A patient booby poses for a portrait on remote Isla San Pedro Mártir
Photo by Walt Peterson
Parked on the shores of the Cortez enjoying a frosty margarita, you may wonder about the brown islands dotting the brilliant blue waters. From a distance, they seem barren and almost lifeless, the homes of nothing more than cacti, lizards, snakes, and sea birds. However, upon close inspection, they will be found to be a treasure of diverse and unusual life forms. Had the navigator on the Beagle been a little less skillful, Darwin's On the Origin of Species might have made the Cortez islands the subject of the scientific interest and legal protection that the Galapagos now enjoy. The more curious island animals include a "rattle-less" rattlesnake, and a black jackrabbit. Unlike ordinary rattlesnakes, the small, docile, and very rare snake found on Isla Santa Catalina sheds its terminal scale with each molt, and thus never develops a rattle. The black jackrabbit of Isla Espíritu Santo can be spotted from 200 yards away, apparently defying the laws of natural selection. Isla Tortugas, east of Santa Rosalía, has an endemic species of rattlesnake, as well as an endemic mouse, the latter presumably placed there by Mother Nature as food for the former. There is also an endemic bat found on a few Cortez islands that makes its living catching fish. In addition, the islands have the most spectacular concentrations of nesting seabirds on the west coast of North America.

Why would anyone of sound mind want to visit such a place? Baegert and Brown had their own agendas (saving souls and commerce, respectively), and shared the common attitude of their times towards "uncivilized" places. However, things are seen through the eyes of the beholder, and from today's perspective their complaints seem laughable. Baja California is now recognized as a unique and largely unspoiled treasure of desert and mountain wilderness, a rarity in the modern world. While a good deal of the peninsula remains inaccessible to all but the most hardy adventurers, there are few places on the continent where an ordinary vehicle can carry visitors to a more interesting, exotic, and even world-class location.

Have we changed your mind about the place? Yes, but you are now thinking, "Sounds like a great place, and there seems like a lot of things to SEE, but what is there to DO?" The answer is "A great deal!" There is no place on the continent that provides a greater variety of activities.


by:Walt Peterson ©

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