Parque Nacional Isla Isabel (original post from March 14th, 2020)
This is a must stop island. If the weather Gods will allow it :)
It’s like the Mexican Galapagos. An eco tourists dream!
The passage took us about 18 hours from Mazatlan. We arrived around 730am having passed by many dolphins and humpback whales and precariously passed over fishing nets. We could tell we were getting close to the island by the smell of land and hundreds of birds. Like the smell of a giant aviary.
We anchored on the east side of the island, in the lee of jaggedy rock peaks. Coming early had us being the first ones in the anchorage, picking the prime spot. The jaggedy rock peaks would more than likely just be black volcanic basalt rocks if it weren’t for all the layers and layers of white bird doody.
After a little nap to try to get some extra zzz’s we missed out on from the nights passage, we puttered about the boat. I tidied the boat up putting it back in order and Kyle replaced the zinc underneath the boat. This might be the last chance for him to do that in clear clean waters. Marinas are often murky dirty waters and some of the marinas we will go to have crocodiles!
We eventually made our way to the shore at low tide which was a bit tricky with the exposed reef and crashing waves.
Landing the dinghy was a three step process:
1. Wait for the calm in the waves
2. Drop me off on the exposed rocky reef with our gear to leave on the beach
3. Head back to help Kyle carry the dinghy across the spongy and mildly slippery rocks.
We’ve become quite proficient at problem solving through these tricky areas. Going at high tide would have been an idea! But then we would have missed the golden hour on the beach.
A scientist saw the opportunity and the uniqueness of the life here on this island 40 years ago and with the University of Mexico, they setup a research station here. A group of about 4 scientists live on the island for a month at a time. Collecting data on the various life forms. The Mexican Navy brings them provisions about once a week from the mainland.
This island is a refuge for all kinds of wildlife, but the most obvious are the birds!!! The birds circle high above the island in what looks like a tornado funnel. Nearly all circling counterclockwise. The pelicans come out over the water barely skimming the surface for food or dive bombing from high above. Before coming to this island, Kyle stated that he hoped we would see a blue footed boobie. Well, we didn’t see one, we saw hundreds! There are thousands of bird species that find refuge on this island. But we saw a lot of blue footed boobies, frigate birds, scooty terns, and the good ol' classic gull. Hundreds of birds find safety to lay their eggs and a bounty of food to raise their young. When you first step onto the island you can hear the crashing waves and then the chatter of the birds. There are birds that sound similar to a cat meowing for dinner, and others that sound like a group of referees incessantly blowing their whistles at a foul play. While yet another species sound like they’re saying “oh!” as if they found what you just said really quite interesting.
The island is made up of volcanic rock and in the middle is an old crater filled with rain
water that serves as a fresh water (fresh by bird standards) lake. There’s no doubt it’s teeming with its own life with its vibrant algae green colour. As you follow a trail off the beach and up into the thick foliage, you walk through patches of various colonies of bird species narrowly stepping on the camouflaged reptiles lurking about. The bird chatter changes to tweets, then screeches, then low gurgling bird noises, and then... frogs as you near the lake. Even as I write this at 9pm, long after the sun has set, I can still hear the birds chattering away.
The boobies waddled awkwardly on their big blue feet similar to ducks. They didnt
seem afraid of us. They didn’t charge at us. They would just “honk” in hopes that would scare us away from their nests they were protecting. I was surprised that the birds weren’t dive bombing us or come chasing after us. Instead, they just let us walk right by. Even the scraggly ugly white feathered teenage stage birds would sit on their perch two feet away from our heads, staring calmly at us as we walked by. Perhaps just as intrigued by us. But also probably internally shitting its pants... if they were to be wearing pants.
The next day we landed the dinghy on the south end of the island where there is a small fishing village (about 12 little wooden fish huts). We walked along the sharp volcanic rock beach until we reached the remains of what was likely a humpback whale. There are mostly just bones left, but we found a little bit of blubber and the baleen that was used to filter plankton and small fish. We found the giant skull, a shoulder blade, multiple giant vertebrae and rib bones. Pretty incredible to imagine how humongous this creature was. It must have been a godawful smell as it returned back to the earth. Even as it were with just bones left, it smelled putrid! The smell has stained my nostrils!
This place is a natural spectacle. It’s amazing to me that we are actually allowed to even walk on this island. I can imagine at some point they won’t allow anyone other than the fishermen and the scientists. We feel fortunate to have been able to experience this natural wonder and appreciated the critters welcoming us (sorta kinda) into their home for us to see.