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Published: November 23rd 2014
We were offered a swim with sea lions/swim with whale sharks combination tour when we checked into our hotel on Thursday, and we decided to sign up. We left the the next morning around 9:00am for the all-day boat trip. Our companions were:
• a Stanford/MIT trained energy engineer who was starting a new job in DC where she would work for Africa Power, and who was taking a kite-surfing vacation before her job started.
• a BC bus driver who was also a kite surfer
• the parents, sister, brother-in-law, and a family friend of our guide
• Hugo, the guide
• the boat captain
We motored about 40 minutes to the shores of Espirito Santo, a large nature preserve island off of La Paz, where our first stop was a nesting area for frigate birds. We continued past the amazing rock formations that are visible along the shores of the island, where cliffs of sandstone and basalt alternate with coves fringed by white sand beaches and turquoise water. We took a break at the base camp where we would later return for lunch. This is where one can camp overnight and kayak and hike during the day.
stop was the largest sea lion colony in North America, located on rocks just off of Espirito Santo. There were several other tour boats there, ranging from a mini cruise ship to a catamaran to a few the size of ours. The currents were strong and the baby sea lions like to nibble on people sometimes, so the experience was not going to be without its dangers.... After a boat tour around the island, we got our snorkel gear on, and jumped in among these rather large mammals. The fish life below the water was amazing! I have never seen such large schools of tropical fish anywhere else I've snorkeled! After several minutes two sea lion pups came to play, swirling and diving around me, and coming to look me in the face! No nibbling at all....whew!
Bill and I swam with the current to a natural arch in the rock where we originally been told to swim through with the guide. There had been discussion with the captain about the currents and how hard it would be to get back to the boat, so we thought we were not to go through, and decided to return to the
boat. We had to swim very
hard to get back...and as we went to climb on board, the captain asked what we wanted...wrong boat!
Our boat had gone around to pick everyone up from the other side of the arch....
After catching our breath, we quickly returned to arch with the current carrying us, swam through the arch (very cool...) (and Bill got to swim through with sea lions) and found our boat....
We motored back to base camp, and had lunch...the tide was way out, so we had to wade in, and there wasn't enough water for swimming or snorkeling. I found part of a feral goat jaw bone on the way back from the camp toilet. Hugo told us that there were still many goats there, left from the days when small settlements where located around the island. The government relocated these people when the island became a wildlife sanctuary...but I guess they didn't get all the goats...
On the way back to La Paz, we motored through another natural arch, and then arrived at the giant sandbar off of La Paz to look for the whale sharks that congregate there to eat tiny
The males have the inflatable red sack.
creatures. As we were trying to spot the sharks, we saw a humpback breach not far way! It turned out to be a mother and baby...! We watched them for 10 minutes, and then continued our hunt for the sharks, since it was getting late. The guide spotted one and those of us who wanted swim next to these giants had to quickly and quietly get into the water....just 4 of us did it, including me....
I cannot describe the sensation of being next to a creature this big, in slightly murky water, where you can't see the shark until you are only a few feet away....as they surface to feed, they are so big that you cannot see their whole body....Some are as big as two school buses, but this was a "small" one, only about the size of a single bus....
Since I didn't have an underwater camera here is someone else's video of the same place:
Wet and amazed, we returned to shore and the hotel....
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