bursting with information on shorebird conservation and his photographs of researchers in the field were inspiring.
The sea lions were lazy but curious during our visit with them after we hiked the mangroves of Isla Coronado. We’ve noticed two bulls holding court with two harems on the island: one on the north side and another on the south. Almost stealing the show from the sea lions, though, were the millions upon millions of fry populating the water’s surface, casting wary glances with their enormous (relatively speaking) eyes in our direction. Aguas malas were present here and there throughout our trip reminding us of their skillful ability to send hundreds of tiny harpoons into our legs, arms, and more when we dared to share their water space.
Our last night, the evening sky produced a wind and lightning storm like no other. Cots were lined up with an inch between them along Melissa’s (our neighbor’s) porch, relocated to the garage and covered veranda, and pulled into the field station itself. The rain never did quite come our way but the sea erupted in powerful waves that left a blanket of seaweed (Padina) on the beach in the morning.
And of course, there were whale sharks. Likely six to eight (give or take) that we encountered each day. Although some of our participants have been returning to the Stars to Sea program for years, that first swim of the season with a shark is spellbinding. Gills agape, starry dorsal fins cutting the surface of the sea, co-dependent remoras on board. Local researchers have found that the majority of sharks that visit Bahia de los Angeles are males and approximately 60% are returning individuals. Some recent research even suggests that distinct populations of whale sharks, perhaps like our Bahia population, actually don’t prefer migrating long distance and instead remain within 100 kilometers of their feeding locations.
Working with local and national Mexican conservation partners is key to unlocking these mysteries and more about the largest fish in the sea. VSI and the Stars to Sea program look forward to growing a strong working relationships both within the biosphere reserve and beyond.
Stars to Sea 2, you’ve got big fins to fill. We can’t wait to see how your adventure unfolds!
Meghann, Liana, Robyn, and the Stars to Sea 1 Gang