Don’t believe the anti-hype
If we had taken some comments posted about Isla Isabel at face value, we wouldn’t have turned up. According to some, the anchorages here are more Rock’n Roll than the ’60s, and the sea bed has a voracious appetite for anchors. “Once the anchor is down, it is never coming back up.”
Of course, many of these salty sea tales are just that. Tales. Fortunately, though, these rumours keep the crowds away, and we motored into the anchorage early on the ccc to find just two other hardy boats (who clearly must not have read the memos) parked in the south of the island.
After puttering around the bay for a while, trying to spot any apparent rocks and sandy bits, we dropped our anchor blind into the ‘rocky abyss’ between the two boats. Then the sea started bubbling, a great plume of water exploded above our heads and our anchor was gone in an instant.
Of course, all was well with the anchor and our anchoring. The anchor dug in like a stubborn Jack Russel’s hind legs, and we didn’t budge a bit.
The frustration of urban myths
I am exaggerating this tale because I want to draw out the repetition of urban myths and distortion of facts. Anchoring is a subjective experience. I’m sure some have had an uncomfortable night here with rolling caused by the swell. And someone or two may have got their anchors stuck here, but there are provisions to deal with that: It’s clear enough to see what is going on below, but you can use a trip line if there is any doubt.
However, none of us used a trip line in the anchorage, and none of us got our anchors stuck. And we had two goes at it, having anchored twice to move closer to the beach after the other two boats left.
Frankly, I was a little disappointed not to find an anchor scrapyard down below. I was hoping to find a spare.
When we were the last boat standing, another yacht turned up but didn’t stay, presumably because of the reputation of the anchorage.
And there lies my point. If we believed half the things written about places we are interested in, we’d never visit them.
Anyway, enough of that and onto some birds.
Frigates and Lizards
After dragging our dinghy up the beach, Maria, Joy, and I bumped into our anchoring neighbours off the boats Emma and Coconut to the left of the pangas. They gave us directions to get to the hiking trails.
There are ostensibly three trails branching out from the island’s south, but we could only find two. The first led us through a section of forest with lizards on the ground, nesting female frigate birds in some of the trees and puffed up male frigates in many of the others. It was mating season and was quite a sight.
The throats of the frigate birds expand to a ridiculous size to attract a female. And this attraction game seems ideally suited for the patient. We witnessed only one success, where a female frigate nuzzled up to an inflated male, gently rubbing the side of her head against his cheek.
Onward up the hill, we came across more frigate birds nesting with their young. The chicks clearly visible because of the contrasting downy white feathers against the adults vampire-black sheen.
There are more boobies in plain sight here than on
a topless beach in Benidorm The Galapagos.
After scrambling up the most challenging part of the hike, where the trail looked not to have been used for years, we came across the boobies.
Like the Galapagos, these birds didn’t have much fear of humans. But, unlike the Galapagos, where they nest off-trail and are impossible to get close to, the birds here laid their nests right on the path.
Getting around the boobies wasn’t easy. The females especially aren’t for moving, and they make a hell of a racket.
The differences between the male and female boobies are pretty noticeable. If you look closely at the photos, you may see that some have serrated-looking irises. Those are the females. The other difference is their voice. The males call almost like a whistle, whereas the female voice sounds like a strident fishwife berating their husband after coming home late from the pub.
The thing they have in common, predictably, is their feet. I am fascinated with their colour; they look moulded from a tub of blue PlayDoh.
Boobies and Whales
That isn’t a sentence you see too many times. But on the second day of our inland adventure, that’s precisely what we saw.
The other trail we found – this one much more clearly marked – led us to an inland lake then to the island’s north. This lake is home to many non-nesting frigate birds and many tropicbirds.
The north offers a great vantage point to gaze across the Pacific Ocean towards the mainland in the distance. And it affords even better views of the migrating humpback whales. We have never seen so many whales in one area and so often. We spotted them on our way over to the island, in the anchorage, and many of them here on the top of the hill.
And at the end of the island, I came across this guy. I think, because of the chest markings, that it is a brown booby, but if anyone knows better, please let me know.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here at Isla Isabel. The comment that Isabel is Mexico’s answer to the Galapagos is valid. And better than that, it doesn’t have the officialdom and expense.