“Wish I Was There” Wednesday- Isla Isabela, Mexico
The following is an excerpt from our book “Trading Ordinary… For Extraordinary.” It decribes Isla Isabela, a tiny uninhabited island between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. This week is nearly the exact time of year that we visited Isla Isabela six years ago, so it seemed fitting to share that adventure with you here.
Isla Isabela, Mexico
We didn’t leave Mazatlan on March 2nd like I said in the last log entry. Sometimes even the best plans have to be altered. Bryan ended up with a stomach bug, so we stayed at El Cid Marina two more days while he recovered. Once he was feeling better, we made a 20-hour, overnight passage to Isla Isabela, a small island about 50 miles offshore between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.
Isla Isabela is one of Mexico’s national parks and is home to numerous wildlife species, most of them in the bird family. It is a bird sanctuary and the annual wintertime birthing destination of frigates and blue, green, and yellow-footed boobies. The place is amazing. Other than the 20 or so fishermen and a handful of researchers living there, it is inhabited only by birds, iguanas, and lizards. You can only get there by boat, and as of now, no tour boats go there. We were one of only six cruising boats in the anchorage, a beautiful place unto itself.
The anchorage is a bit tricky because of the rocky bottom, but with the help of our friend Kasey from s/v Amalfi, who had arrived before us and scouted out the best spots to drop the hook, we ended up setting the anchor in one of the only sandy spots. We had arrived not long after sunrise, and therefore had the whole day to explore. We started off with a dinghy ride around the east side of the island and a rocky outcropping referred to as the “spires,” followed by lunch aboard. During our lunch, we heard Amy from Amalfi excitedly calling us over the VHF radio, “Salty Dog, Salty Dog!” It turned out they were trying to reach us to tell us there were pilot whales and a couple of humpback whales putting on a show just outside the anchorage. We jumped in the dinghy, cameras in hand, and rushed out there. We were too late for the pilot whales, but the humpbacks were still doing their thing, raising their tales out of the water and flapping them around, over and over. It was almost like it was the whales way of waving hello. We floated around in the dinghy for about an hour, admiring God’s amazing creatures from a safe distance.
After the whale show, we headed to shore to check out the nature trails and search for the rare blue-footed boobies, who live primarily on the Western coasts of Central and South America, and who make Isla Isabela one of their winter birthing destinations. I was a little uneasy at first because of the number of iguanas and lizards everywhere (I have a small phobia about most things reptilian), but quickly got over it, thankful to have brought along Kasey’s trekking poles in case any of them got too close to me! The first birds we noticed were the frigates and their babies, nesting in the trees right at head level. They were EVERYWHERE! But other than frigates and seagulls, we weren’t finding any boobies. We chose to take one of the trails that led us through a small valley of calf-high sea grasses, up a tree-dense incline, to a high ledge overlooking the cove 500’ below. It was here that we saw our first booby, a colorful yellow-footed one.
We climbed up the path further, and in a thicket of trees we were greeted by a screeching blue-footed booby and her baby. I’m sure she was warning us not to get to close, which of course, we didn’t. What an oddly beautiful bird – turquoise blue feet, black and white feathers, and iridescent pale blue eyes. They are about the size and shape of a seagull. With quite a set of lungs, I might add! Up the path even further, we came to a clearing overlooking Crater Lake and with a 360° view of the island. We could see Salty Dog at anchor from there, and the vast Pacific stretching out in all directions beyond. We shot a bunch more photos then headed back to the dinghy, feeling desperately in need of a cold beer and a swim after all that hiking.
Isla Isabela is truly an amazing place. I understand now why Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic have chosen to do features on it. And what’s so neat is that Bryan and I have now been to a place where so few people have a chance to go. We got there all by ourselves, on our little 36′ sailboat, and this is how we hope it stays… a destination available only to the heartiest travelers among us. Some places just shouldn’t be commercialized.