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Dolphin Play Day


JP Wickham, Expedition Guide, Safari Endeavour

Sometimes you find the splendor. Sometimes the splendor breathers find you.

It was the very first day of our trip, which also happened to be New Year’s Eve. The sun was bright, the air was warm, and the Sea of Cortez was as still as a pond.

On Isla Espiritu Santo, the landscape of layered pink rock was dotted with tall cardon cactus, and black jackrabbits scurried in the shade of limberbushes and elephant trees.

The Safari Endeavour was doing what she does, cruising smoothly along the cliffs and beaches in search of the perfect anchorage.

Even before we reached Playa Ayla, a gorgeous beach on the south side of the island, we spotted a pod of more than fifty bottlenose dolphins.

They had congregated there, feeding on schools of baitfish that benefitted from upwelling currents. They were swimming, leaping and lazing along at the surface with their young. They were at home and at ease.

In my opinion, the best kind of wildlife observations are the ones where the creatures being observed are uninterrupted in their natural pathways and rhythms; where they are aware of our presence, but unperturbed by it.

This was definitely one of those times.

After we anchored and lowered skiffs, we set up a beach party with all the trimmings – snorkeling, shade tents, blankets, cold beer and music. Guests were free to roam the white sand beach for almost a kilometer, collecting shells and strange bones to display on the bar.

What followed was a magical afternoon.

As we began to transport the guests ashore the real wonder of the day became clear. The dolphins weren’t going anywhere. They followed our skiffs, did broad lazy loops around us as we snapped photos, and let us watch them chase fish until we had to leave to go to the party.

The guests continued to watch them from shore through binoculars. A few schools of manta-like mobula rays even made an appearance, cruising the shallows a few meters off the beach like a squadron of aquatic warplanes.

It was a perfect day. And it very much felt like we didn’t find Playa Ayla and all the life that calls it home. It felt more like it found us, and shared the day with us without reservation or restraint.

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