Being anchored off a busy city did not prevent the wild beauty of the sea from engulfing us. Sure the water could have been way cleaner…especially with all the liveaboard boats that never moved and therefore were certainly pooping in the water… gross! But there was just so much amazing marine life surrounding us. There was something about the swiftly moving tidal currents four times a day that the water just felt fresh and alive. Jacques Cousteau once called La Paz the “Aquarium of the World” and I can see why. Not even a bay chock full of boats could not keep us out of the water. We usually dinghied over to the far side of the anchorage to the empty beach and mangroves (called El Mogote) to cool off and swim over shallows full of stealthy stingrays and bashful balloonfish. Though in the heat of the day we constantly dove off Orion, who was slowly becoming a reef. At all times there was a huge school of fish hiding in our shadow, attracting all manner of bird life to our railing for an easy jumping off point. Every once in a while we would hear a torpedo splash into the water and see a bubble stream going under the boat and around to the other side where a blue-footed boobie regained flight with a fish in it’s gullet. I wish I got a photo of these amazing fishers but they are just too fast. I could sit all day and watch the pelicans fish from our bow- first getting into a stealthy attack stance, then a big-sloppy-splash, and then emerging with a flopping fish in it’s mouth and into it’s long throat.
Almost every day a pod of large bottlenose dolphins swam lazily though the anchorage feeding and occasionally leaping playfully. A few times when we were coming back from El Mogote we passed by the pod and decided to slip into the water to see if they minded us swimming with them. Amazingly they didn’t seem to mind at all! Their long graceful bodies and boisterous eco-locating squeaks were such a thrill to be surrounded by. One time a mom and baby swam in circles around me for a few minutes both of them turning their heads to look at me as they came in close. Crying into a mask is a strange experience.
About two miles from the anchorage, just around the other side of EL Mogote is an area of shallow water off a sandy beach where whale sharks are known to hang out. This is remarkably close to town. Seriously, you can see this beach from town. There are so many more wild places with less boat traffic for them to congregate, but for some reason they like it here. There is likely an extra large concentration of plankton here (which is their meal of choice) fertilized from the nutrients dumping out of the bay. I loaded up with friends from Sangvind into their dinghy and we went hunting for this largest of all fish. It was harder to spot them than I thought. You just see a small bit of the tail protruding from the water and perhaps a dark shadow if you’re close enough. Fortunately for us another tour boat did the searching and we just drove over to find them alongside a smaller (around 10-12ft) shark that was slowly swimming along. Once the others were getting back in their boat we slipped into the water and the shark passed right next to our dinghy. You should have heard the nervous but delighted scream through six yr. old Jaden’s snorkel! We all were delighted. Nature shows us pictures of such beautiful perfection. The shark’s spots and markings were reminiscent of rippling light rays on the sea floor. One slow swoosh of its tail and it was out of site.