IMG_4232 (Large)“What if the baby birds are extra soft and downy? Is it ok to touch them then?” I joked.

There was a lot of talk about petting tame baby birds as Brian and I motored through the night to reach Isla Isabel. Our guidebook showed photos of white, fluffy baby birds and said the birds had no fear of humans. Many varieties of Boobies and Frigate Birds nest on Isla Isabel but we didn’t know if it would be the right time of the year to see babies.

We arrived at the small island, anchored Magic near two other boats, and went ashore. We landed our dinghy on a small beach near a group of metal sheds. Mexican fishing boats lined the beach and some of the fishermen were moving nets from boats to sheds, pausing to offer us a friendly smile. Hundreds of birds of various sizes swirled excitedly around an open shed door, looking for scraps.

IMG_4721 (Large)We walked up the beach and found a tall, metal sign describing the trails on the island. A half dozen Frigate Birds lounged atop the sign, with three foot long bodies, curved beaks and deep black, alien eyes. They merely turned their heads lazily toward us as we stopped to read the sign.

A crumbled concrete path led into a shady forest of stunted trees which grew to only about fifteen feet tall. The forest was filled with the enchanted cackling sounds of the Frigates. I squealed as I began to see nests and fluffy babies in the treetops. These were big babies! The baby Frigates were about a foot tall, with downy white and brown feathers. They always huddled next to either mom or dad in their nests.

IMG_4095-1 (Large)Captivated by the babies in the treetops, I jumped as leaves rustled near my feet. A small iguana sprinted away into the trees. As we continued on the primitive path, we saw at least a hundred iguanas in the small, enchanted Frigate Bird forest. Most were around 10 inches long including their tail, but we also found several larger specimens up to three feet in length!

Anyone who doesn’t like lizards would find a nightmarish scenario on this island. Iguanas and other lizards were everywhere and blended well into the grass and leaves. They would constantly run out from under our feet as we walked. We never got used to this, and we would giggle and jump each time. They were mellow and non-confrontational, and mostly just wanted to bask on rocks in the sun. They were great photo subjects and kept us from gazing up at the treetops the whole time. There was also plenty to see on the ground.

We walked through the enchanted Frigate Bird forest and then followed the trail up a steep, grassy hill. Brian was in front and was the first to see the baby bird in the grass.

“There’s a baby bird right here on the trail!” Brian called out with excitement.

IMG_4174 (Large)I rushed up to him and indeed, there was a single white and brown Frigate chick in the middle of the trail. It stood calmly among large mounds of green grass. Its parents did not appear to be anywhere nearby. It seemed very tame and didn’t even flinch as I approached. I got within just a few feet, and then lay on the ground next to the baby bird. It let out a gentle cackle as I settled down next to it.

The baby was so wild and fearless. It trusted everything it came into contact with, because it didn’t know otherwise. This was the perfect opportunity to pet a soft, friendly, baby bird with no parents around. But fulfilling that human fantasy just didn’t feel right on this sacred island, where the animals probably still live as they did a thousand years ago.

IMG_4274 (Large)We enjoyed the baby bird, and then continued up the path to the top of the hill. We found ocean views in every direction and over a hundred Boobies and Gulls nesting on the ground. More squeals of delight gushed out as I spotted several Boobie chicks. They were indeed the cutest chicks on the island. They were also big babies, about a foot tall, with bodies covered in fluffy, white down. Their inquisitive, innocent faces were precious. Even though they were almost as large as the parents, some parents still tried to sit on the chicks. Some roamed independently, making cute and clumsy progress across the uneven grass.

We wandered slowly through a minefield of nests and birds on the hill, sometimes receiving a squawk when we passed too closely to a nesting Booby or Gull. Overall, we felt tolerated and accepted in the bird world (birld).

IMG_4383-1 (Large)We spent about an hour on the hill, making our acquaintance with the friendly birds and avoiding the squawking, nesting ones. Many of the mature Boobies were quite curious and even seemed to enjoy having human visitors. I met an especially friendly one sitting on a tower that stared intently at me as I stared right back into its cute little face, only five feet away. This went on for at least two minutes.

We saw two blue footed Boobies enjoying a strange mating ritual, where they lift their feet one at a time and shift their weight back and forth as they dance slowly for their partner. They shyly danced for each other near a cliff edge, with the deep blue pacific ocean in the background. Could anything be more romantic? The little exhibitionists glanced over at us periodically to see if we were still watching as they danced.

IMG_1057 (Large)The birds were the most exciting part of our visit, and the scuba diving at Isla Isabel was also wonderful. The water was warm and visibility was good for Pacific Mexico (around 30-40 feet). The underwater rock was different from other places we’ve been diving in Mexico. One dive featured shelf after shelf of different animals as we descended on a shallow wall, like a layer cake of exciting ocean creatures. We found a small underwater cave and arch near Punta Bobos and had fun exploring the rocky features there.

IMG_4531 (Large)We saw many large fish, including a school of shiny, silver jacks. They always caught our eye and never allowed us to get close for photos. During our last dive at the island I even spotted my favorite eel hiding under a rock! A Zebra Moray is always an exciting find.

We took a longer hike all the way around the island just before leaving, and found birds and beautiful scenery everywhere. There is even a crater in the interior of the island surrounded by nesting Frigates.

Isla Isabel is one of my favorite places on earth. This little paradise of friendly animals took me back to a more primitive time in the history of the world, when animals weren’t wary of us yet. It was very special to share their enchanted world for a few days and feel so accepted by them.

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Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

2 Responses to Isla Isabel

  1. Maggie Joy says:

    I always love when you post a new adventure! Rick & I happen to be sitting in the South Pacific at Pitcairn Isle in our own little paradise, and I still can be transported to Isla Isabel through your wonderful descriptions. I read your entry to a young Pitcairn girl, in fact the only child on the island, and looked up your location on maps. Sometime we’ll come visit you ( and bring calzones and beer :)).

    • Lisa Hackett Lisa Hackett says:

      Hi Maggie! What a beautiful image, you reading my blog post to a young girl on an island in the South Pacific and then looking up the location on a map. Thanks so much for sharing that!

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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