Flabellina iodinea Cooper, 1862
Well folks, this week we are going to recount the adventures of four avid branchers who took a few days last week off to travel some 400 miles south of San Diego to Bahia de los Angeles in Baja California. Jerry Allen , Alan Grant, and myself left one day early and were later joined by widely traveled Baja Branchologist Dr. Hans Bertsch.
I have often been asked by fellow divers what the diving scene is like at LA BAY as we like to call Bahia de los Angeles. Hans Bertsch summed it up best during a conversation on this past trip. "The weather and water conditions in LA BAY can be brutal, brutal, brutal!" If one is not careful, weather and water can combine to be life threatening as was the case with a group of spider researchers last year.
Jerry, Alan, and myself hit the Ensenada Toll Road after acquiring the Mexican Tourist Visa at the Border Entry Check Point. Cost is $22 and good for six months for any travel below San Quintin as I understand it. Obtaining the Visa requires a valid US Passport. Of course we were never asked for it during the trip but thats Mexico. Get caught without it, and you will be paying mucho dinero! The drive from Tijuana to Ensenada has to be one of the most scenic on the coast. It is well worth the excessive toll charges. After overnighting at the Hotel Pinta (home of the $4 margaritas) we proceeded from Catavina to LA BAY at a leisury pace to take in and photograph the majestic high desert flora that changed every fifteen minutes of so. After a couple of hours we stopped on the high plateau area going in to LA BAY to take in the expansive view of the islands that make up the bay.
After checking in at the Las Hamacas motel, we proceeded to load up our gear and headed to Punta La Gringa for a late afternoon dive. Boy did we get a surprise. The wind was blowing like a banshee!! I proceeded to sit this out but after getting reports from stalwart divers Jerry and Alan that the water was fine underneath , decided to gear up and give it a go. That's when I discovered that my weight belt was still back at the room. And that's why I'm a charter member of the OFDA (Old Farts Diving Association). With time on my hands, pics were taken of Jerry and Alan gearing up and Alan emerging from the windy , cold water. Anyhow we went into high gear the next day and did some serious diving at La Gringa with Hans who arrived the night before. Getting in was a little bit dicey but smooth sailing after that. As you can tell, this BOW isn't really about Flabellina iodinea as much as Baja diving. We did want to focus on the decidedly different coloration and inflated size of the cerata of F. iodinea when compared to that of their counterparts we see so often on the California west coast. We saw a number of other branchs through the course of the trip, not least of which were Bajaeolis bertschi , Histiomena convolvula , and the recently described Doriopsilla gemela .
The high winds precluded taking a boat out to do our favorite reef dive, but we nevertheless persevered and dove the heck out of Punta la Gringa. Many species were seen including one or two that hadn't been seen on previous trips. Guess that's why we keep coming back! The last day Jerry and I decided to forego all the fun in gearing up in a virtual hurricane and hit the road back to the states. Later on during reflection over rum and cokes at San Quintin, we decided with high wind and all, it wasn't really such a bad trip! In fact it made us eager to return and that my friends is the magic of Bahia de los Angeles!