Striking rust brown sandstone hills rise steeply around the north and south sides of this ancient caldera which has subsided back into the sea. A white sand beach protrudes from Isla Partida to form the eastern part of the circle. A complementary rocky protrusion from Isla Espiritu Santo housing the park ranger’s cabin pairs with the slip of land from Partida to form a channel between the two islands. To the west, the bay opens to the Sea of Cortez with a view of the mainland Baha ridges in the distance.
I hear the laughing of gulls, and the splashes in the northern part of the bay from pelicans dive bombing into the water. Jumping fish splash, and a turtle pops its head up from time to time, and I swear I can hear him take a breath before submerging again. Tens of small black and white diving birds repeatedly dive in unison, sometimes making it appear that a school of rays or jumping fish are coming at us. Black vultures with small red heads circle high up near the glowing cliffs and also scavenge on the beach.
There is an unoccupied fish camp with a half dozen shacks on one side of the beach. A shrine at one end also supported the channel light.
This was our setting for our first three day weekend at anchor after arriving back in La Paz. We could not have asked for a more magical setting that embodies the reason we came to Mexico.
The days were warm and sunny, and after our first evening the winds were quite calm. We moved in closer to the beach and the southern side of the cove after our first night. This moved us close enough to hear a faint bleating, which really sounded like a goat to me. Periodically through the day on Saturday I scanned the hillside with binoculars but never saw a moving life form. During happy hour, a mewling whiny animal sound started, much more frequently. It affected me the same way a crying baby does – I just wanted to make it stop! It was getting dark so I couldn’t see anything, and fortunately we went into the cabin for dinner as it cools considerably after the sun sets. I was relieved not to hear what sounded like a dying animal through the portholes while I was trying to sleep. The next day I didn’t hear anything. Larry didn’t think an animal could be dead on land as we would certainly see a horde of vultures circling.
As we were finishing our morning routine, the marine park ranger pulled up in his panga to check whether we had renewed our annual park pass – Pasaporte de La Conservacion – which helps funds protection of these islands and is required to anchor and go ashore. It sounded to me like they had a registry of boats that previously had passes and they had a record of us from last year, but they didn’t have a record that we had just renewed. Espiritu Santo and Partida are within the Golfo de California Biosphere Reserve. The Sea of Cortez holds a number of marine parks.
I asked the ranger whether there were animals on shore, trying to describe what I had heard in my broken Spanish. He said there are goats on the islands, non-native pests that need to be removed as they are eating all the vegetation. Just like in Olympic National Park in the US. And sure enough, at cocktail hour we saw a family of goats on shore. And later, we saw and heard the annoying baby goat who had lagged behind as the adults walked down the shore, crying for them to wait for him. He looked quite healthy, which explained the lack of vultures.
We kayaked around much of the bay, explored the beach and the unoccupied fish camp. I loved the dramatic rocky landscape, and how I could watch through the clear water to see fish going about their business. It felt great to get my kayaking muscles working again after so long away. At times we were the only boat in the bay. Occasional panga tour boats flew through the channel between the islands, and each night there were one or two catamarans anchored across the bay from us, but no one ever joined us on the beach or out kayaking.