Monday, December 27, 2010

Isla Isabela – Mexican Island of Free Love


Isla Isabela is an amazing place. It is overrun with nesting Frigates and Boobies. Not to mention the Iguanas. The frigates are graceful, high flying fishermen who nest in the bushes of the island. The males blow up their red neck tissue to show off to the females. Their fishing technique seems to be a combination of actively going after surface fish when they have to, but more often harassing a Boobie till it drops the fish it caught.  

The boobies are hapless, awkward stepping birds. Their name in Spanish is Bobo – simpleton. They come in blue and yellow footed varieties (and a rare red-footed, which we didn’t see). One parent is always on the nest. The males whistle at you when you walk too close, and the females yell at you with goose-like honking. There is a never ending set of mating and bonding rituals going on between these birds. The males start up a Boobie dance where they high step their feet and get the female into a good rhythm. If that doesn’t work, the males bring over nesting material and offer it up as a token of admiration.

We took about 7 million photos of boobies and frigates. I’ll try and cut them down to a few thou here.

islaIsabelaPC250300  Anchoring in Isabela is interesting. The bottom is basically all rock and boulder. You lay out the anchor and chain, but it doesn’t really dig in at all. The chain grinds along the bottom, making loud, eerie sounds in the boat. The photo above shows our anchor laying on its side after our first anchoring attempt. We jumped in for a snorkel and realized that we were way too close to some underwater rock outcroppings off the SE point. They jump up to 3 or 4 feet underwater.  The second anchoring job was in deeper water, 40 feet or so. Still all rock bottom. Every time a small swell made it around the point the chain grinding noise filled the boat. I wouldn’t want to be in this anchorage in a real blow, but the island is really worth the anchoring risk.

islaIsabelaIMG_6107 Sunrise approach to Isabela after a two day crossing from La Paz.

islaIsabelaIMG_6111 Anchorage approach


Jeorgia anchored in the back ground.


Looking across island near sunset.


We arrived on Christmas Day, so we stopped by the little Boobie chapel built on the point. It was all cleaned up and had the candles lit by the transient island fishermen. There was no sign that Santa or his helpers had stopped the evening before.


Dancing Blue-footed Boobie doing the high step


And she joins in with the dance.


Baby yellow-footed Boobie with parent keeping a close watch just behind.

 islaIsabelaIMG_6287 Mama protecting, as best as a Boobie can, her little one.


Paul protecting his boobies while whale-watching from 280 feet above sea level atop the island. We saw humpback whales all around the island!

islaIsabelaIMG_6310 Posing.

islaIsabelaIMG_6135 A couple of male frigates advertising for a mate and putting the other males on notice.


Mr. and Mrs. frigate.


More frigate team work.

islaIsabelaIMG_6343Check the newly hatched frigate chick sticking his white head and beak out from under mama (or papa?). The birds let you get astonishingly close to the nests, but we stayed just out of the reach of those beaks!


Apparently the bird researchers who stay on this island are hard at seeing and use an oversized labeling system – either that or this gal has a weird birth mark.

islaIsabelaPC260325We got in some really nice dives on the island. If it wasn’t for all the local fish, this island could never support the volume of bird life it does. The pool temperature was 72*F.


Spotted Pufferfish


Big rays hiding in the sand, at least a half dozen together. (The white spot is a small shrimp or bubble near the camera.)

islaIsabelaPC260310 Yellow-tail Surgeonfish


Some kind of Anglefish(?)


A curious Triggerfish

islaIsabelaIMG_6350 An Alfred Hitchcock frigate moment at sunset


We celebrated a wonderful Christmas on Isla Isabela. Hope yours was happy, too.

Paul and Chris

1 comment:

  1. Steve & I got a good laugh at the photo of you protecting your boobies. He said he'll have a serious talk with you about it. Great pictures!! we're heading back north to the islands and will head to PV in January sometime.