On the shores of Magdalena Bay in the Pacific Ocean — far from the reaches of COVID-19 — there lies an isolated and remote fishing village called Puerto San Carlos.
After arriving into and spending a night in Cabo San Lucas, we boarded a 5 hour pre-arranged ride at 10am first to the city of La Paz in the north (and where John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” takes place!) where we rendezvous’ed with the rest of our group.
Then we took another 4 hour drive from La Paz into Puerto San Carlos, far far away from any COVID-19 hotspot. The way I like it.
And to the relief of my older age happening upon me, Puerto San Carlos is a quiet town with not a lot happening after dark.
On an outdoor rooftop patio above a Lore Sports Bar & Guesthouse, we began with an orientation by our diving company, Nomad Diving:
And after a long day of driving, we turned in early at 10pm.
Day 1 – November 2, 2020
The first morning had us up at 6am, armed with only a cup of coffee and a light breakfast before setting out for a quick drive to the docks 5 minutes way.
Once we arrived, we divvied up the boat teams and made sure we had all our gear.
For a freediving trip for beginners, you only need a wetsuit (to keep you floating on the surface), snorkel, and flippers:
By 7am we set out into Magdalena Bay.
It takes approximately 40 minutes of sailing out from Puerto San Carlos into Mag Bay to reach the open waters teeming with marine life. But once you’re there, it’s a simple matter of jumping in to immediately see the thousands of Mobula Rays migrating together underneath:
Despite the “ray” moniker, they don’t really pose much of a threat. If you get close in front of them, they disperse pretty quickly
Once every now and then we come along a lone sea turtle. We lucked out with this one as it didn’t seem to care about humans swimming around it (they usually freak out and dive deep if they don’t want to play).
But the real reason why we came out was to hunt for circling birds that in turn were hunting for “bait balls” of swimming mackerel or sardines.
Once you find one, you know their predators (sea lions, marlins, whales) are also close by.
Obviously, we came for the lesser witnessed congregation of striped marlins:
After 10 hours on the water (we packed small lunchboxes to hold us over), we sailed back onto the coast by 5pm. The toughest part wasn’t the swimming, but learning how to pee in the water with your wetsuit on, or pee off a small moving boat with everyone trying to look away.
Trust me after 3 days of trying, it’s way harder than it sounds for the uninitiated.
But nothing like an $18 garlic butter lobster dinner to help you forget all your troubles.
Day 2 – November 3, 2020 – Election Day
Hopeful for another auspicious day with sea life, we headed back out at 6:50am for a 7am departure from the docks.
Once again by 8:30am we were able to catch and swim with two migrating groups of mobula rays.
At 10am we sailed to a seal colony and beach where we were able to swim with the dozens of playful creatures there.
But the prize of the day would always be a static bait ball where we could catch both sea lions and the striped marlin:
And with another 10 hours at sea under our belts, we sailed back for a quick detour to check out the epic sand dunes in the area:
This was also where I could totally feel free peeing my kidneys out on a sand dune, as I was back in familiar travel territory.
I even celebrated this accomplishment with everyone:
And guess what I came across while boarding back into our boat! Must be aliens:
Alas, the calm before the storm:
And yet this calm wouldn’t last long; an election night for the ages that had seemed opportune turned into an interminable stasis pattern of bleak uncertainty. With poor internet signal in the middle of nowhere, we were left to imaginations and doubt as the drinks kept piling out. If there was a night to drink, this would be it.
Day 3 – November 4, 2020 – Post Election Hangover
I tried to put on a cheerful as possible mood this morning.
Luckily for us who stayed up late stress eating, stress drinking, and stress sleeping our way through a night of uncertainty, the waters responded in kind with a relatively light day and a playful sea lion for us to dance with.
The rest of it was hunting for more marine life, and oddly, nothing much else showed up. Today we learned that nature can be fickle.
Day 4 – November 5, 2020
On our 4th day, my body had me sleeping in accidentally and missing the 6am wake up call. (Staying up at 3am the night before to chat and philosophize under the stars didn’t help with that either). Therefore taking an opportunity to fully recharge and reset, I found myself enjoying my “day off from days off” more than I had expected. I forgot how much me-time I needed this year.
I would find out later, when the group returned at 6pm, that I also didn’t miss much. Like on day 3 nature remained fickle and only yielded a few dolphins (which I swam with back in the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Musandam Oman) in the water. Whew!
Day 5 – November 6, 2020
Our last morning dive woke us up to an atmospheric fog:
And yet today was another wash, with our only catch of the day being a school of mahi mahi:
We tried sailing all the way south to catch the schools of marine life that may have migrated there instead and still: no dice.
Otherwise it was 10 hours of napping in a boat while waiting for something to come up, before we finally decided to return early and celebrate one final night together.
Although I found myself turning in earlier than I would have expected at 1am, you just can’t beat the tasting menu of oysters we had for our last meal in Puerto San Carlos.
Or the company.
Day 6 – November 7, 2020
On our last morning, we left at 6am for a 3 hour ride towards La Paz, where we switched drivers (and found out when they called the US Presidential Elections!!!) and drove another 2 hours to SJD airport in Cabo San José.
Once at the airport they gave us a health declaration form to fill out and show (but they never would collect it):
So much for physical distancing here when waiting for security:
Once past security we tried to access the Priority Pass VIP lounges here, but due to pandemic seating limits we had to take a number and wait for our turn. We were eventually seated at assigned spots inside the lounge within 15 minutes, where food and drinks were delivered to us for the sake of crowd control.
During my 4 hour flight to Atlanta I was then reminded all the small things I missed from traveling when I befriended my aisle mate 2 seats over (who happens to be an aspiring travel blogger!) after she asked about my camera.
After landing on time to a relatively smooth return to the USA, nobody asked me anything about my health or risk of exposure upon arrival. I simply walked straight through a contactless Global Entry (which now only takes a picture to recognize you), the usual customs, and then into ground transportation without having to answer about quarantining or testing negative for COVID.
Needless to say as a responsible fellow for the sake of my health and community, I arranged the next morning for a rapid COVID-19 test at a drive-thru testing facility.
Within the hour I got my results: negative for COVID-19!
And even with this I still plan to impose a mini self-quarantine while here for a few days, before returning back home to NYC on Thursday and testing again for COVID-19 the morning after.
- At time of posting in Puerto San Carlos, it was 24 °C - Humidity: 61% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny