We woke up this morning at around 6:30 for a flight at 8am. This was the polar opposite of our "usual" experience, where we left long before the flight for a long drive to LAX, with a fair amount of leeway built in for traffic, parking, and other delays. But today was a holiday, and we had a 20 minute drive against whatever traffic there might be, and were parking right next to where we would take off. After failing to see whale sharks in Belize on our trip earlier this year, we looked into all of the other places we might see them, as they were at the top of our bucket list. We knew of a bunch already - Tofo (Mozambique), Red Sea (Djibouti), Ningaloo Reef (Western Australia), etc. Justin's interest was piqued, however, when he read an article in Lonley Planet about a road trip across Baja California, and one of the stops was to see whale sharks in Bahia de Los Angeles, a small fishing village on the Sea of Cortez. We read up on the area, and sure enough, they seemed to have a plentiful and reliable number of whale sharks. The issue, however, is that Bahia de Los Angeles is nowhere close to anything. There are four commercial airports in Baja, two right near the US border (Tijuana and Mexicali), and two right near the southern tip (La Paz and Cabo). To get to Bahia de Los Angeles (or Bahia, as we'd find out everyone calls it for shorthand) required a 15 hour drive from San Diego. That did not appeal to us, by any stretch of the imagination, no matter how much we wanted to see whale sharks. In that time we could fly to Australia or Istanbul.

Lucky for us, however, in researching possible flights to Bahia we stumbled across a trip log or travel story or something similar discussing how the author had flown to Bahia with Baja Airventures, who has their own small planes and an eco-lodge right near Bahia. We looked up their website, and they had 6 day trips all whale shark season (August to October, mainly), leaving San Diego on Mondays and returning on Saturdays. This seemed perfect, so without doing too much more diligence we wrote them in July whilst in Denver for our friends Greg and Valerie's wedding. Shortly after writing, the owner Kevin called us, telling us there was no availability on the week we were thinking of traveling, but that there was an opening Labor Day week, and he could squeeze us in if we booked on the spot. We looked at each other, shrugged, and told Kevin sure, we'd be there.

Today was the Monday we were heading down there. We had showered the night before, so all we had to do is drive the 20 minutes to Brown Field, right near the border crossing at Otay Mesa. We left around 7, because we wanted to stop to grab some food somewhere, since we wouldn't be getting to Bahia until mid-afternoon. On the drive south, we kept our eyes out for fast food spots right along the highway, but surprisingly, there wasn't much anything obvious. So instead we just got on the 905 East heading out to the airport, and found an AM/PM just a few blocks away. We grabbed some breakfast sandwiches and hoped they'd tide us over long enough. We'd never been to Brown Field, and even though Google Maps had some errors (such as trying to get us to drive on a road that was blocked by a security gate), the airport was so tiny, we got there without any real issues. There was no obvious place for us to meet Kevin, but there was only one discernable lobby, so we assumed we were in the right spot.

We asked someone in the lobby where the Baja Air people were, and he said we were in the right spot, so we just took a seat. Soon enough there were three other people in the lobby, and we determined we were all waiting for the same thing. Around 8am, two people from Baja Airventures showed up - Kevin and Gray. They told us that one family had backed out at the last minute, so it was just the five of us, and we'd all be on one plane with Gray, who'd be our pilot and our guide for the week. They had their own parking spots, so we went with Kevin to drop our stuff by the plane, then park the car. Justin had the rare opportunity to tell Crystal "don't hit the plane" as we parked the car.

In the paperwork we'd received from the company, in several places there was big, bold font telling us about weight restrictions, and also strict prohibitions against any bags larger than 18x12x12 inches. Now seeing the plane we saw why. There was a tiny little hatch for all of the luggage, and anything larger than that simply would not fit. Gray was like someone playing Tetris, arranging and re-arranging the bags until he got them all to fit in the hatch. With us on the trip was Cynthia, who had family in Orange County, Deanna, from the Bay Area, and Claudia, who lived in Murrieta. It sounded like Claudia and Deanna were longtime friends. Not only were all of our bags carefully arranged to fit, so were the five of us. The plane had six seats, so between the five of us and Gray, we took up the whole plane. Gray arranged everyone to balance the weight front to back and side to side, so Justin had to sit in the front right, next to Gray. Claudia was having some knee or leg issues, so she was able to sit in the back row, where the entry was easier and where there was a bit more legroom. Crystal was right behind Justin, in the middle row. Justin actually had to get in last, because the front door was on the passenger side. He tried to go in before Gray, only to be told that wouldn't work too well if he wanted Gray to fly the plane.

We were all on headphones, and could hear all of the radio transmissions between Gray and the tower, so that was interesting to hear. It was quite foggy on take off, and it was fascinating to see fog from the front of plane - it gave us new appreciation for trusting instruments and radar. From looking out the window, there was no way of discerning up, down, or side to side. After circling around, we flew over the Tijuana airport and then headed southeast for San Felipe. The flight was nice enough, particularly after we got above the fog. Gray was futzing around with his iPad and some music once the plane was on auto-pilot. We didn't really doubt pilots do this sort of thing, but we'd just never seen it before. Not far from the west coast the terrain became desert, and got more and more sparse in terms of any plant life the further east we headed. The flight to San Felipe was about 90 minutes.

There was jack squat in San Felipe. The town looked like one main drag along the beach, and the airport had a single plane and nothing else. This was purposeful, to ensure the quickest and easiest immigration process. We had to pay $33 for an entry tax, fill out a form, and then got our stamps and were on our way. Whilst we did this, someone refueled the plane at the gas station just off the runway. The flight down from San Felipe was along the east coast of Baja, and there were some occasional houses and small villages, but otherwise a bunch of nothing. As we started to descend into Bahia, there was a big island near town in the Sea of Cortez. Gray actually flew over the town to "call" the van driver that would take us from the airport (more a half pavement, half dirt airstrip) to the pier. After landing, we were greeted by a Hummer with armed military folks in desert camo. They looked pretty serious, but their actions were fairly blase. They quickly checked the plane, then took a cursory look at our bags. Apparently there was a military presence in the town for some particular reason, but we weren't privy as to what that reason was - smuggling, drugs, corruption, who knows.

The van ran ride was less than five minutes into town, as Bahia is just a tiny fishing village. It has less than 1000 inhabitants, and most of them have been there for generations and generations. Right by the pier there was a bar and restaurant, and Gray told us this would be our first and last stop of "civilization" until the trip was over, so if there was anything we wanted or needed, to get it now. We got two bottles of water and used the facilities, then got on a fishing-type boat to head to our lodge. From Bahia we were going to head east and south towards Las Animas Bay, and specifically Alacron Beach. Alacron means scorpion, but the beach is not named that because scorpions are all over the place (thank goodness), but because the rocks on the hill above the beach have are colored in a way that look just like a scorpion.

Within literally two minutes of leaving the pier we saw a small whale shark right on the surface. It was about 8-10 feet long, and just floated alongside the boat for a bit while we took some photos, and then we headed off on our way. Well, at least we knew we'd see one whale shark this trip! On the boat trip we passed by a number of smaller islands (the collection of islands in the area are called the midriff islands), and one of them had a number of blue-footed boobies, which we hadn't seen since we were in the Galapagos back in 2006. We arrived at the lodge around 2:30, and were greeted by Grazia, the lodge's hostess, and by Chaco and Toby, two poi dogs who lived on the beach and never left the resort. It was immediately apparent that everyone in our group was a dog person, as no one cared about the beach or that we hadn't eaten all day, everyone just petted the dogs. Eventually Grazia showed us to our yurt. Because of the cancellation right before we booked, we got one of the deluxe yurts, which had AC and a flushing toilet, but still no running water for the sink or shower. We dropped our stuff, turned on the AC, and then headed to the main area for lunch.

Lunch was a chicken and corn soup that really hit the spot, even though it was quite hot outside. After lunch we took a nap - maybe we were tired from the weekend, maybe it was a side effect of the Bonine we took for motion sickness, who knows. In the late afternoon we went fishing with Gray, Rafa (our boat captain for the week), and Cynthia. We were just along for the ride and to take in the sights, but Cynthia did some fishing. She caught a ling cod, but a male, which apparently isn't very meaty, so it got thrown back into the water.

After returning from fishing, it was Happy Hour with margaritas. They didn't mess around - Tequila, orange liqeur, a tiny splash of agave nectar, and lime juice. Dinner was chicken of some sort, and was also very good. After dinner we were still tired despite the nap, so we went to sleep fairly early. It was warm when we went to sleep, but as the AC continued to work its magic, we actually didn't sleep that well as the room ironically got too cold.

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