Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Isla Espiritu Santo

Earlier this year we took a trip to Isla Espiritu Santo, just off the coast of La Paz, near Tecolote Beach for those of you who know a little about the area.

The area is protected under UNESCO as a biosphere, and its importance as an eco-tourism destination is the main factor.  Both of the islands are uninhabited except for a very small stretch of land, only a few hundred m2, where local fishermen are granted the right to live, on a temporary basis, whilst they fish in a sustainable manner.

As a biosphere it is not permitted to take or remove anything from the islands, not even empty shells.  Tour guides are directed to instruct all of their guests to take everything they brought with them back in the boat.  Fortunately the majority comply, after all it is the pristine beaches and waters of the islands that keep people going back time after time.

We took our trip in May, although typically I prefer to go between June and August, however this time we had a friend from England with us as therefore we couldn't ask her to wait a few months until the water warmed up a little.

We headed out with Choya Tours, ours friends help to run the company and they always do a great job whether they are taking us out or guests of ours.  We arrived at their office around 10am and then after meeting out captain climbed into the boat over the road and headed out to the Islands.

Beautiful Dolphins right in the Bay of La Paz
The trip out from the Malecon takes approx. 1 and a half hours, depending how big the boat is and the roughness of the water.  We took a little longer as a pod of dolphins were flirting with our boat and of course we took the opportunity to dance a little and take some photos of these majestic creatures.  For a second or two it seemed like we weren't moving, as they flipped and twirled alongside without a care in the world, it was only when I looked up and saw how fast we were travelling that it sank in just how powerful these creatures are, and as the same time how beautiful.

They were too fast for "Slow Simon" as my wife and friend were calling me, I was unable to take a photo of them jumping (something I will become known for throughout the day unfortunately) however I did grab a few beautiful shots as they were dancing beneath the boat.

Researchers examining the live giant turtles
After an hour and a half we were circling around the island taking in all of the beautiful scenery then as we made a turn to pull around and see one of the next beaches our captain starts to usher us onto the front of the boat as there is a giant turtle swimming beneath us.  They were far too quick for us to catch a good photo but to our surprise later in the day we came across some researchers actually examining a group of giant turtles on one of the beaches, which gave us a chance to grab some great photos and get a good luck and these prehistoric creatures.

We aren't sure but we have a feeling these same 
researchers are the same people we had just seen with tents set up on one of the secluded beaches on the other side of the island.  All lined up in an almost artistic fashion I thought I was on the site of a tent advertisement photo shoot.

As you can see the water is so clean and crisp, if it wasn't so salty I am sure it would make for a very refreshing drink!

After playing around a little in the boat and watching the turtles and jumping manta rays, yes "Slow Simon" was beaten again by quick flying fish, we headed to the Sea Lions who fortunately very much enjoy having their photos taken and were happy to wave at me whilst I took some photos.

Say hello guys!
As it was only the start of May the water was still a little chilly for the girls near the Sea Lions as the water is very deep there, only I got in the water.  I decided to stick on a wet suit although I don't think it actually needed one as it was not too cold.  I spent a good 20 minutes or more swimming around with the Sea Lions.  It was a little tricky as I am relatively blind without my glasses although the water is nice and clear and they are nice and big so I still had a great time.

Simon's Top Tip #1 - Ignore everyone else around you and just have fun with the sea lions.  If you keep trying to turn because someone says one is right next to you, you almost always end up missing them all, so just block your friends out and seek them out on your own, after all your friends on the boat can't see under water as well as you can!

Frigate Birds at Espiritu Santo
Once I was back on the boat we headed to see a giant colony of Frigate birds.  These are the birds with the split tails, that you can see high up in the sky over La Paz.  According to our captain they are incredibly fast birds but really lazy too.  Rather than catch their own fish, they apparently prefer to chase after slower birds who have done all the hard work, and steal their fish.  I have no idea as to the validity of this but it seems like it could be true as I never see them in the water like the Sea Gulls and the Pelicans.

These Frigates lined the tops of the trees which have grown over the site of an old oyster pearl breeding bed.  There must have been a thousand or more, and they were quite magnificent, especially when they chose to all take flight and perform an airshow for us.

Before heading back to town we took a stop off at a nearby beach where we unpacked out tables and shades where our captain laid out a fantastic feast for us.  My favourite was the shrimp and scallop cocktail, which was so good I ate about 5 servings.  We then took a little swim and snorkel around the edge of the beach.

Simon's Top Tip #2 - Things in the water look so much bigger than they really are!  I picked up a shell from the bottom that was the size of my whole head, only to find it was about the size of 3 of my fingers.  Water does strange things to your eyes, although it may have also been the few beers I had had!

Our Feast prepared by our captain from Choya Tours
After clearing up all of our mess we hopped back in the boat for a quick trip back to town.

I only had one request and it was that the captain swung by La Concha Condominiums where we have a number of rental properties.  I had been wanting a new photo from the ocean for a while, and this day was perfect for it.

La Concha Condominiums - La Paz
We were out a total of 7 hours and had an amazing time, from beginning to end, and are looking forward to more friends from England coming out so we have an excuse to go back out there.

If you want to find more out about turtles then please check out my blog post about our recent trip to help new born baby turtles nearby in Todos Santos - Turtle Releasing in Todos Santos, Mexico

What is your favourite day trip from La Paz? and Who which tour provider did you use?

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