by Misty Tosh
I first learned to sail on the Sea of Cortez and even back then I knew there was something special about that particular body of water. The way the smoky mist skirted the horizon each morning; the way the hot sun shimmered off the tropical blue water mid-day; and finally the sexy orange and red shadows that sunset showcased on her belly each evening. This is a body of water that’s been kissed by Mother Nature and she’s never let me down in all the years I’ve been traveling the peninsula. But, oddly, until this last trip, I’d never hit up any of her islands…so, when a freebie trip came along with a house rental in Loreto, it was time. Enter Isla Coronados, a volcano, truly a game changer for me and my future with Baja. To fully appreciate this vast space where blue meets blue, you’ve got to be right on top of her. Preferably floating on your back.
Taking a panga out to Isla Coronados is a memory machine from the first second. First of all, if you can go on a low wind day, do it. The ride over is about 30 gentle minutes and from the moment you leave shore, the visibility into the depths of this body of water is stunning – it’s as if there is no difference between water and shore – it all melds together into one epic eye full. We were flanked by pods of dolphins within three minutes of casting off and every which way I spun around on the tiny boat, I saw rainbow colored fish flipping through the air and dozens of dolphins nicely making way. It’s as if these creatures wait for you to innocently leave shore and then BAM! It’s their lifelong duty to make sure you have breath catching aha’s every few minutes while exploring their domain.
Our water guide, Doobie, was a treasure trove of information once we got within spitting distance of the island. He knew every bird, every fish, and every story about these islands. You think the blue-footed boobie is only indigenous to the Galapagos and Banderas Bay off mainland Mexico? I’ve been told my whole life these two remote locations are the only places to see them (and I did see them on a tiny island across from Yelapa)…but the second we hit Isla Coronados, what was there but loads of blue-footed boobies! And, throw in some brown-boobies. Who knew?
Now, you have to understand that Isla Coronados is one of five islands that make up the Loreto Bay Marine Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site as of 2005. These usually gorgeous sites around the world are widely protected and when something gets the coveted stamp of UNESCO, it’s always worth visiting. Why? Because it looks as if time hasn’t marred its existence. The backside of Isla Coronados has the most delicious looking sandy beach that looks and feels like it belongs in the Mediterranean. The salt sprayed sailboats that populate the remote cove must have been let in on some trade wind legend to wind up there, and I can see why they come and stay for the entire season. They can feel protected in a cove, they can hop from boat to boat for sundowners, they can dinghy over to Loreto for supplies, they can lagoon hop with snorkel gear, they can star gaze in a true dark sky community and they have a sugar white sandy beach all to themselves most of the time.
After looping around the whole island witnessing sea lions sunbathing on their backs (if you’ve never seen this, it’s hilarious – they are submerged with just their flippers flipped up to the sky) and photographing pre-historic caves where pirates used to hide their bounty, we unloaded our own wonderful supply of sundries onto the beach for an impromptu picnic. We’d loaded up our cooler with piles of snacks from town and some freshly made and super iced down margaritas so we could just spend the entire day snorkeling in what is literally some of the most pristine water I’ve ever swam in. There are over 800 species of marine life in the Sea of Cortez (many of them endangered) and it’s like you’ve done a swan dive into the biggest fish tank in the world - with perfect visibility. You might encounter spiny puffer fish, ancient sea turtles, or enormous angelfish within a few feet of shore. The day quickly turns into – leisurely swim, eat ceviche, slurp margarita. Repeat.
The facts surrounding the almost 100 islands in the Sea of Cortez are astounding. Though the islands receive only 1” of rain per year, they have over 3500 species of plants. This sea also receives more sunlight than any other body of water in the world, which means the islands are pretty much a tropical destination year round. They are also home to one third of the world’s marine whale and dolphin species. No wonder the dolphins are so dang friendly – they are home and simply want to invite you into their spectacular world. All these little details mixed in with historic tales from the page turner ‘Log From the Sea of Cortez’ make this set of islands a location that demands to be visited each and every time the Baja calls my name. Another one off the bucket list, check. Added back to bucket list for repeat visits? Double check!Visit Bay of Loreto Marine Park