Our home for the next 10 nights, the One Ocean’s Russian expedition ship the Akademik Ioffe. With a maximum of 96 passengers and a staff to guest ratio of 1:4 we can all be off on shore excursions or zodiac cruises at the same time.
Yesterday’s adventures brought me to Bay St. Lawrence, Cape Breton to a crab festival and fishing derby. All you can eat crab in the local fire Hall!
Spent another glorious day in New Orleans. Before our afternoon presentations and meetings, we took in a culinary tour of the French Quarter.
Another amazing day in New Orleans, learning about the history of the people, the city and Mardi Gras. Went to Cafe Istanbul with co-owner Chuck, ate an incredible seafood feast at Peche, got a sneak peak at this year’s floats and took second line behind these talented young musicians and dancers from the nearby school.
Took a stroll down bourbon street in New Orleans last night. Saw a live jazz band, tuba and all!
This morning we departed the ship, some guests were departing for home and others, like me, were going swimming with whale sharks in La Paz. We had a captain and spotter on board but with a very calm day the fish were easy to spot. We saw 8 different sharks throughout the outing. Seeing them for the first time was an amazing experience. I could not believe how big these animals where. They were very tame and comfortable around us. To keep up you had to work hard, kicking furiously and when you were taking a break you could hear the others breathing hard just to keep up. After several times jumping in with the different sharks we had our final swim, the best sighting of the day for sure as the whale shark was not swimming but skimming the surface so you could just float and watch it. As we were watching the one all of a sudden another whale shark swam by so close that I found myself in between them. If I had spread my arms I could’ve touched them both. VERY cool but scary at the same time as they are massive creatures. Two hours of swimming was plenty as you get tired from trying to keep up. On the way back we enjoyed a beer and snacks with many smiles! We’ll stay in El Encanto overnight as we depart for home tomorrow. Overall a great trip to the Baja!
Today was a great day! We left port this morning with an open schedule in hopes to see great marine life. It started with seeing common dolphins from the sea bird as well as sea turtles. After lunch we were surprised, the zodiacs were in the water and we were going to get up close to the dolphins! Driving through the pack was just amazing as they were really playful and showing off their skills of jumping and swimming. There must have been 200-300 of them ripping around. That afternoon we saw a huge blow which we thought was a blue whale until we got a little closer and saw it was a humpback. We lost it for a while but the next time we spotted him he was on the bow of the boat and all I could see from the second deck were his nostrils, while people on the first deck were covered in whale snot… very cool. Check back tomorrow when we’ll be swimming with whale sharks!
We woke up in port where the vans met us for a very scenic road trip filled with cactus forests and volcanic formations. On arrival to Magdalena Bay we fitted up with life jackets and divided into groups of 8 in each “panga” boat which are run by fishermen in their off season. About 10 mins into the trip we saw our first whale blow along with its newly born calf. With the bay so calm they were easy to spot and at one time I counted around 20 whales. The best part was when one whale and its calf were right beside the boat and eventually went right under. This gave me the perspective that these mammals are massive! Some of the interaction was interesting as the mother would lift the calf to the surface for air and then it would roll off like a clumsy 2 year old learning to walk. We would go for lunch at Grey Whale Restaurant before returning to the water for afternoon whale watching; yet another great experience in the Sea of Cortez.
Today we woke up in the beautiful Half Moon Bay. As we boarded the island we gathered as a group and climbed to the top of the ridge. With some challenging points it was neat to see Denell push through her fear of heights and get to the top for the ultimate view point of the bay. Its turquoise waters and perfect half-moon shape and several small sailboats it made for a great picture and memory. In the afternoon we would return to the island for paddle boarding, kayaking, and just enjoying the beach. A planned dinner on the beach would be a highlight as they served yellow fin tuna and BBQ’d chicken sitting around the fire. I took a little break to head a short ways into the desert for some night photography, capturing some neat photos using techniques such as painting which is done with a flash light when you have a long exposure shot. After we had packed up and everyone from the group had gone back to the boat, some of the crew came to the island for some enjoyment before we set sail to our next stop. With the crew we had a black light which allows you to find scorpions. On the hunt looking on the paths and under rocks we would eventually find several. With the black light they looked pretty cool as they were glowing. We would return to the fire for a night cap before heading back to the ship to bed.
Denell left her camera in my room yesterday so we were both up early to make it to shore before dawn broke. The 6:30 zodiac took us to Ensenada Grande – a snug harbor on Isla Partida, a small island north of Isla Espiritu Santo. It was a good session and was nice to get out and get some shots. We returned for a quick breakfast before heading out on a long hike on the same island. The hike brought us through boulders and rugged terrain scaling to a beautiful lookout point with drastic cliffs where the powerful sea was hitting. We would return for a BBQ lunch on the top deck with burgers and ribs and to finish it off, homemade Mexican ice crème on a stick. I had the pistachio which was awesome!
We would head north for about half an hour to a rocky inlet known as Los Islotes for the opportunity to go snorkeling with the sea lions. We spent almost an hour in the water snorkeling around the colony with not much action for the first little bit… until one little guy got in the water to check us out. A few of his buddies would follow and we had sea lions acrobatically dashing around us pretending to nip at us which was quiet scary (I later found out the pup bites do not hurt nor cut you). A few of us would dive down and do spins enticing the sea lions to play and play they did. Spinning every which way made me laugh hard enough that my mask leaked in water. We would end it off with one of the other snorkelers getting his bright yellow flipper nipped, which was a playful act.
After we loaded up we headed north to half moon bay on Isla San Francisco, known as one of the nicest beaches in the world.