Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Overwhelming Beauty of BDLA

The surfing spots in Baja have a special kind of raw beauty that sometimes only a surfer can appreciate. You have to be able to look beyond the barren backdrop of blowing dust and rocky desert. These are the places where we spend a lot of our time, but occasionally, we venture to the waveless east side of Baja. The east side is not so subtle with it's natural beauty - dramatic mountain peaks, calm blue water, nearshore islands, and most importantly, whale sharks.

One of the near shore islands (Isla Coronado) has it's own volcano

We had been waiting the entire month of October for the weather to get cooler so that we could swim with the whale sharks in the calm waters of Bahia de Los Angeles (BDLA) on the Sea of Cortez. This had been at the top of my bucket list for 6 years. The whale sharks spend the hot summer and fall months there. Whale sharks are not whales, but sharks, and they are the largest fish in the world. Ignoring people around them, they skim the surface, mouth agape, sucking up plankton as their main source of food. How can something so giant, survive on something I can't even see?

The water was a bit murky, teaming with food for the whale sharks.
This whale shark continued to eat as we slid into the water with our snorkel and mask.

Sucking up breakfast.
Juvenile whale sharks eat 46 lbs of plankton per day. 

Right at the end of October, the weather cooled down considerably, so we finally headed to BDLA. We got so lucky on our first visit. While driving to the south end, we questioned a guy about where we could access the water with our paddleboards. He owned property on the bay (along with many other gringos), so he kindly opened a gate that allowed us to drive to a beautiful, private beach. We launched our paddleboards, and within a few minutes, we were sharing the surface of the water with the resident, polka-dotted whale sharks. I was so happy, I could feel it in the pit of my stomach. I felt like a kid again. It was so awesome, we returned a week later (after some surfing on the Pacific side) to do it again. 

Private, gringo beach on the south bay

According to wiki, the largest recorded whale shark is 41 feet (12.6 m) long. Unfortunately, we did not see any that big. We only saw the juvenile whale sharks that were probably only 15 - 20 feet long (still huge!). We spent enough time paddling around that we could recognize the "personalities" of the different whale sharks. One of them was very playful, and would swim directly under our boards. Another one, the biggest, was hanging out so close to shore that you could see the bottom below.

This was the biggest one we saw. Look at how close it is to the shore. 

On our second visit to the bay, we camped at the north end (Punta La Gringa) for 5 days. It was unusual for us to stay camped somewhere so long, when all we really did was watch the world go by. I couldn't put the camera down. Later, while I was going through all the pictures, I noticed I basically took the same pictures everyday. It was so beautiful, I couldn't stop. Some of the keepers below:

We saved the GPS coordinates for this camp spot and named it "Best Camping Spot Ever"

Moonrise at Punta La Gringa

We ate dinner while the moonrise entertained us

Sweet, sweet Baja dogs. These were our pets for a couple hours.
They were so thirsty and hungry, I gave them their own bowls so they would stop the frantic inhalation of food.

As a side note, after BDLA, I realized, we should probably own a GoPro instead of an old point-and-shoot camera in a waterproof bag. Maybe I'll get one for our next visit.