Isla Partida

Post and Photos by Tristan Deeley

When we sailed (well, motored) into Isla Partida there was much excitement for everyone, me and Dad especially. The water was the bluest we’ve seen in the Sea of Cortez, and it wasn’t long after anchoring that Mum, Dad and I went for a snorkel off one of the points east of our anchorage. The first thing you will notice in Partida is the swarms of grouper. Dad suggested a few other terms, perhaps plagues of grouper, but whatever it is it’s almost unbelievable. At any one time you can see around 200 grouper, maybe more, all decent size and all very curious. When you turn, they follow, and when you dive down they stare. For me, the best measure of the sheer numbers of delicious fish would be when I saw four golden grouper in a line, one after the other. Leopard grouper only have a 2% chance of mutating into golden grouper, and those that do have the new pigmented skin aren’t very well camouflaged, so to see four in a row is insane.

I swam out in the deeper water, maybe fifteen or twenty metres, and was immediately greeted by two turtles coming up to the surface right in front of me, followed by a shiny black mobula ray. The stingers got pretty bad, though, so we tried over on a point to the west of the anchorage and were just as surprised.

I had a shovelnose ray come up off the bottom to swim around me when I dove to take a look, but I couldn’t get too many photos because when I rose to the surface Mum was frantically calling me over, shouting “Nudibranchs, Tristan!”

Shovelnose ray

It has been Mum’s long and fairly unsuccessful goal all year to find nudibranchs. She mentions it every time she goes snorkelling, and on the two times I’d seen one this year she’d been very jealous, so Isla Partida was kind of a dream come true for her. Along the rock ledge, you’d often see several clumped close together, and probably fifty during a whole snorkel. They’re pretty strange-looking things, but provide great excitement.

I decided to try and swim through a pass to the other side of the point, on the outside of the anchorage where the current was ripping through, and was rewarded within two minutes when I saw an octopus sitting on a rock. He was missing a few legs but that didn’t slow him down too much when he decided to swim away.

Mum was very jealous again, of course, so we took the dinghy around to where I’d seen it and Mum and I jumped in and spotted two octopi on the same rock, who quickly changed colour from brown to bright turquoise. I feel a little bad for the number of photos I took, but it was okay, because when they decided I was too much of a hassle they just swam away, giving me some video to shoot.

On our snorkel we’d also seen someone from another boat spearfishing and hold up a decent-sized kingfish, so Dad and I got up at 7 and went trolling with rods around the point. Dad kept reminiscing on last year, in this very anchorage, when he’d caught 4 kingfish in the same day. After a couple barracuda and a needlefish, we hooked our first kingfish, and after that it just… kept happening. We did several laps over each school and caught 9 kingfish. I was having a bit of trouble with lures, so only 2 were mine, but the next morning when we caught another 9 to freeze, I’d swapped out for a squid lure and five of the fish were mine.

We snorkelled a few more times, seeing more octopi and nudibranchs, as well as cool other fish and some pretty big arrow crabs. It was a shame when, after three days or so, the green water came up from further south and we lost all the clarity. All in all, though, it’s probably been my favourite spot in the Sea of Cortez so far.

4 thoughts on “Isla Partida

  1. Good story and we remember Isla Partida well. We were there twice: once in 1983 and the second time in 2010. Great place and wonderful hiking. Hope you get to spend lots of time there.


  2. I am amazed at your photos. They are fantastic. Are you going to be a professional photographer. I too was so excited when I saw my first nudibranch and octopus. Love Annette


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