Justin got up early today for fishing.  The tide was way out this morning, and it was apparent how many stingray “homes” there were in the uncovered part of the beach.  Gray told us on the first day to always shuffle our feet going into and coming out of the ocean, and this was very warranted.  Justin tried to get some photos of birds flying over the water, but rather than fly away when he got close, they just casually swam out into deeper water.  Chaco’s presence didn’t seem to faze the birds either.

Cynthia and Luis were out kayaking, and Crystal was reading in bed, so Justin was the only guest on the boat with Rafa and Gray.  For the fourth day in a row, it was calmer than the previous day.  There was no wind or waves whatsoever.  There were also some light wispy clouds for the first time this trip.  The fishing spot this morning was out by the east point of the bay, a little past sea lion island.  Justin actually fished today, and caught two male ling cod.  This was, in his mind, perfect, because he actually caught some fish, but caught ones that would get thrown back in the ocean. 

Rafa caught two female ling cod, plus a trigger fish and a cabrillo (spotted sea bass).  Aside from the fish, he saw a giant sea turtle coming up for a big gulp of air, and a handful of manta rays (also known as mobula rays) just barely above water, with their wings just a couple inches above the surface.  Coming back to the lodge, we saw some dorado chasing fish – jumping out of the water, even – and Rafa caught one for about 5 seconds, squealing like a little kid.  Unfortunately, it spit the hook out, as the lure wasn’t the right shape for dorado.  We got back to the lodge around 8, just when Cynthia and Luis were returning from their kayak trip.

There were lots of bees around at breakfast.  They had been prominent throughout the trip, but most prominent today.  Kevin had warned us prior to the trip starting that heavier than normal rains in the spring led to a higher than normal bee population, but now that all the water was gone, the remaining bees were looking for any signs of water wherever they could find it, and that happened to be all around the lodge.  As the night before, the group of us all ate sitting on the furniture again.  Claudia was feeling a little better, and hoped to join us this morning.

Gray told us that we should wait for the tide to come in, so we didn't leave for the whale sharks until 10:30.  Unfortunately, Claudia didn't come with us once again.  We headed for Las Animas Bay, and at the point separating the lodge’s bay from Las Animas, we saw a manta ray jump clear out of the water.  It was about 100-150 feet away, so it’s tough to tell how big it was an how high out of the water it got, but our best guess is that it was one of the mobula rays, was probably about 8-10 feet side to side, and jumped about 4 feet out of the water.

As with the first and second full days here, we didn’t see whale sharks for a while after arriving in the Bay.  We eventually saw one, but it was down low and moving fast, so we didn’t even try jumping in.  Instead, we trolled back and forth, seeing nothing, for probably half an hour if not more.  Eventually we went over to the east side of the bay, and there we spotted some dolphins.  We boated with them for a bit, then decided to try to swim with them.  We had discussed a few days earlier the possibility of swimming with such a huge pod of dolphins, figuring if there was that many, they’d just swim right past us and we’d see a ton even if we did no swimming.  This wasn’t nearly as big a group, but we wanted to try our luck anyway, figuring we wouldn’t have many chances like this in our lives.

Justin's idea, which was our first attempt, was to jump in near them, then have boat circle around us and hopefully keep the dolphins in the circle.  This didn't work out, as the dolphins didn’t feel the slightest bit constrained by where the boat was.  Crystal managed to see some dolphins, however, before coming back to the boat.  Our second try was Gray's idea – a synchronized jump out of the boat whilst it was moving, and then the boat would circle around.  This failed spectacularly, as the dolphins immediately plunged to the bottom of the bay the second we jumped in the water.  It was a ton of fun to hop into the water on a moving boat, however.  This led to the third try, which was Rafa's idea.  This time we again did a synchronized jump out of the boat, but this time the boat would cut the engines after we jumped in.  By this time, the dolphins were on to us, and again went deep.  We can’t say which of these would have the most success for a first try in the future, but chances of success are probably highest on whatever the first try is. The video below is of our jumping in on the third try combined with what Crystal saw on the first try.

After our dolphin follies we went back to looking for more whale sharks, and finally found some on the east side, near where we'd found the dolphins earlier.  These were juveniles, moving pretty quickly, but we did get to hang out for a bit, making us 4 for 4 on swimming with whale sharks on our four full days.  We saw the dolphins again, and they went under as soon as we got close, then popped up way far away from the boat - smart cookies.  We didn’t do nearly as much swimming today as the previous three, but we did a lot more to clean the bay, as we picked up some cans, bottles, and a floatie on the way back to the resort.

At lunch, Gray told us about aerobatics.  He had told us he flew planes competitively, but we didn’t know exactly what all that entailed.  After hearing his description, we were awed and at the same time questioned his sanity.  The whole thing sounds amazing and crazy all at once.  The best analogy we can draw is that is a bit like Olympic diving or figure skating.  There is a mixture of specific, quantifiable maneuvers and also artistic ability that are judged by experts.  The maneuvers are things such as doing specific lines, turns, spins, etc. within a “box” in the air that is a certain height and width, with a vertical axis that the plane is being judged against. 

With all of the turns there is an insane amount of Gs being pulled (well over 10 in some cases), which is really tough on both the human body and also the airplanes.  Pilots wear special suits that compress certain parts of the body to prevent blood flow from being pushed out to the extremities from the core.  People pass out all the time from not enough blood in the brain.  Gray said one of the most dangerous things is going from negative Gs to high positive Gs (such as descending and then quickly pulling up), as the human body is not designed to handle negative Gs.  He said some of the G differentials are over 10, and this is when people will pass out most often, but thankfully the plane is now headed upwards, so when they regain consciousness, it’s easier to get back control of the plane.  He said people die all the time, and that he loses 3-4 friends a year.  The nonchalance in how he delivered that news to us was incredible; we suppose this is why he can do that.

He told us that he’s trained former blue angels pilots for aerobatics, plus lots of other people.  He also told us about his plane, which is one of a handful in the whole world specifically designed for the crazy amount of Gs that occur.  Lots of the deaths are because the plane literally comes apart at high Gs.  It’s difficult if not impossible to test each and every maneuver the plane may need to handle, and how that might stress a given joint or part.  He said his plane’s wing has several layers of wood interspersed with carbon fiber, with the thought being that wood will crack and bend rather than split outright like carbon fiber might, but that the carbon fiber adds rigidity for if/when the wood cracks. 

We were mesmerized the entire lunch by this.  In addition to doing aerobatics, Gray has multiple degrees as well, including something like political economics (we might have gotten that wrong).  In the past his blood pressure was off the charts high, but as soon as he started hanging out with whales, dolphins, and whale sharks all day, it went down to normal.  So we were shocked to hear that he still does aerobatics during the off-season at the lodge.  We hope he retires sometime soon, before he has any accidents.

After lunch, Crystal read and backed up her GoPro videos onto the computer.  Justin and the other three guests went to hang out with sea lions.  Claudia went, so that was good.  There were tons of bees in the boat for some odd reason, and despite Gray imploring Rafa to get the boat away from the shore ASAP, he casually backed out.  Gray and Justin surmised he did this purposely, just to mess with Gray.  No one got bit this afternoon, but Claudia and Cynthia had both been bitten earlier in the day. 

At the sea lion island, the water was actually pretty clear, much clearer than where the whale sharks were.  Today the sea lions were much better behaved, at least in Justin's mind.  One of the massive bulls was unhappy at one point, but otherwise they all seemed very playful, and the increased visibility made it less claustrophobic.  After going all around the island, we headed back to the resort.  We got there a bit before 5, just in time for happy hour. Once again Francis (and Toby) were there to "help."

After happy hour, we went out on the boat as the sun was setting to go take in the view at the south end of Las Animas Bay and grab some oysters.  There were large clouds off to the east again, and they started to go through all the shades of orange, pink and purple as the sun went down.  The clouds were at their most colorful just as we reached the shores.  Gray walked us towards a viewpoint area, and Justin got a little behind because he kept stopping to take pictures of the sunset.  At the viewpoint, Gray poured margaritas for us – we’d gotten a large canister at the lodge before heading off.  They didn’t have any plastic glasses, so we had had actual glass, and were all being careful not to break anything.  After the sun set we started the walk back to the boat, and stopped about halfway to get oysters by flashlight, as it was getting progressively darker.

On the ride back it was basically completely dark, and we got some lightning from the east again, albeit not nearly as frequent or as impressive as a couple of days prior.  The glasses fell over and made a racket in the cooler, but they didn't break. Dinner was basically right after we returned to the lodge.  It was more of the fish that had been caught today or the day before, with a beef dish for Justin. They also brought out a cake for dessert, which was also really tasty. 

After dinner, the two of us, plus Deanna, Cynthia, Gray, and basically all of the female staff members, all went out on the boat to jump in and play in the bioluminescent waters.  Cynthia had convinced the staff members that they should join us, as apparently most if not all of them had never done this before.  Everyone seemed to have a good time, and no one drowned, so it was a success.  When we got back we got cleaned up, as Crystal needed to shower before going to sleep if she wanted any chance of not having to cut out clumps of hair the next day.  The fact that we were staying up later than usual didn’t really matter, as we had nothing to do the next day other than pack and head back to San Diego.

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