Monday, December 22, 2014

Family Circus visits Jurassic Park

I am not sure exactly what we expected when we headed to Isla Isabel but it turned out to be completely out of this world.
The Island is known as the "Galapagos of Mexico" and sits 43 miles off the coast- halfway up between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Its remote location and lack of commercialization has kept it very natural and its inhabitants show no aversion to modern man.  Mexico designated it a National Park in 1980, and it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005- quite a thing for an island that is less than one square mile in size.  It was also apparently a favorite of Jacques Cousteau- who filmed the island extensively.
Given its remote location- we wanted to get there early in the morning to enjoy the day, which meant an overnight trip from Mazatlan- thankfully our autopilot worked fabulously and we enjoyed a great sail most of the way there.  As we approached at sunrise from about 4 miles out, we started being visited by Frigate and Boobie birds that got much closer than usual - and as land came more in to focus you could see clouds of birds circling the island.
Isla Isabel doesnt have a great anchorage, meaning its hard to set your anchor very well- but thankfully it was a very mellow day on the ocean and we jammed our anchor in some sand and under a rock in 15 feet of water.  There were two other boats anchored, and on shore you could see a small colony of fishermen huts.  Hundreds of birds continued to circle the boat
After homeschooling we got in to expedition mode loading the dinghy with food and water, and many of us wearing real shoes for the first time in a while.  We beached our dinghy, dragging it up out of the waterline and started exploring.
True to Jurassic Park form, there is an abandoned research station here, and with no clear trails identified we ambled in the direction of a rooftop that stuck out over short trees.  As we started walking the experience started to unfold- as we all almost tripped over iguanas that were laying out on the ground, and seemed to have no interest in moving.  As we approached the short trees we realized they were laden with Frigate birds and their nests, and aside from giving us an estranged glance, these large birds werent moving because of us.  The trees were probably 8-14 feet tall, and you could literally reach up to the birds level-we even saw inside several nests and saw the eggs that the birds were warming  As we wandered on- hundreds and hundreds of Frigate birds swarmed around, collecting building materials for nests and engaging in mating rituals.  The male frigates have giant bright red sacks that they inflate massively to attract females, and they have a warbling noise that they make in their throats- all adding to quite a noise.

The kids were all wide eyed as we trekked on- passing an abandoned basketball court that had a dilapidated volleyball/fishing net stretched on it- complete with Frigate birds sitting on the posts- all within arms reach.
Sitting here now, it is so hard to describe how surreal the whole thing was- EVERY tree seemed to be packed with these large birds and as we walked under them they would sometimes flap their wings loudly, or drop "special gifts"- sending our children running for cover.  With no real map we just wandered through old bush trails and it was a fabulous site to see the Family Circus family adventuring all alone through the experience. It was definitely a "this is why we are doing this trip moment"

We made our way to the far side of the island to a rough volcanic bay, and were able to spot our first blue footed Boobie birds up close- their webbed feet are a spectacular sky blue, and with their eyes close together have a very unique, dorky look.
Not finding a path forward there we backtracked and asked the fisherman for directions to the "Lago" which is the lake that has filled in the volcano crater. We found a surprisingly well defined path we ambled on, and Amaia continued counting Lizards and Iguanas.  You have to picture here saying every few seconds "136 Lizards and Iguanas, 137 Lizards and Iguanas......" as we scaled up and down the island path.  After finding the lake and exploring some more, we headed back to the beach, dodging Frigate birds overhead as we did so.
We ate some lunch and almost loaded in to the dinghy before we looked at the large rock outcropping right next to the beach and realized there was a huge brown and yellow footed Boobie colony established.  We wandered over slowly and started walking amongst them- moving within inches of them as we navigated their nests on the ground.  We all delighted in seeing the white fluffy chicks, as well as the juvenile birds that were still white but slightly larger, still without developed wings.  The adults would look at us and tilt their heads and beady eyes, and the kids would mimic them.

It was a real National Geographic moment as we sat down and just took it all in.
It was also here that we spotted "Cosmo" - a bright green lizard that took an interest in my GoPro camera as we filmed him.  Cosmo was happy to be picked up and carried and now is the latest crewmember on Family Circus.
It came time to go, but it was reluctant leaving, as I am not sure when we will see something like that again.  We are leaning toward not going to the real Galapagos any more, as the distance is great, and the island cost for seven is high, and the visit is restrictive.  I am sure the experience would be awesome, but I am also thankful that we got to be the only people on Isla Isabel, exploring with no real trails, maps or guides.  I hope the pictures and videos help do the experience justice and give a sense of uniqueness of Isla Isabel- they certainly will help keep great memories for us.

To maximize our play time, we decided to leave at sunset, after I dove and pulled the anchor from under the rock, and we completed another nice overnight sail to the beachtown of Chacala to celebrate Lexi's birthday.  Its great having Mykaela to stand night watches with Heather and I as it makes the overnights quite manageable.  I hope you are all having your own great adventures!

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