Isla Carmen – East Side

After departing Puerto Escondido in early April we embarked on a circumnavigation of Isla Carmen, a large island with a number of anchorages. Earlier in the season we had spent a number of days in Puerta Ballandra on the west side of the island, mainly sitting through a long norther. This time we were going to explore some anchorages on the east side of the island.

Punta Colorada

We started out at Punta Colorada, an open anchorage just around the southern tip of the island, mainly providing protection from north winds and swell. Our first night we were alone save for a sighting of a lone bighorn sheep on shore at dusk. For the first time this season, the water seemed warm enough to snorkel in, and we were thrilled to be able to suit up in our wetsuits, hoods and fins and snorkels and check out a couple of the rocky areas near shore. When I say warm enough, that’s by Pacific Northwest standards. It was still in the upper 60s but getting very close to 70.

That’s me getting some swimming exercise. It’s easier to breath swimming with a snorkel! And no comments on my form please :).

The first day we snorkeled we were somewhat disappointed with murky water, turbulent waves and a handful of fish. The second day had clear water and a better number and variety of tropical fish – including some of my favorites which are neon yellow and have purple tails – some brown urchins and a few sea stars. No underwater camera, so no pics. There was a lot of dead and bleached coral.

What appears to be a derelict refrigerator.

We walked on shore and saw what looks like an abandoned refrigerator that we joked that the hunters – who are here periodically to shoot bighorn sheep when they get too prolific – can store their beer. They just need to plug it in.

Looking over the rock flows to the anchorage – our friend’s boat in the foreground.
Seemed like optimal conditions for sea life in these tidepools, but we had to look hard for it.
There are some small black spiny urchins and some sponges (we think) in this tide pool.
This was a hermit crab nursery – while we watched all these little shells moved all over the place.
Very cool patterns in this old lava rock.

Bahía Salinas

After a pleasant time at Punta Colorada we made our way about 10 miles north. This bay has natural salt flats which were first discovered by Jesuit Missionaries in 1698 and then operated more or less continually until the early 1980s when a salt mining operation started in Guerro Negro on the West Coast of Baja.  The convenience of that operation – no long trip up into the Sea – effectively put the Salinas salt operation out of business.  Some of the workers lived here in the small village, and apparently they were given short notice about the closing of the plant and had to leave in a hurry, but the last boat helping to remove their belongings wrecked on the beach.

The little village with the hunting lodge (the low white building) in the middle.
Looking past the hunting lodge and a rusted piece of equipment to the boats.

Isla Carmen has bighorn sheep and no natural predators. A hunting lodge was built here sometime after the salt plant closed. While we were here no hunting was happening, fortunately!

Wreck on the beach and the remains of the pier and the village in the background.

We dingied to shore with the intention to explore the salt ponds and the village. We had heard from another boater that no one approached them the previous day, but as we were walking toward the village, a young man with a topknot and wearing a face mask, the caretaker presumably, came out to inform us which area we could walk on – the path to the salt ponds and to the church, and the beach. The rest of the land is private.

The village church with the salt ponds in the background.
One of the evaporating salt ponds.
The salt up close, looks just like dirty old snow to me.
One of the very old buildings – the walls were over a foot thick.
While it was hot outside, the thick walls meant the interior was nice and cool.
The office.

After our tour of the salt ponds, we walked the length of the long white beach and back. At the south end there is an entrance to a wide hiking trail. Ironically, an old faded Semarnat sign (Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources) says that hunting is prohibited.

Found outside the cluster of old homes.
Resilient cacti sprout anywhere.

As I write this, it is April 16th. We are departing today from a two day stay at Puerto Escondido and are starting to head slowly south back toward La Paz. Our intent is to soak up the hot weather and warming water with as much swimming and snorkeling and beach lounging as we can before we arrive back in La Paz around May 2nd.

5 thoughts on “Isla Carmen – East Side”

  1. Gwen—I loved the picture of the fascinating formations of the volcanic rock and your mentions of the Big-horned Sheep. My father, a hunter in Idaho, tried to win the drawing for hunting Big-horned Sheep in the Rocky Mountains his entire adult life. Never drew. So weird to think of these magnificent sheep on islands at a little above sea level. Aunt Jan

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  2. We need some ENNIO MORRICONNE music in there. I half expect Eli Wallach to come around one of those buildings with a hand-rolled cigar in his mouth.

    Great photos. LOVE the perspective shot of the salt granules. Is that an iPhone? Wow. Those silly iPhones may make it after all!

    (nice YouTube tribute to Ennio below.)

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  3. John – you just taught me something! Larry had to explain about spaghetti westerns.
    And – the photos of Salinas were taken with my good camera 🙂 not one of those silly Iphones – which did however take most of the photos at Coronada.

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