The Littoral Beauty of Loreto Bay
A national marine park since 1996, Loreto Bay’s 2000 square kilometres offer protection to many of the 800 marine species living in the Sea of Cortez. Isla Carmen is by far the largest of the islands in the bay, though the most visited is Isla Coronados*, just a 30 minute boat ride from the nearby port of Loreto.
To visit Coronados head to the marina at the northern end of the Loreto Malecón (near the lighthouse), where you can negotiate a price with one of the boatmen there, as well as how long you want to be out on the water. Afternoons are a good time for the trip, after the day’s fishing has been done. You’ll have the boat to yourself, whilst being navigated by someone who knows the waters better than anyone. If you’re shy you can visit the marine park’s office at the marina, where the staff will advise you about any of the aquatic activities available in the bay. Anything less than 1000 pesos is a decent price for a half day trip.
On this occasion we first made our way to a quiet beach on the island’s west coast, stopping off en route to pick up a small supply of the region’s finest delicacy — the chocolate clam, so-called due to their dark brown patterned shells. Our boatman Efraín pulled up alongside a colleague’s panga and passed over a small bucket, which came back containing a dozen or so of these “almejas”. Here the turquoise water is just a few metres deep, and clear enough to see the seabed below the boat.
No more than a couple of other boats had pulled up at the beach, and a yacht or two was at anchor in the small bay. A friendly couple from the USA shared with us some fresh yellow tail as Efraín opened the first of the clams. Like so many other things in this part of the world, only the addition of salt and lime was required. It was a bit of a challenge for me, I must admit. I may have only imagined that the clam was still twitching as I swallowed it down. Cold water helped to prevent my mouth from drying as result of the salty snack. Norma found the whole thing very amusing!
Now suitably refreshed, we set course for the north, further away from the town, passing seabirds and the occasional leaping mobula ray along the volcanic island’s coast, and headed towards the north western point, a rocky stack known informally as “King Kong’s Head”. As you get closer the reason for this nickname becomes self-evident, its angular features being strangely reminiscent of the sizable screen simian.
Around this corner, and furthest away from human settlement, suddenly the proliferation of wildlife goes up a notch. The cliffs which form the north coast are home to herons, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies (don’t laugh!), and just a few hundred metres further is a “lobera”, a colony of sea lions. Just like the lobera at Los Islotes near La Paz, it is the playful young pups that populate the water, whilst the adults, especially the machos, hold court from the rocks above.
To complete the circuit you’ll head around the south-eastern tip of the island, and if you’re in luck you may encounter a pod of dolphins. This is another reason to go late in the afternoon, when the dolphins have fed for the day and are ready for some fun. Efraín powered the panga’s engine down and the three of us kept our eyes peeled. Far out to sea we saw a breaching blue whale, but our fuel situation meant that we would have to wait for another day to add to our tally of whale encounters.
We were just about to give up and go home when our luck changed, and suddenly we were surrounded by a small pod of inquisitive youths. Efraín ramped up the engine, and within seconds we had several bow-riding below us. Then one of them leaped up in front of us and splashed down hard on the water to soak us through to the skin! By this time we needed to get back to port. We were still laughing about our dolphin encounter as the sun slipped behind the Sierra de la Giganta to complete a memorable day.
* Sometimes you´ll see the island called “Coronado”. I’ve gone for Coronados because it’s the name used by the state government of Baja California Sur, and also the name appearing on the signage on the island itself.
This article originally appeared on our blog, at http://bajabybus.com/blog/item/29-loreto-bay-isla-coronados where you can find more pictures from Loreto Bay.
Ian Paul Wright, Baja By Bus