Only 20 miles outside of La Paz lay one of the pearls of the Mexican National Park system. Islas Espiritu Santo and Partida are two islands that are the remains of an ancient volcano. Where the two islands nearly meet is what remains of the volcano’s crater. The geologic history of plates pushing and pulling apart and creating new crust under the Sea of Cortez has exposed the islands’ colorful striated layers of pink, ivory and black rock. These different layers are rock can be seen throughout the islands. Victoria and Alex love pointing out the many places where we can see the different rock layers. Another result of all the geological activity is the many beautiful bays surrounded by steep hills that offer wonderful protected anchorages as well as diverse ecosystems for the aquatic life. The Mexican government recognized all of these amazing qualities and made this area a National Park, thereby protecting its fragile ecosystem and making it possible to see nature up close and in its natural state. We spent our first few days in the southern must bay of Bahia San Gabriel. Bahia San Gabriel is a large, beautiful bay lined by a pristine white sand beach. The western shores of the Espiritu Santo were once rich with pearl producing oysters. Bahia San Gabriel housed the pearl factory and the remains of that factory can still be seen. On our first day we headed to the beach to stretch our legs and let Victoria and Alexander play on the beach. Alexander loaded up all of his toy boats and trucks while Victoria loaded her snorkeling gear. Ashley and I packed the beach shelter, lunch and a ball for Ranger. We spent the entire day on this glorious white sand beach. The water was 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 C). The air temperature was about the same. There was a light breeze that was just enough to keep us from being too hot. There was a large sand bank just off the beach that left many small, interlacing pools of water around small islands of moist sand. Alexander and I used these small islands to build sand forts for his toy soldiers and we used the water ways for his boats. He and I spent hours playing and building. Victoria and Ashley were out in the deeper water while Victoria snorkeled around looking for sting rays, colorful fish or whatever else she could find under the surface. Later in the day we all took a walk along the beach. We found many beautiful shells, small sun-bleached coral remains and many, many skeletons of various creatures. As the sun set in front of us we made our way back to Samadhi for dinner. Over the next two days we explored the rest of this very large bay (after school work was done). We found some really great snorkeling sites just off the northern tip of our bay called Punta Prieta. The best site was just outside of the protection of the point of land. Here there was lots of waves and swell. At first, the kids as well as Ashley, were a little unsure about swimming and snorkeling in the waves but after we anchored Rogue One (that is the name of our dinghy) we all got in the water are were amazed by all of the life below. Soon all of us were gliding across the chopping surface as confidently as if we were in a pool. In no time at all both Victoria and Alexander were diving down deep to get a closer look at all the fish swimming around the reef. The turquoise water, the vibrant colors of the reef, the thousands of colorful fish and the huge grins on our children’s faces made all of the sacrifices that we made to get here worthwhile. Ashley and I have been researching, planning, preparing and dreaming about living in just this type of environment and giving our kids just this type experience.