There are approximately 900 islands in the Gulf of California, each with varying degrees of area (CONANP – 1). The islands boast high cliffs, white sand beaches, and turquoise waters. The four Mexican states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa, and Sonora work together to protect the islands as well as the Gulf of California. First protected by a decree, written in 1978, the islands were safeguarded as a reserve and refuge for migratory birds and wildlife (CONANP – 2). In 2000, the reserve was renamed to its current name, and in 2005 the area of the Gulf of California, including 244 islands, islets, and coastal areas, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To get to some of these islands is not too difficult–but not too easy, either. The Gulf is notoriously quite rough at times and it is well to choose one’s time both for getting out and for coming back. — Joseph Wood Krutch, The Forgotten Peninsula
The islands, though rocky and rugged, support more than 600 species of flora, 28 being endemic (CONANP – 3). Many types of cactus and succulent cover the larger islands with some islands supporting small pockets of mangrove.
The islands support a variety of wildlife that ranges from the smallest insects to hares and cayotes. Due to isolation, there are several endemic species, including 48 of the 115 species of reptile and 24 of the 40 species of mammal (CONANP – 4).
Birds, many of which are migratory, are by far the most prevalent animal. Marine, coastal, and terrestrial birds all congregate on the islands either to nest or feed. According to CONANP, half of all land, shore, and marine birds that visit the islands are migratory. The surrounding waters welcome many marine mammals, fish, and other marine animals. Whales, fish, and a plethora of invertebrates breathe life into a sea Jacques Cousteau dubbed, the world’s aquarium.