This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.
Actual travel date: Dec. 31, 2009. Loreto/Coronado Island in Baja Peninsula.
I visited the Isla Coronado several years ago (photo above), and had a great time so I was hoping to recreate the experience this time around for the additional members in our travel party. I envisioned us being provided with informative explanations of the sealife and the island eco-system, snorkeling along two different parts of the island – and being provided with wet suits.
This time, however, we ended up doing some last-minute arrangements, and things didn’t turn out as planned. The eco-tour shop I had gone to before was closed so we instead made arrangements through some other shop. Our “guide” turned out to be a taciturn local fisherman. We left the boat dock around 9 a.m. and within 30 minutes we were motoring along the island’s edge.
The Isla Coronado is about three miles from the shore. The fisherman-guide made a complete trip around the island to take us to a small, isolated bay that was devoid of other tourists. This was not necessarily a bad thing. I’m up for getting to know new places, but then things started getting a little weird.
The shoreline appeared to be littered with hundreds of bottle caps, though it was unclear where they were coming from. There were so many of these that I decided to keep my sandals on. As the fisherman-guide wandered off, we discovered a large pile of conch shells. Things got even stranger as I spotted the head of a hammer-head shark. I looked more closely and I realized there were not just one, but two, and three, – no, DOZENS of these dried up heads.
Then I saw the corpse of a manta ray, several other assorted large fish, and what looked like a decent-sized shark.
We had stumbled upon some sort of fish cemetery, and it all seemed vaguely illicit and spooky. As we walked back to the boat we realized those bottle caps were actually spinal cord sections of the decimated sea life. Our fisherman-guide didn’t have much to say about this, but it apparently involved illegal fishing. We asked him to take us to the bay I had been to before, which looks like this (photo below) and where there are no fish corpses:
This was the paradise bay I was familiar with from my previous trip. We laid out our beach gear and started munching on the lunch the fisherman-guide had brought us, which included some tasty chicken empanadas, burritos, fruits and plenty of drinks. The water was clear, but chilly. I had gone in the water the last time I visited the island – in a wet suit. This time, there was no gear on our guide’s boat and I let others report back about the fish they saw.
Over time, about a dozen other tourists joined us along the bay. We stayed here for a few hours until the fisherman-guide warned us that the water was getting rough and that we needed to head back to shore. The water was indeed rough as we bucked our way across the waves. We got drenched, and I was glad I had my raincoat.
Back in Loreto, we explored some options for New Year’s celebrations. Several of the hotels along the coast were hosting dinner parties that looked like fun. They ranged in price from about $30 to $75 per person.
The last time I came here around this time, I went to a town outdoor dance to cheer in the New Year with the locals. Instead, with two kids in tow, we ended up splurging on a tasty New Year’s meal at a restaurant called Mita Gourmet (across from the city hall) with fantastic ambiance that featured live music from the outside patio. To celebrate the New Year, I had fish cooked Veracruz style with some white wine.
Boating excursion to Isla Coronado cost about $47 per person for this time of the year. The boats leave between 8:30 and 9 a.m. in the morning, and the trip includes a prepared lunch. Try and book through an eco-tour group for the best experience, which includes wetsuits and a chance to go snorkeling on both sides of of the island. Several of these outfits are located on Loreto’s main strip, on Avenida Hidalgo.