emember in the movie “Men in Black” when Frank (the alien pug) admonished Agents J and K for their lack of imagination regarding the size and location of a galaxy? “The galaxy is here!” he said. “You humans! When’re you gonna learn that size doesn’t matter? Just ’cause something’s important doesn’t mean it’s not very, very small.”
Tide pools are like that. If you peer into one long enough to become engrossed with the swirl and intricacy of life unfolding within its boundaries, you will realize that you have entered into a whole universe previously unknown to you, with each tide pool its own busy little galaxy.
Puerto Penasco, in the far northwest corner of Sonora, Mexico along the Sea of Cortez, is one of the best places I’ve ever known for the exploration of tide pools, and for the most part they are quite easy to access. Furthermore, because of the extreme tides you can access all of the major intertidal subzones without difficulty, from the Spray/Splash Zone of barnacles and lichens to the High and Mid-Tide Zones of hermit crabs, sea anemones, crabs and starfishes to the Low Tide Zone which teems with both vegetable and animal life of astonishing variety.
The Mid Zone is the most active because it is fully covered and uncovered each day, with many creatures moving in and out in search of food. It is perhaps the most fun for kids of all ages. Here you can watch the drama of hermit crabs battling to defend their territories, star fish, sea stars, sea slugs, mussels, sea urchins, tiny brine shrimp, squid and more, all pursuing the minutiae of their daily lives.
If you’re lucky you can watch colorful sea anemones arguing over territory, their white ‘fighting’ tentacles reaching out to sting each other over and over until one cries uncle. Once the war is over the loser usually moves.
It’s a great temptation to pick stuff up for closer examination (what is more exciting to kids than picking up a shell and discovering a crab living inside?) But make sure your children are careful about what they touch, because some of those fascinating creatures are toxic! And when the exploration is finished, be sure anything picked up is put back where it was found. Life is precious, even to the exotic inhabitants of those intertidal galaxies.
Some of the best places in Puerto Penasco for tide pooling include Cholla Bay; the southern end of Sandy Beach; Playa Bonita/Hermosa; Playa Mirador; the southern end of Las Conchas. There are other good places, too, awaiting your discovery.
The best places to learn about Puerto Penasco’s tide pools: CEDO (Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans) and CET-MAR Aquarium, both in Puerto Penasco; the beautifully illustrated book The Edge of the Sea of Cortez: Tidewalkers’ Guide to the Upper Gulf of California, with more than 1,000 photos; and of course your own explorations.
Come discover the fascinating universe of tide pools in Puerto Penasco. Awaken your inner beachbum…
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