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Home Up First Mate's Log Wildlife in Mexico

Wildlife in Mexico

Mexico Wildlife,  (as observed by Barbie)

 In our travels we’ve seen many different types of wildlife.  As opposed to the wildlife we partied with at Piper Lover’s Blues Bar in Barra I’d like to tell you about the wildlife we’ve appreciated in and around the sea. 

Traveling south from Mazatlan we saw giant sea turtles, miles of perfectly round white jellies, two breaching whales less than a quarter mile off our stern, a giant manta ray with a nearly fifteen foot wing span cruising just outside the surf line of Santiago Bay and many wonderful encounters with dolphins.   While at anchor in Chamela Bay a very large dolphin nearly drove our Buddy nuts while it was feeding on the fish hiding under Arabella.  Then, one evening a few months later, while at anchor in the small cove of Ipala, Arabella was surrounded by a river of fish lit up in neon blue by the red tide, you could actually see the details of each fish and there were millions of them.  The river measured approximately six feet wide and when the larger fish came in to feed, the river would separate then come back together well past the danger zone.  As we watched this display we noticed two very large glows about a hundred yards away from us.  It appeared to be a couple of dolphins planning an attack and sure enough with lightning speed they zoomed toward Arabella looking just like torpedoes!  As we suspected it turned out to be two very hungry dolphins and the show they gave us was incredible.  As we watched these two bright blue streaks racing toward us the fish scattered and the entire anchorage lit up.  From our vantage point on the cabin top, Arabella seemed to be floating on a bright sea of light so brilliant it took our breath away. 

 We’ve also encountered some interesting wildlife of the winged variety.  I was amazed at how many different types of butterflies we saw out on the open water completely out of sight of land.  And bugs!  During the night of our passage from Mazatlan to Isla Isabella I awoke slapping crawly little winged bugs, the size of split peas and just as hard, off my body.  As I made my way into the main salon I found my husband swatting at the bugs with an empty one gallon plastic milk jug while attempting to make spaghetti for dinner.  Going up on deck I asked our crew mate Mike what was going on and all he could say was we just happened through a bug storm.  In my mind it appeared as though the hand of God just laid in a bit of fish food and we happened to get in the way.  Fortunately, they were all dead by the time we arrived at the Island and it was only a matter of cleaning up the carnage.  Of course I teased Michael for several weeks about the great “crunchy” spaghetti we had for dinner that night.  {editor's note- the spagetti pan was covered at all times, don't believe everything you read!}

 We’ve also had many birds hitching a ride on Arabella.  My favorite was a tiny little sparrow not much bigger than a large chicken egg.  He showed up on our passage from Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria on the outside of the Baja and for such a small creature he sure was a bold little fella.  The dogs, Juno and Buddy, weren’t too keen on sharing “their” boat with him and spent quite a time chasing him around the boat until they finally lost interest in the determined little bird.  Thinking our new crew mate might be hungry; Michael crushed up a saltine on a paper plate and set it out for him.  The little bird hopped over to the plate, pecked around at it then stopped, looked up at Michael as if to say “you call this food?” then flew off.  He circled the boat a few times making each circle a little larger than the one before.  Not ten minutes later the little hunter returned, proudly dropping a dragonfly on our deck to display a true bird feast.  For the next hour we watched as our tenacious little friend dissected his meal.  One by one, he pulled off the wings of the dragonfly resting in between each successful extraction.  Once he had a neat little pile of dragonfly wings he stared on the legs.  One by one he struggled to pull each one off and place it in a neat little pile next to the wings.  After that job had been completed and he’d taken a little rest, he went back at the carcass and worked like the dickens to separate the head from the body.  Finally, his meal was ready and you could almost see him salivating as he sat back to admire his dinner.  Then, in one big gulp he swallowed the head.  After a short break he picked up the torso (nearly as long as he was) and chomp, chomp, chomp, he stuffed the whole piece in.  With a full belly our happy little friend sat back to take a short nap.  An hour later he awoke, shook out all his little feathers and flew off, never to be seen again. 

 Isla Islabella is an island that encompasses the best of both fish and fowl.  It’s a half way point between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta and a Mexican nature preserve protecting many species of birds, mostly frigates and blue footed boobies.  While reading the material we had on board about this island it was the birds that made the headlines but it’s one little fish that we remember.   We arrived at dawn and dropped the anchor in an area that was noted to be for day use only because it’s next to some large reefs.  Since we only wanted to spend the day it was perfect for us.  Our crew mate Mike jumped into the water first to check the anchor and then check out the reefs.  He came back saying “jump in you guys, you’re not gonna believe all the fish”.  It was a natural aquarium with a rough estimate of fifty different species of fish.  Keeping in mind that this was my first time snorkeling, I put on the fins, mask, and snorkel and followed crew mate Mike over to the reef.  My first thoughts were how much it reminded me of the submarine ride at Disneyland, nice and easy.  The rocks and coral and the occasional fish swimming by were the ones Disney fashioned his ride after I’m sure.  Then we turned the corner and WOW!  Hundreds of fish were swimming with and around me as I was hyperventilating.  Soon enough I settled into watching the show.  It was beautiful, the colors were vibrant and they ranged in shape and size beyond my ability to tell you.  The one that I’ll never forget was yellow.  The same color as the top of my swimsuit, and I’m certain that when this tiny fish, not quite two inches long, swam up to my face mask he screamed MOMMA!  He appeared to be quite excited to have found me; he’d swim up to look at me eyeball to eyeball then swim down along my extended arms then back to my face to see that I was following.  He stayed with me as I further explored the reef then all the way back to the boat.  When I got out of the water I left him swimming around the dinghy.  An hour later Michael was ready to go snorkeling and when he got in the water he poked his head up to let me know our little yellow fish was still there.  Later, Michael told me that he was nicely escorted back and all through the reef by our new found finny friend as well.

 This is just a sampling of our first six months cruising; I can’t wait to see what the next six months will bring us.

 Fair winds and following seas,


S/V Arabella

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