October in the Northern Sea of Cortez

Refugio 6 – 9th of October

We headed back to Refugio for a few days and were fortunate that the water was clear, at least for the first day or two.  Tour guide Andrew kindly took me daily to snorkel with my favourite aquatic friends, the sea lions, who eagerly leapt into the water to greet us at the dinghy.  I love these playful creatures.

Tristan and Andrew had seen about 15 turtles along one wall in Refugio; unfortunately, the day I decided to go with them the water had turned green and while I spotted 4, they were not very visible.  Luckily, tour guide Andrew took me to snorkel with the sea lions and the water was still blue, so we continued around Isla Granito and were able to see between 30 – 40 green turtles.  Sometimes you would be following a turtle and turn around and there were two more just near you, there were just so many.

Turtles, turtles everywhere…..

Why are they called green turtles?  Well, actually, in Mexico they are called black turtles although they form part of the subspecies of green turtles.  Green turtles are not green, the fat under the carapace is green but their shells are variated shades of brown. 

These two photos were taken by Tristan Deeley on one of his snorkelling trips, while in Refugio.

After a few days of the heat, no-see-ums, and bees we decided to move on to Alcatraz for a few days before continuing to the Bay of LA for the Internet.

Bay of LA – 12th of October

We spent a couple of days in the Bay of LA area, primarily to get some schoolwork sent in and get a few things from the tienda.  While there we did get the opportunity for a quick snorkel with a whale shark and its baby; the downside was that a lot of tourists that had come down from America recently were also snorkelling with the sharks. Still, it’s amazing to see such a humungous animal so close to you.

More whale sharks

Isla Partida – 13th and 14th of October

Back to the island and the water was clear; our first night the wind was blowing straight into the anchorage, and we had a rocky night, but thankfully after that, it settled down.  Andrew and Tristan started the morning trolling for fish in hope that the yellowfin kingfish were still around.  They came back very excited after having caught nine, looks like fish for dinner again.

Andrew and Tristan cleaned the bottom of the boat and then I went for a snorkel; nothing new, just an inquisitive eel, nudibranchs and lots of large snails. Have you ever bought necklaces or earrings with an operculum? Well you may be interested to know that they come from snails; they are the trapdoor that closes the snail into their shell.

The ever inquisitive eel, the Diomedes Sapsucker or Elysia Diomedea slug which we saw hundreds of and sea snails with their operculum trap door openings.

We decided to leave the following morning to catch back up with Love and Luck, but before we left, we went for another snorkel.  While Andrew was interested in all the grouper around, I was rewarded with a new creature, a speckled flatworm. The worm was about 1.5 inches long and covered in white, yellow, and orange polka dots. This variety of flatworm is only found in the Sea of Cortez. I watched it for about 10 minutes and was amazed at how quickly it moved.

This guy crawled over 2 metres during the 10 minutes I watched it, fast considering its size.

Isla Partida – 18th – 20th

Back to Isla Partida and the water had become quite chilly, it was definitely back to wearing a wetsuit for me. Tristan disappeared snorkelling for about 2 hours, returning very excited with his new discoveries. He had explored a new point of the island which was very shallow and filled with nudibranchs. He has once again taken some amazing macro and microscopic underwater images.

The Elsia Diomedia commonly seen in the water surrounding the island. Photos by Tristan Deeley

I personally prefer to call this little guy the cookies and cream nudibranch, but its real name is Dall’s Chromodorid. Photos by Tristan Deeley

This is a Sedna Nudibranch otherwise known as Doriprismatica Sedna. Photos by Tristan Deeley.

A few other favourite photos taken at Partida include the Throat spotted Blenny, a Jewel Moray Eel, and Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus) Photos by Tristan Deeley

Andrew took me to see a new colony of sea lions located on Roca Blanca (white Rock) off Isla Partida. You can understand why it’s white when you see all the birds resting on it. The rock is high and steep and to our surprise, there were sea lions situated halfway up.

While the first photo shows the sea lions up relatively high, there were some up so much higher. The second photo is Roco Blanco.

I don’t think these guys see a lot of people as they eagerly leaped into the water to greet me and were incredibly interactive. The water was clear and I snorkeled with them in less than 2 meters of water. The younger ones would swim really fast at you and then turn just before colliding; unfortunately, their braking ability was not so good and a few times they came a bit too close.

I love this photo of this guy who was definitely lacking in braking skills, I wonder if the big gash on his chest is the result of previous collisions?

It still cracks me up when you are snorkelling along and turn around only to discover 10 sea lions about a meter behind you, all who quickly draw back when you look at them. I definitely felt like the pied piper, it was soooooo coool.

Their acrobatic skills are always entertaining.

And yes there was a male around, but he wasn’t paying me a lot of attention and may have been sleeping on the job.

Bay of LA – 22nd – 28th October

Back in the Bay of LA, and the whale sharks were near the boats so, Tristan, Andrew, and I jumped in our dinghy, along with Arena in theirs to snorkel with them.  Unfortunately, the water was very green, and you couldn’t see them until they were about a meter away, nevertheless, it was still very exciting.  Lochlan loved watching a particularly large one that came quite close to him in the dinghy.  He told me he would like a pet whale shark, so I asked him what he would call it; ‘Daryl’ he says.  It made me laugh, the most unlikely name for a whale shark, he is too cute!  There were a few squeals from the Arena girls, but they all eagerly jumped in each time one came near.

Arena’s first time swimming with the whale sharks, there was a bit of squealing from the girls.

By the afternoon our three boats had whale sharks circling and I’m pretty sure I saw Daryl among them.  It is amazing how close they will come and how quickly they can manoeuvre those huge bodies.  Definitely one of the highlights this year has been the sheer number of whale sharks we have encountered and how close they have come to us, the dinghy, and Utopia.  Even Willie, Love and Luck’s dog, loves them; he barks and desperately wants to go in the water with them, but has not been allowed yet.

These two giants converged at our bow, it was amazing!!!!

Ava, Andrew and I followed them around our boat as they leisurely made their way.

We found ourselves stuck in the bay for several days with really strong winds. The first night we had about 45 knots of wind and earlier in the evening Andrew and Tristan noticed a neighbouring boat had disappeared. They discovered the boat had drifted and was quickly approaching a rock, so they dinghied over, waking the owner up, just before his boat took out a moored powerboat. It was a rough night with the wind and the strongest wind we have anchored in.

4 thoughts on “October in the Northern Sea of Cortez

  1. I just love your photos. The big stuff is great but I too love the nudibrancs. I just hope I’ll get to dive again and see some of the amazing things you have seen. Congratulations


    1. I have just found an app which apparently you can use to identify nudibranchs etc, going to investigate it further as I’m hoping to see lots of them next year in the Pacific.


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