Friday, July 16, 2010

The Diary of My Edventure in Baja by Green Edventures' Student Courtney Schultz

June 24, 2010

I got back from Baja Mexico this morning. I miss everything about it. On Wednesday, June 16th, I boarded a plane to Mexico for a Green Edventures Eco-study. My brother had previously went on this trip, and couldn’t stop talking about how great it was. He told me that he learned so much and that he wanted to go back and eventually intern with Tara when he was a senior. I personally never dreamed that I would go on this trip. The sole idea of being on an uninhabited island for five days kind of blew my mind. But after days and days of hearing my brother talking about this amazing adventure, I figured I would try it out. On the plane ride, I was worried about making friends and worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up because of my knee injury. After our connected flight from Houston landed in Los Cabos and I stepped into the hot Mexico heat, I knew that it was going to be an unforgettable trip. (Photo right: Courtney Schultz).

After going through customs and exchanging our money, we went and met up with Tara and the group that was coming with us from
Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It was kind of awkward at first, because the only person I knew that wasn’t from Milan was Tara. She explained how the day was going to go and we headed outside to the van for our three hour ride to La Paz. It was practically planes, trains, and cars for us that first day. Then we met Chabelo. He works for Green Edventures and he definitely has a way of growing on people. The car ride was silent. Most of us slept the whole way. Once in La Paz, we stopped at the dive shop and picked up our wet suits and snorkel gear for the week. Next we had an hour and a half boat ride to Isla Pardita Island. The boat ride was captivating. The scenery looked like a painting from Picasso’s era. That boat ride flew by. Once at the island, we picked our tent mates and had dinner. After I settled in, I sat there in awe looking at the beauty of that place. I see why they made Espiritu Santo and Isla Pardita a World Heritage Site. The camp site had a beach volleyball net, kayaks, and sun bathing chairs. But best of all, we had the Sea of Cortez in front of us. I knew at that point that there wouldn’t be a moment of boredom. 

 The staff from Green Edventures was amazing. They interacted with us and they helped us with any problems we had. The next four days were a blur. They went by way faster than I would have liked them to. We did a total of six dives, and every one of them was unique in their own ways. Each dive was different. Some days we had way better clarity than others because of the plankton, and some days we saw so much more than we would have ever dreamed. We also went on three hikes. We hiked at
St. Gabriel Bay, the rest of the group did a sunset hike (I couldn’t because of knee complications) and we did a hike at Fox Canyon. All of the hikes were learning experiences and the sights were amazing. Even though they were rough and hot, it was well worth the effort we all put into it. At Fox Canyon, we had the opportunity to swim at two waterfalls, each different. The first one was small and fairly deep and we got to jump off the rocks into the water. The second one was shallow but the waterfall was fairly larger. Both sites were different in their own ways, and I’ll never forget swimming there. (Photo on Left: heading out from camp to go on a dive).

After our incredible five nights on Isla Partida, we had to pack up and make our way to Cabo Pulmo. From the island we had an hour and a half boat ride and another van ride. With the sad goodbyes and the boat ride behind us, we headed into
La Paz and ate at Biz Marcito. They served us fish and shrimp tacos. I’m the difficult one, as always. I don’t eat fish, so I was served quesadilla. Everything there was amazing. Afterwards, we went shopping at a couple places so we could bring back souvenirs. We loaded into the van and headed toward Cabo Pulmo. The ride seemed like forever. 

Finally, we arrived at the Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort. Our group got split up into two groups to live in two different houses. It seemed like paradise. INDOOR PLUMBING!!! We were all excited to take fresh water showers and hang out indoors. I personally missed the island. Sure, the bungalows were exquisite, but I liked the outdoors. I wouldn’t call our time on Isla Partida “camping,” because it was much more than that. I guess I would call it “luxury camping”, because that’s what it seemed like. We had our own chef, and staff to help with anything we needed. We were made three course meals (which were AMAZING!), and we had kayaks and a volleyball net to have fun with in our free time. (Photo above: swimming with a whale shark in the Bay of La Paz).

The next day at Cabo Pulmo blew by. I slept well that night, and dreamed in Spanish. They were getting to me. (: The next morning after breakfast (which was made by our magnificent chef Edgardo), we snorkeled on the Cabo Pulmo Reef. I saw more in that dive then I had the whole trip. I saw so many new species of fish that I hadn’t noticed before, and many rays. We were practically snorkeling and free diving against the current of the
Sea of Cortez, but the effort was most definitely worth it. It was the hardest yet most exciting dive, for me anyways. After that dive we stripped off our wet suits and rash guards and went swimming for the first time. The difference between being in the water with the wet suit and without it was shocking. The water felt sooo much more refreshing without our gear. We spent an hour or so in the water and headed back to our little houses to bathe and eat dinner together for the last time. 
After dinner, we presented our group projects. Matt, Margaret, Erin and Natalie did their project on Invertebrates, and my group (Rebecca, Bekah, Jenna and myself) did Sea Lion behavior. It was fun getting to see things from the other groups’ eyes. After our presentations, we watched a slide show of pictures from our week in
Mexico. We all headed off to bed afterward; knowing that the next day would be emotional.

We were right. Reality really hadn’t smacked us in the face until we were loading all of our belongings on to the van. We took final group pictures on la playa, got in the van and made our way to the airport. That was the depressing part. Parting from Chabelo and Tara left me distressed, and I wanted to find a way to stay. We checked our luggage in and made the most of the time that we had left with our group. Our plane took off, and I wasn’t too happy to leave my new family. When our plane landed in
Detroit, my time in Mexico seemed like a dream, and I was back from my paradise. Back into reality. 

Words simply cannot describe my experience in
Mexico. My week there will never be forgotten, nor will the following trips I make back. I am currently forming a group for next year, and I can’t wait to see what EDventures Tara has in store for us in the future.

Below are a couple of journal entries I wrote while on the trip:

This morning the “guys from
La Paz” came out to the island. We then took the dingy out to our third dive. We saw tons of fish in the shallows. There were a lot of King Angel fish and there were also tons of rainbow wrasse, sergeant majors and spotted sharp nose puffers. We came back for lunch and while waiting, we played soccer with the boys. I should never attempt to be on a soccer team.

We were supposed to swim with the sea lions today, but the clarity was terrible. The plankton was entirely too think. Instead, we went and did another dive. We saw tons of sergeant majors and I spotted some King Angel Fish. After the dive, we stopped the boat and jumped off it, taking pictures for close to an hour. Then we came back to the island to eat and finish our day. Overall, the experience we had with the orphans was a chance to realize how good we have it. It made me think about how lucky I am to have a home and parents who love me. The orphans were so fun to interact with, even though we spoke different languages. If I return next year, I plan to bring them more fun things. 

Today was our last dive. After breakfast we headed up to the beach and split into two groups. On the way to the site, the wave practically controlled our bodies. It was hard to kick. I was swayed into coral and learned to swim further from our dive leader. For me, our last dive was the best dive. The clarity was perfect and I saw so many more fish than I had previously. While diving I encountered Rainbow Wrasse, chameleon wrasse, king angel fish, six, yes SIX Moorish Idols, a few blue damsel fish, a couple of yellow tail surgeon fish, a tang, a Cortez sting ray, a diamond ray, and three different types of parrot fish. I saw the Azure, Bicolor and Bumphead. I personally was afraid of running into coral. I was also spooked by the huge ray that we encountered. Early in the dive, our dive leader handed me a huge sea cucumber. I find it interesting how they tend to soften in your hand after a couple of minutes. I loved all of our dives for the sole reason of never seeing any of these fish in the wild before. The habitats and these fish are natural beauties and I don’t know why someone would want to endanger these precious creatures.

My name is Courtney Schultz. I’m a sophomore at Milan High School in Michigan. I play Volleyball and Track. I love to read and write and I enjoy science as well. I’m into photography, and I love swimming. I love traveling the world and learning about different cultures and ethnicities. 

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