a place that combines superb landscapes, extraordinary flora and fauna,
traces of both its ancient inhabitants and of the slow passage of the
missionaries, and architectural jewels reminiscent of a French village in
the middle of the desert -then imagine your surprise to find that such a
place actually exists!
Know as the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, it lies just south of the 28th Parallel in the northern part of the State of Baja California Sur and has been declared a protected natural area.
The Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve is composed of slightly more than one million acres that not only include a majestic desert but also two important lagoon complex -Ojo de Liebre / Guerrero Negro and Laguna San Ignacio - that annually host our most famous visitors: the gray and the humpback whale. Every winter hundreds of these creatures arrive in order to give birth and care for their offspring in the warm, safe waters of the peninsula's lagoons. These natural sanctuaries are also enriched by the presence of other marine mammals such as the vitulina seal, the elephant seal and the California sea lion.
Among the more prominent terrestial mammals are the timid pronghorn antelope and the highly prized bighorn sheep. Around 200 species of aquatic and migratory birds nest or hibernate in the Vizcaino Reserve, which represents one of the last natural refuges of the royal eagle, the fisher eagle, and the peregrine falcon -all endangerd and now protected by the Mexican government.
To warm in the immensity of the thorny vegetation characteristic of the Vizcaino is a unique experience, especially when everything from the tiniest lichen to the most colossal cardón cactus is in full bloom, inundating the desert with ephemeral colors during the brief periods of rain.
The conjunction of arid terrain and the Pacifi Ocean coastline occurs at the singularly beautiful and nearly virgin beaches of Bahia Asuncion, Punta Abreojos, Punta Prieta and Bahia Tortuga, where hundreds of sea turtles come to spawn. The small fishing villages nearby also offer the opportunity to taste simple but delicious dishes of shrimp, abalone and the delicately shredded meat of the manta ray.
Sebastian Vizcaino, the 17th century Spanish explorer to whom the region owes its name, discovered the native Cochimies inhabiting the most arid, isolated and least populated areas in Mexico. Later missionaries would leave an enduring reminder of their presence in the sober altarpiece of the San Ignacio Kandakahayang Mission, whose facade, built in 1728, is the most richly ornamented in all the peninsula.
The Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve is a natural wonder -a desert full of surprises! It is a sanctuary for wild fauna and endangered species, the proud prossessor of both ancient and modern historical monuments, and the home of kind, hospitable and hard-working people.
the magazine Vuelo year VI number 69 October 1999 / Jose M. Medina