Island Time Needs a New Home

Update: We sold Island Time and now live in Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

We are planning a new adventure! We are moving to Mexico in the summer. Sadly, we are selling Island Time, our 2009 Winnebago View 24J. Island Time needs a new home.

Island Time has been lovingly maintained and is in perfect condition. Beautiful wood cabinets and many upgrades. On a Mercedes Sprinter (Dodge) diesel chassis she drives like a dream. Spacious and comfortable with plenty of storage.

We sure hope there is someone out there who can love and care for her as we have. She is ready for new adventures!

For those interested read on for all the details.

Summary:
• 44,200 miles
• Beautiful wood cabinetry
• Onan QD3200 (3.2 kW) Diesel Generator
• Stored indoors or covered with excellent gel coat finish
• No smoking and no pets

Asking $52,900


Upgrades:
• Michelin tires in good condition with 24k miles (rated for 70k)
• Borg metal valve stems with gator caps to quickly check tire air pressure
• AGM chassis battery
• Swivel reclining passenger seat (Eurocampers.com)
• Custom foam mattress with Froli Travel Spring set for rear bed home-like comfort
• Ergonomically upgraded dinette seats
• LED bulbs for improved efficiency
• Progressive Dynamics 4655 3-stage 55-amp battery charger
• Upgraded faucets in kitchen & bath
• WeatherTech custom floor mats
• Fancher’s windshield sunshade
• Green Diesel Engineering ECU tune for improved MPG, HP, & Torque

The Green Diesel Engineering ECU software upgrade addresses the electronic emissions controls as well as the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) while also improving MPG, HP, and Torque. With these modifications, this ’09 Winnebago View has performed flawlessly in Mexico with the non ultra low Sulphur diesel sold there. The DPF is currently removed and is included with the unit. It can be easily reinstalled if desired.

Included Extras:
• Adco custom fit RV cover
• Camco décor-mate black stove cover for added counter space
• Whole house water filter
• Various electrical adapters; Surge Guard Protector (30 amp)
• Holding tank hoses
• Leveling blocks & ramps

Factory Specifications and Features
• Fuel Type: DIESEL
• Engine: 3.0L Mercedes Benz V6 Turbo Diesel with 5 speed automatic transmission
• Sleeping Capacity: 6 (Rear bed; Dinette; Cab-over bed)
• Air Conditioner: Roof-mount, 13,500 BTU ducted
• Furnace: 25,000 BTU ducted
• Slide Outs: 1
• Chassis: Dodge (Mercedes) Sprinter
• Exterior Dimensions: Length 24’6”, Width 90”, Height 10’11”
• Capacities: Fuel 26 GAL, Fresh water 35 GAL
• Holding Tank Capacities: Black 31 GAL, Gray 38 GAL
• LPG (Fillable to 80%): 18 GAL
• Water Heater: 6 GAL Electric/LP Gas

Winnebago’s Description

This Motorhome Offers Adaptive ESP Technology. ESP Senses Vehicle Load & Performance Parameters to Maximize Handling, Control & Driving Stability.

Specifications: 3.0 Liter 6 Cylinder Turbo Diesel Engine, 5-Speed Automatic Transmission, Four-Wheel ABS, Independent Front Suspension, 180 Amp Alternator, 5000lb Trailer Hitch, Ultra Leather Cab Seats With Adjustable Lumbar Support, Swivel Passenger Seat, Adjustable Headrest, Cruise Control, Cab Privacy Curtain, Power Cab Windows, Power Cab Door Locks w/Remote Control, Tilt & Telescoping Steering Wheel, Cab Radio AM/FM/CD Stereo w/MP3 Interface via USB, Subwoofer, 19″ LCD 12V TV, Large flip-open skylight with screen and sunshade, Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink, Microwave w/Convection Oven, 3-Burner LP Cook Top, Range Hood w/Fan & Light, Double Door Refrigerator, Medicine Cabinet w/Light, FantasticFan Power Roof Vent in Bathroom, Shower Door, Stainless Steel Lavatory Sink, Skylight Above Shower, 13.5K BTU Ducted A/C, 25K BTU Ducted LP Furnace, Auxiliary Start Circuit, 2 new 6-volt Coach Batteries, Battery Disconnect System, 55 Amp 3-stage Power Converter, Monitor Panel For Systems, Generator Hour Meter Gauge, 30 Amp Power Cord, Cable TV Input, 3.2 kW Cummins/Onan Diesel Generator, Water System Winterization Kit, Driver & Passenger Air Bags, Smoke Detector, LP Gas Detector, Carbon Monoxide Detector, Daytime Running Lights, Fog Lights, Gutters on Awning Rail, Remote Keyless Entry, Electric Step, Rear Roof Ladder, Motion Sensor Porch Light, Power Remote Mirrors w/Defrost, Mud Flaps, Fiberglass Sidewalls, Tinted Windows, Patio Awning, Spare Tire, Curved Roof w/Fiberglass Skin, Textured Fabric Ceiling Material, Foot-operated Toilet, TV Antenna, Contoured Style Cabinetry, Heated Holding System, Whole House Filter, Exterior Wash Station, Rear Backup Camera System w/Audio.

The Largest Animal on the Planet

Balaenoptera musculus, the largest animal known to have ever existed

Loreto is one of the places where the Eastern Pacific blue whales migrate to in winter. We originally planned a blue whale boat tour during our stop in Loreto on our way south and were really looking forward to the opportunity to see the largest animal on the planet.

But when we arrived we found out that “the whales were late” and the rangers who monitor the area had only spotted one blue whale. I nixed the tour knowing that finding one whale would be extremely difficult. Our second attempt on our way North also had to be nixed due to our detour to Cabo San Lucas to service the RV.

After that 640 mile detour and losing a couple of days to technical difficulties, we were pooped. So with the RV in (hopefully) back in good working condition, we took a day off to rest in La Paz before heading north again.

My not so hidden agenda was to time our return to Loreto for a calm warm day and reserve another blue whale tour. Way larger than the gray whales we spent so much time with this trip, these are pelagic creatures that inhabit all of the oceans and are also much tougher to find.

We reserved a campsite in the La Paz city center at Aquamarina RV park. Check out our review of the RV park here. Then we began our drive North once again headed to Loreto on the day before my target calm weather day.

Happily, when we arrived in Loreto we found out that the rangers had identified nine blue whales in the area. Blue whales are an endangered species, we humans hunted them to near extinction. So the area where they mate and feed is part of the Parque Nacional Bahia de Loreto, where they are protected.The morning we set out to board the panga for our tour was clear and crisp, a bit chilly for me but I knew it would warm up.  And it seemed that Mercury in retrograde affected the tour company as well.

The captain of the boat we were due to go out in found that the engine wasn’t running properly. The company finally located another panga and had him switch us over. Finally we were off!

There were only two others on the boat with us, a guy from Tunisia who was living in Mexico City and a gal from Italy. So we had lots of room to move around on the boat.

The sea was calm and the views of Loreto and the neighboring islands were lovely. The pelicans were still doing their “pelican Air Force” thing.

The location where the blue whales congregate this time of year is in the Sea of Cortez South of Loreto past the end of Isla Carmen and North of Isla Montserrat. It took us the better part of an hour to get to this area of open water between the two islands.

Captain Tequila (I am not making this up), educated us about the differences between whale spouts of the whales found in this area. Humpbacks have shorter, wider spouts, fiin whales more fountain like spouts. Blue whales have the tallest of all spouts. We saw what looked like humpback spouts in the distance but decided to continue on our search for blue whales.We searched for the blue whales in a very large open water area. No spouts, no whales. Two hours passed. We saw a couple of other boats in the distance, but none was stopped so it seemed they hadn’t spotted any blue whales either.

Hector and I know how difficult it can be to find wildlife. During our last attempt to see blue whales in Quebec we spotted lots of different kinds of whales but only one blue whale and it was pretty far away.

One of our companions was getting impatient and complaining a bit. Clearly not a fellow with any experience observing wildlife. Hector put his hand on his shoulder and whispered to be patient.  And I said to both of them, you need to be Zen.

Minutes later we saw our first blue whale!  It was a bit far out so we headed in that direction.

When a whale swims along the surface, the up and down motion of their flukes creates turbulence that leaves circular swirls of calm looking water in its wake. These flat patches of water are a good way to tell the exact location of a whale’s last surface movement.

But before we even had time to look around, a blue whale surfaced directly in front of our boat! The whale’s massive back rolled over the surface of the water and then the whale fluked. Fluking happens when whales dive to deeper waters after having surfaced, pushing their tails completely out of the water as they do so.

 

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The tail pushes water up and releases it as the whale continues its diving motion. The water flowing off this whale’s tail was like a beautiful curtain of glass beads. Magnificient!


We were all in awe of this creature. They are not only the largest animal on the planet, but the largest animal to have ever lived. These whales can reach a length of 82 to 105 feet and weigh up to 200 tons.

Their tongues can weigh as much as an elephant and their hearts can weigh as much as an automobile. They are also the loudest animal of all. It is believed that their low-frequency sounds can travel hundreds of miles in deep water and are thought to image underwater features as they navigate long distances.

We saw the whale again, this time getting a closer up look at its two blowholes and its enormous back. And it fluked again! This time the tail had more of a waterfall effect. The whales’ massive size makes their movements seem like slow-motion.

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We saw the blow from another whale and the captain got us closer. This was a different angle that allowed us to appreciate the length of the whale.

Next we watched as a boat approached us. A portion of the fees to the tour companies is for access to the national park. The rangers come around to check that everyone is wearing the bracelet that proves they paid the entry fee. This particular boat had the director on board and we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

He told us there were six males and three females in the area at this time. He also showed us a map of th protected area and said that they have a staff of seven plus a few volunteers monitoring the entire area – small but mighty.

And he suggested to the captain that he should turn off his motor so we could better appreciate the sound of the blows. Often you hear the deep and powerful whoosh of their blow before you see them and you really get a sense of the giant volume of their breath.

We continued our search and found several whales, we think in all we saw about four different whales, a couple of them more than once.

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We traveled quite a distance around the Sea of Cortez because once the whales submerge it can be a long time before you see them again. They also may travel a long way from the original area where they are spotted.

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We got closer looks at the face s and mouths of a couple of whales. At one point we were motoring along with a whale swimming along the surface on either side of us! They can really create massive bow wakes as they stick their heads out of the water.

It was so special to have these different viewpoints of different whales. The tops of their faces, their blowholes, their immense thick backs, their tiny dorsal fins and their magnificent tails. The last one we saw was a little lighter and was referred to as the light blue one by the boat captains. We never imagined we would have so many sightings.

Then it was time to head back. I had mentioned to the captain that I was interested in seeing blue-footed boobies and on the way back he cruised to a small island where they sometimes congregate.

There were a lot of boobies on the island and most of them were brown footed boobies, but we found some blue footed ones. Yay!

A great ending to a memorable day. It took three attempts but we finally saw the spectacular blue whales.

Oh and we were greeted by one of the harbor mascots as we returned to the dock …

 

 

 

 

 

Mercury in Retrograde

As fellow RVers and travelers know, traveling is not always perfect. Things go wrong and plans don’t always work out.

So although our trip across Baja was amazing, we encountered a number of mishaps while on this journey. I always say that problems tend to come in threes, but we had quite a few more than three so we’ve written it off to Mercury in retrograde.

#1 Somewhere down in Baja California Sur, the tow car turn signals, brake lights and emergency lights stopped working when it was hooked up to the RV. A pretty minor issue although it was not entirely safe and made us technically illegal as we drove around. And we couldn’t find any RV repair place to fix it.

Hector visited a bunch of auto and boat repair places and mostly got blank looks until someone referred him to a motorcycle mechanic of all things. The guys at Motos Chepe in La Paz were totally game and together with Hector diagnosed the problem.

One of the cables than ran under the car had been crushed by a rock and they repaired it. Thanks Jose, Cesar, and Armando!

#2 The check engine light on the RV lit up right as we entered our RV park in La Paz, 900 miles from the border. YIKES.  Fortunately La Paz has one of the only authorized Sprinter service facilities in all of Baja (plus Cabo and Tijuana). We took the coach in and the engine code was diagnosed as low pressure at the fuel injection rail.

After the first “fix” we headed back north and as we approached Loreto the check engine light came on again. We made a decision to drive 320 miles down to Cabo to the main Sprinter shop.

The second “fix” lasted almost all the way back to La Paz and then the check engine light came on again. Valuable advice from our friend Michael in San Diego helped us avoid replacing a fuel pump that would have taken over a week to get imported. Dirty diesel, common in Baja California, had clogged our fuel filter and we replaced it instead. Solved!

The process involved four days, two overnights at two different sprinter shops, missing a blue whale outing, and a 640 mile detour. Not to mention the stress of driving all those miles with the check engine light on hoping not to get stuck in the middle of the road.

 

 

#3 We had a “smash and grab” incident while our car was parked during a night out to dinner. This type of incident can happen in any big city or town, and in no way do we want anyone to see it as a reflection of Baja or Mexico. But though we are normally more careful, we’d gotten pretty relaxed at this point of our trip, and had items sitting in plain sight in the back seat. And we parked on a lonely street.

The next morning, Hector created a temporary waterproof cover for the window. And we lucked out that the thief stole relatively inexpensive stuff – a couple of new masks and snorkels and old fins that we had loaded in the car in preparation for snorkeling the next morning, a cooler and two old bicycle helmets. But they missed an expensive camera lens and binoculars that were not visible. It could have been much worse.

One more note – the police were great. They gave us a moment to process and to check what was missing. When we told them what was taken, they sent a patrol car to look around the area.

They also pulled film from a nearby camera which showed the guy breaking the window and taking the stuff but it was too dark to make him out clearly. But the video also had a time stamp which was just after we arrived over an hour earlier.

#4 That same night – just as we were driving back to the RV, I got a text from our fabulous next door neighbor, Betty, that we had a huge puddle forming on the side of our barn in Albuquerque. What?!!! A pipe that had busted in the beginning of winter had apparently busted again.

Betty graciously offered to let plumbers from the plumbing company that had previously worked on the problem into the house. This time they found the real culprit and fixed it. And it was under warranty. Score!

#5 A funny one – on our way back north after the check engine light saga, we hit a bad section of road with lots of bumps. In Mexico, eggs don’t have to be refrigerated, and we kept our eggs in a basket along with other foods on top of the bunk above the cab. The bins are usually too heavy to move but this time one of them came crashing to the ground.

Of course it was the one with a large egg carton and 23 eggs came crashing down. Fortunately, they went splat on the small linoleum part of the floor and missed the carpet. Wow! And we found five lucky survivors.

#6 Hector lost one of his cameras. We’re not quite sure what happened. We called and went back to a couple of places where he might have left it but nothing.

Fortunately, this was his oldest camera and we’d just been talking about the fact that it was near its end (digital cameras have a finite number of “clicks” and he had far surpassed that) and his oldest lens. Someone in our house just might be getting a new camera.

The crazy thing is all of this happened in a period of two and a half weeks. Mercury in retrograde. When bad things happen and technology rebels.

But these bumps in the road were only a small part of our two-months of spectacularly beautiful places, lovely people,  yummy food, kayaking to our hearts delight, “petting” gray whales and fun Carnaval celebrations in a beautiful city.

And once we solved the check engine issue there was more fun to come on our drive north!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mischievous Whale

When we first visited Puerto Chale, we asked if it might be okay to park our RV and car in their dirt parking lot the night before our whale tour. They said yes, but the first time we went back we only drove our conspicuous car with the kayaks and bikes on top. This time we showed up on a quiet Sunday in our entire rig. That was the day before we “met” the mischievous whale.

We arrived in the late afternoon and Hector went to talk to the guys at the dock. Fortunately, he found Omar, whom we’d met previously and confirmed where we could park and not be in the way as the shoreline is busy with fishing boats. They also confirmed a tour for Monday morning.


Puerto Chale is a modest little fishing village. Although the road into town is in perfect shape, the town itself has all dirt roads. This is the first year that it is an “official” whale watching destination. In prior years this was a secret spot that folks in the know could get a ride out to see the whales with one of the fishermen.

There isn’t any real infrastructure. They’ve installed a pontoon dock for the people going on the whale tours. There are a couple of little open-air sheds and the patio of someone’s home nearby that serve food from limited menus. And a pit toilet that is just slightly larger than a Porta Potty with a permanent plastic enclosure.

We were told that this coming summer the government was going to build additional infrastructure to support the whale watching season next year.  I suspect Puerto Chale is in for some big changes.

Immediately upon our arrival a young boy named Brandon came up to ask Hector about the kayaks on our car. He seemed fascinated by our setup and Hector chatted with him for a little while. He had remembered us from when we were there a few weeks before.

We had not had lunch yet so we walked over to a little shed that’s by the water to get a bite. We bought a couple of cups of scallop cocktail, the local scallops that are really little, they were nice and fresh. The ladies there were super friendly, we’d forgotten our money in the RV, and they told us to just pay them later.

It was really windy and they only had a bench and a few outdoor chairs so we brought our cocktails inside to eat them. We had parked Island Time sideways to the shore with a nice view of the inlet.

We took a walk along the shoreline and I went back to the rig while Hector continued walking around and taking photos. Now Brandon was with two other boys.  I saw them following him around and making conversation. It was super cute. He told me he had asked the kids about school, and the older one, about high school age said he wasn’t in school because he had begun fishing.

A little while later I looked up and saw Brandon smiling at me from the front of the coach. I waved and he waved back. I went back to my writing, looked up and he was still looking at me and smiling. I told Hector “I think they want to see the inside of the coach”.

But I wanted to be cautious because some parents might not like their kids walking into a stranger’s RV. So I opened the door and told them they could peek inside but left the door open. Brandon, the most precocious of the kids, told us he thought the motorhome was really “clean”. This is a slang term that was new to us, lol. We found out that the other kids were Armando and Jose, the oldest one. They stayed on our steps a while and we chatted some more. Three very nice boys.

After they left, I watched Brandon riding his bicycle while the others walked alongside him. There is no cell signal here, and it doesn’t seem like they do much social media. The scene reminded me of simpler times.

That evening Hector was getting ready to make steaks on the barbecue. But I’d seen several stray and loose dogs walking around and I told him barbecuing might bring a whole group of them. So he opted to cook inside and we watched a beautiful sunset from the RV.

In the morning, we set out with Omar. It was Monday morning and we were the only ones in the only boat. Right as we pulled out we cruised by a huge group of marbled godwits on shore. It was a beautiful sight with the soft early morning light.

As we continued, we saw many blows all around. There were lots of whales! But Omar suggested we cruise to another area to see some birds first. The tide was due to change in a short while and he said that the whales would be more active at that time.

We learned some other facts from Omar. The lagoon we were in was actually Bahia Almejas (Clam Lagoon) which is on the Southern end of and adjacent to Bahia Magdalena. The fishermen we’d seen were going clamming.

They also dive for scallops. He took us closer to Isla Catarina across from Puerto Chale to a spot where lots of pelicans, cormorants and other birds gather. It turns out he has been out on this water for 20+ years, fishing and leading whale watching tours. A very, very knowledgeable captain.

As we continued cruising around the lagoon, we spotted lots of whales. This time around they were not approaching the boat. But they were very active skyhopping all around us.

We spotted some babies, and one baby was skyhopping alongside its mother. Super cute.

Even though they weren’t coming near our boat, we were quite entertained watching all the whale activity. It wasn’t the prettiest day, but it was so peaceful to be surrounded by whales and have the place all to ourselves.

One whale breached right next to our boat, the closest we’ve seen a whale breach in all of our whale watching tours.

Finally, one whale started to approach us. Swimming near us for a while but not coming up to us.  Finally, she swam towards the boat. I was hoping that she would raise her head by the boat but she didn’t.

Instead, she turned around and quickly swished her tail back and forth then slapped her tail in the water right next to the boat, drenching us both as well as Hector’s cameras.

Fortunately, our GoPro was in the water and captured the moment. At this point we only have a still of when the tail went back in the water with the wave it caused just above but may be able to upload a video later.


Omar then told us that this particular whale is “traviesa” (mischievous) and has done things like pushing the boat sideways before. Wow! The mischievous whale is apparently well known. It was super interesting to find that the whales have different personalities.

Every wildlife encounter is different and that’s part of what we love.

 

 

Land’s End

We planned a day car trip to Cabo San Lucas from our campsite in La Paz. Touristy and congested, we really weren’t that interested in Cabo but the main event was a boat ride to see Lands’ End, the very tip of the Baja Peninsula.

A fitting capstone to our trip down the length of Baja.

It is a couple of hours from La Paz to Cabo, with little surfer hangouts like El Pescadero. This town has grown much just as many others in this area. It’s really is popular with beginning surfers and is apparently one of the few places in the West Cape that’s good for swimming.

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas to lots of traffic. Spring breakers were in town, though since it was morning, not many were around. We headed to the marina where a guy immediately approached us asking if we wanted a boat ride. After discussing the rate, he said we’d have to wait about 40 minutes and if no one else showed up, we’d have the boat to ourselves.

When we thanked him and started walking away, he came after us and said one of the boats was leaving immediately and we could have it to ourselves for the same rate. Off we went.

As we headed out a “pirate ship” was headed back in. There is lots of boat traffic here as everyone wants to see the spectacular rock formations and of course, Land’s End.

It is a very short ride out to the amazing rock

 

The boat tours go by the pretty but small Lover’s Beach which straddles the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. The Pacific side which is too rough for swimming is referred to as Divorce Beach. Divorce Beach is much larger than Lover’s Beach because well, you know.

They will drop you off and pick you back up on a later boat ride if you’d like but we chose not to stop.

It really is a stunning place, and I couldn’t help but think how sweet it would be to visit in a quieter time if there is one.

El Arco, the famous arch, also called La Finisterra for Land’s End is beautiful as we expected. The tour takes you out around the point into the Pacific side so you can see it from both sides.

The boats all make space for each other and take turns in front of it so that the guides can take a photo without other boats in the background. A neat bit of choreography as it is really packed out there with boats of all shapes and sizes.

What we didn’t expect was to find out that this was not in fact the tip of the Peninsula. Our captain, Ivan, a charming guy, told us that the real end of Baja is a jagged lonely rock. The rock had a seal sleeping on top who refused to be bothered by all of the boaters.

As we headed back, we picked up a few guys from Lover’s Beach. This angle gave us a good view of what’s referred to as “the Corridor”, the area between Cabo San Lucas and the town of San Jose del Cabo. On the Sea of Cortez side, this area has the most beautiful beaches and lots of super expensive resorts.

Once back in the marina, we noticed many huge yachts, party boats and other vessels including some pretty unique ones like two story floating disco platforms and such.

We took a brief walk along the tourist shops, selling lots of wares. Some funny juxtapositions like a T-shirt with a picture of Heisenberg from “Breaking Bad” alongside a T-shirt with a picture of the famous Mexican actor and comedian Cantinflas.

Lots of restaurants and bars with guys asking you to join them. This place was just too crowded for us. Clearly a place set up for massive partying.

We headed east past the corridor towards San Jose del Cabo for lunch. A quick stop just to see it. It has a very pretty colonial square with a big church and more shops. It felt more like a real community but was expensive and full of Americans and Canadians.

Headed back to La Paz we made a very brief stop in Todos Santos. This is another “Pueblo Magico” with a pretty colonial plaza. It’s become an artists’ colony popular with, you guessed it, Americans and Canadians.

It was pretty quiet although it was a Saturday and one of the shops had an “end of season” sale indicating that snowbirds were now heading back home.

We stopped in at the Teatro Marquez de Leon, a historical structure that represents the cultural heritage of the town and is one of the reasons it was designated a “Pueblo Magico”.

One shop we stopped at had gorgeous handmade items including furniture, textiles, sculptures, jewelry and more. They feature a beautiful garden in the back named the “Jardin del Amor”.

There was a wedding in the church and we peeked in along with some other tourists. A lovely church with beautiful stained glass and lots of light.

Our last stop was at the Hotel California (we were looking for a bathroom) and found some of the most creative bathroom gender designations that we’ve seen.

It’s quite a lovely hotel with beautiful crystal chandeliers, although it has no connection to nor was it the inspiration for the Eagles song. But they still play various versions of the namesake song amongst a variety of rock songs.

Then it was back to La Paz and more adventures on our way back north.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Biggest Fish in the World

This was one of the many boat tours we were looking forward to. We love the water and marine life! And whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world, so we could not possibly pass up a chance to snorkel with them.

Juvenile whale sharks come to the La Paz bay to feed between the months of October and April. They are filter feeders and feed on plankton and very small fish.

La Paz Bay has designated an area that is protected by Conanp, Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (National Commission for Protected Natural Areas).

When we booked the reservation the tour company informed us that the tour might start at nine, eleven or later depending upon the allocation of boats. Only a certain number of boats are allowed entrance to the protected area at one time and for only an allotted period of time.

The tour companies are notified of which time slot they have been allocated in the morning. The boats have GPS devices that track their speed as well as their course. If they go beyond the speed limit, enter an area they are not supposed to enter, or stay beyond their allotted time they are fined.

We met at the tour companies’ office and found out that we had the 9a.m. slot. Excellent! Angel, our tour guide, gave us an orientation. The whale sharks in this area average about six meters (about 20 feet) in length. Adults, who are out in the open ocean can grow to 18 meters (59 feet)! Yikes.

There is a whale shark painting on the ground where he demonstrated how far we should stay from the fish – one meter (3+feet) from the front and three meters (about 10 feet) from the tail.

Of course, the fish don’t know this.

Angel mentioned during the briefing that some of the whale sharks are swimming slowly while feeding and others are swimming quite fast. We thought nothing of it at the time.

We walked the block or so to the dock and boarded our boat. After just a little while we spotted a whale shark, but when the captain and guide checked our location, we were not quite in the area where snorkeling was allowed so we continued cruising.

Once we entered the designated area, we all watched for a whale shark. Many times their fins are visible over the water like any other shark. Once the guide spotted one and determined its direction, the captain picked a course to intercept the fish from a distance.

What was surprising was that the guide then told everyone to sit on the edge of the boat and be prepared to jump in when he said “go”. Once we were in the water he yelled “face in the water” right when the fish was near. Ideally, we would then turn in the correct direction to swim alongside the fish. Not exactly the idyllic vision of lazily snorkeling with them!

I completely missed the first fish. He was a really fast one. I watched as the other two people in our boat, Karen and Dave swam away and wasn’t quite sure where Hector was. It was all a bit disorienting. Karen, a competitive swimmer, agreed that the whale shark was really fast, she even had a hard time keeping up.

We did this several times. It was all so fast that Hector and I disagree on the number of times we jumped out. I may have sat one out.

One of the times when Hector jumped in he looked up and the fish was coming right at him. We’d also been told that they don’t see well right in front because their eyes are on their sides. Hector had a slight panic moment when he wasn’t sure which way to go. Somehow, he figured it out. But because he had the GoPro he got some great shots!

Including one of the way too close tail wizzing right by him. Luckily he didn’t get swatted in spite of being on the wrong side of the 3 meter suggestion!

While all of this was going on, the captain quickly moved the boat out of the way of the whale shark (and us) and waited for us at an appropriate location. Once the fish swam away we swam back to the boat. Then we all climbed in and took our position on the side awaiting our next chance.

I started to worry that I would not be able to keep up with any of the whale sharks. The captain recommended to the guide that he have us enter one couple at a time. We took turns.

One couple went in first, came back and the guide yelled at us “go!” once again. More jumping in and paddling like crazy to keep up. I finally saw one.

The last whale shark was moving just a bit slower and all four of us were able to swim with him for a little while. I was holding up the rear pretty close to the tail but it was great fun. They are beautiful fish!

The guide later told us that he thought the last whale shark was about 7-8 meters long (about 24 feet)! Wow!

We were all ecstatic! What a rush!

 

 

 

La Paz

We really looked forward to visiting La Paz. Besides Playa el Tecolote for kayaking, the diversity of islands and sea life across from its bay and Carnaval, there was the beautiful Malecón Alvaro Obregón, a pretty plaza with its cathedral, a couple of interesting sounding museums and more good food.

We stayed on the north end of town at Campestre Maranatha RV park. Check out my review of the park here.

La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur, with the largest population in the state and the fourth largest on the peninsula (about 220,000). Perhaps because of this, it felt less overwhelmed by North Americans than some other towns on the peninsula.

The Pericú Indians squashed several attempts at colonization of the town including four missions. Thus, the Spaniards selected Loreto as their base for expansion and the peaceful Cochimí there as their first converts, and later Loreto was declared the territorial capital.

European diseases ultimately wiped out the Pericú. La Paz was settled mostly by fishermen and farmers and only became the capital after a hurricane destroyed much of Loreto.

Another interesting part of La Paz’s history is its pearl harvesting which began in the 16thcentury. During the Jesuit mission period, the Spaniards began to cultivate pearls and ultimately the pearl beds were depleted. The beds were attacked by disease and the pearl trade ended around the time of World War II.

Lacking the lovely colonial buildings of Loreto, it still has a sweet little plaza with trees, a gazebo and benches for some peaceful moments.

And, of course there is a cathedral, although it’s modern by mission standards. And although the malecón, the three-mile esplanade along the La Paz waterfront, is the most bustling area of the town, the plaza seems to get plenty of foot traffic.

The malecón gives the town an urban vibe, with people bicycling, roller skating, roller blading, skateboarding and strolling along its length. The restaurants and bars across the street are lively as well.

And of course, the Carnaval parades and other activities all took place along the malecón. Generally, this is not a city that has tons of nightlife but there are some very nice restaurants and bars in town.

We visited the lovely Centro Cultural La Paz where some of the Carnaval costumes were displayed. The Center also had one room devoted to historical panels about the area as well as an exhibition of beautiful whales made of wood and/or paper by local artists.

The art exhibit, Ballenas Morfas (Morphed Whales) included strong cautionary environmental messages by some of the artists. The sculptures were gorgeous and intricate.