Isla Isabela...Pure Magic!
Report from Mola Mola Mexico - 2008 Pam Bacich
The guide books' descriptions of Isla Isabela sound quite threatening: Avoid the dangerous rocks and submerged reefs and buoys on the NW, N, NE and E sides. Anchoring perils abound. If strong winds from the south develop, depart immediately! If the weather isn't just right, it's safer to push on.
Isla Isabela is a small island that lies about 90 miles off shore between San Blas and Mazatlan, Mexico. It's less than a mile long with a 281' volcanic peak. Small yes, but it's jam packed with spectacular wildlife. A dream come true for a photographer! I had been holding my breath and hoping for good weather and anchoring conditions. I couldn't wait to get up close and personal with Frigates and their chicks and Blue Footed and Brown Boobies with their nests and babies. I always thought I'd have to go to the Galapagos Islands to enjoy such treats!
Luckily for us, the weather and the stars were aligned and the anchoring conditions were perfect. We anchored in 30 feet of water on the island's east side next to Las Monas, 2 twisting rock spires that are 150' tall. We jumped into our small dinghy (purchased especially for wet beach landings in Mexico) and boated around to Isabela's south side. There's a small seasonal fishing village in the tiny cove that is only accessible by panga or dinghy. At the southwest end of the Village Beach we started our hike up the hill to the main rookery. A giant iguana, and I mean GIANT (about 5 feet long) scooted past us. And then we started to hear and see the birds! Dozens and dozens of low trees each bearing Frigate nests lined the path at eye level. The Frigates were in full breeding plumage with their lavish red chests puffed up for local females to admire. Their wide eyed, funny, fluff ball babies are so ugly that they are adorable. Each is balanced in a carefully made nest under the watchful eye of a parent. Further up the hill the Boobies were nesting on the ground. The Brown Boobies and their yellow feet were sitting on nests with two eggs in each. Many Blue Footed Boobies had already hatched. The mother and father Boobies take turns watching their young. The blue feet look like a jokester came by in the night and painted every foot bright blue. I could hardly contain myself as I sat down less than four feet from a Blue Footed Booby family and watched in amazement. They stared back at me as if equally amazed. I sat there, mesmerized, until I couldn't sit any longer.
We spent the night at anchor in the crystal (but cold) waters next to Las Monas. The local fishermen dropped their nets around us into the dark. We were surrounded by literally hundreds of bottles and jugs of all sizes and colors that marked the ends of fishing lines. Bright and early the next morning we woke to the sound of those same fishermen who were trying to retrieve their nets that were now twisted in our anchor. Laughing and joking they worked with us as we pulled up our anchor and freed their lines and nets.
This remote island is as close to wildlife magic as exists. If the weather is right for a stop, it's more than worth the detour!