Tag Archive: women


Snorkeling in Cuba with www.bluewaterventures.org

Before arriving  to Cuba, I had read about our forbidden neighbor’s  thriving coral reefs.  A country frozen in time, Cuba is a matrix of islands forming an archipelago, a mere 100 miles south of Key West.  Our  local marine biology professor,  Nicole Crane confirmed this hopeful news from her travels through Cuba.  As I dipped into the warm water  surrounding Punta Perdiz at Playa Giron, I felt like I was meeting the spry colleague of an elderly friend who had been terribly ill for many years.

In 1985, I began a career as a professional naturalist,  leading snorkeling trips to various destinations in the Caribbean. I first submerged into sparkling  crystal clear blue water as a junior in college in 1979.  Studying marine biology in Belize with a motley crew of college students would change my life. Coral reefs became a personal and professional passion.  After a month living  on a tiny Belizean Island,  my blood had turned blue and feathery gills replaced my lungs. I was deeply intrigued  by a mostly thriving coral reef  ecosystem. Sadly ,, by the late 80’s the integrity of  many Caribbean coral reefs had begun to decline.  The change has been rapid and heart wrenching. Corals are finicking and demanding creatures that sometimes respond more like a plant than animal. In fact, corals are fueled by the sun as the majority of their nutrients are obtained by zooxanthellae,  photosynthetic algae living within the coral  tissues.

Since reef building corals must photosynthesize  to flourish, they require clear, warm water that lacks sedimentation. As tropical forests and mangrove shorelines  are cleared for  development,  sediments pour into marine environments blocking sunlight and smothering corals. With increasing nutrients in the water, large fleshy algae thrive and out compete  corals.  As human populations grow and swell during tourist seasons, many Caribbean locations experience a high demand on local fisheries. Without proper fisheries management, the removal of  herbivores such as parrotfish  has devastating effects on a coral reef ecosystem. As grazers, these colorful reef fish keep a check on algae growth. Healthy populations of reef herbivores are critical to maintain a balanced and vibrant coral reef system. Cuba’s careful management of marine resources, organic farming practices, relatively slower tourism, controlled fisheries and slower coastal development are among the factors contributing to a thriving coral reef ecosystem just offshore at Punta Perdiz.



As I swam over the coral reefs at  Punta Perdiz, I was  thrilled to see an abundance of healthy Elkhorn Coral, Acropora palmata.  Listed as Critically Endangered by the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species,   Elkhorn Coral in the Caribbean basin has declined by 80% over a 30 year span  and is  virtually gone in the nearby Florida Keys. Rapid coastal development, high nutrient loads,  intense hurricanes, poor fisheries management and disease has led to the demise of Elkhorn Coral. However, at Punta Perdiz this  delicate  form  of branching coral was flourishing. Vibrant schools of blue tangs and parrotfish, keystone herbivores darted among the corals. Yellow tube sponges, feathery gorgonian corals, brilliant christmas tree worms and reef urchins were thriving among the  predominantly live Elkhorn Coral  branches. Peering into a tidy hole  nestled within the  Elkhorn Coral polyps,  miniature  claws of an old friend, the Elkhorn Coral Crab, Domecia acanthophora appeared.  Living as a commensal species associated wth Elkhorn Coral, these minuscule crabs will also disappear as Elkhorn Coral declines. However, at Cuba’s Punta Perdiz, even the spry and spindling Elkhorn Corals are ready for some salsa dancing!

Kim Powell is owner, operator and head naturalist at Blue Water Ventures in Santa Cruz, CA. Offering naturalist-led field trips for students and adventurous vacations designed to be relaxing with an educational component for women. Kim has been organizing single and multiple day excursions to extraordinarily beautiful places since 1985. www.bluewaterventures.org



Song of a Humpback Whale


Dipping into what seems like a deep blue silence, I am greeted by the erie song of a humpback whale in the vast south pacific ocean surrounding Tonga. If you are near a singing whale, the sound comes from within as it pulsates through your fluid watery body. The tones literally flows through you and you can feel it reverberating through your core. Some people describe a sensation in their chest or felt in their bones. Off the islands of Vava’u I felt it seeping through my body, pulsating and tingling. I dove deep into the blue abyss alone but not, listening and in awe.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Only the male humpback whales sing an elaborate song and primarily during the breeding and calving season. While much is still unknown, its thought that air is pumped through sacs attached to the larynx region and then reverberates out through their massive throat. It is truly one of the greatest concerts on earth which was shared among an intrepid crew with www.bluewaterventures.org! Thank you whales…..


Prehensile Manatees!

So many incredible and memorable moments during our Springs and Manatee adventure. On our final day, our group was mesmerized watching the prehensile lips and fleshy region of a manatee known as the oral disc.

Slowing down the video, you can see the stiff thick bristles edging either side of the mouth that actually help grab vegetation moving it towards the mouth. To my knowledge, no other mammal uses stiff whiskers in a prehensile manner.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-2-31-20-pmHighly sensitive, these thick whiskers as well as the 3000 tactile hairs that cover their tough hide aid manatees as they explore a murky world.



Check out our upcoming adventures at http://www.bluewaterventures.org


Birth of a Seal



Many memorable moments on our Big Sur Seals and Morro Bay by Kayak program this past weekend. However, I will never forget walking up to the excitement of a newly born elephant seal. Imagine coming out of the shoot surrounded by trumpeting seals, massive males near by, females bickering and sea gulls eager to carry off your placenta!

DSC01393Wrinkled and wet, this newborn seal will soon start nursing as mom’s weight is transferred over. By the time a seal is weaned a mere 30 days later, the plump seal has quadrupled its weight enjoying the richest milk on earth, 53% fat. The consistency of mayonnaise.




Our next Elephant Seal program is April 11th to feature the weaned pups, known as the wearers who gather in large weaner pods at Ano Nuevo with http://www.bluewaterventures.org




Flocks of White Pelicans stole the show today on our Kirby to the Coast kayaking exploration of Elkhorn Slough. Conditions were ideal as an ebb tide carried us effortlessly to the coast winding through an intricate maze of tidal creeks. Unlike the Western Brown Pelicans which are plunge divers, White Pelicans feed by scooping fish with their bIlls.


aDSC00843They are known to work cooperatively together herding fish using their large bodies to form a net. Concentrating the fish within a “net of birds”, they then take turns scooping up a meal. With a wing span of nine feet, they are an impressive sight. Join us as we paddle throughout the winter in Elkhorn Slough and beyond at http://www.bluewaterventures.org.


The Best of Baja


Every february Blue Water Ventures travels to the whale breeding lagoons of Baja and the Sea of Cortez teaming up with our incredible local outfitter, Mar Y Aventuras. For 10 action packed days, we snorkel with sea lions, observe reef fish, sea kayak, beachcomb and hope for a ‘friendly” encounter with the California gray whales of Magdalena Bay.

Baja Highlights
* Kayaking through mangroves and from our secluded base camp of Espiritu Santo Island in the Sea of Cortez

* Unforgettable Encounters with Cailfornia Gray Whales, Magdalena Bay on Baja’s Pacific Coast

* Snorkeling with Sea Lions and Colorful Reef Fish in the blue waters of Baja

* Beach combing for treasures along beautiful deserted beaches

* Delicious local seafood caught and prepared by our Mexican Crew

* Skiff supported base camps with spacious tents

* Naturalist-led hikes, snorkeling excursions and whale encounters

* Sunrises and Sunsets over magnificent desert scenery

*Swimming alongside a filter feeding harmless shark that may be over 30 feet in length

Thanks to Margo Dean Productions for this video!

Our  Women’s Kayak Camping Adventure at Loon Lake is offered each summer,
from a Thursday  through Sunday). On the western edge of Desolation
Wilderness near Lake Tahoe,  Loon Lake is a beautiful destination to explore
by sea kayak.

Join us for this great  weekend with women!  Snow capped peaks,
easy paddling, yummy food, cool swims and warm granite rocks
to bask on afterwards!

Cost $425  includes:  4 days of sea kayaking, instruction in kayaking
and low impact camping,  permits and  food (3 breakfasts,  4 lunches, 3
dinners). We throw in a great bunch of women too!

Open to all women including those who have never kayaked or
camped….let our guides take care of the camping details!

This is a very popular trip and space is limited so please email Kim
Powell at: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com for more details


Join Blue Water Ventures every summer as we explore the sea caves, rock gardens and rivers of the Mendocino Coast. Our next  program is designed especially for families, summer 2014.

Using Sit-On-Top kayaks, we’ll paddle into caves, rock archways and over kelp beds as we look for local residents such as harbor seals and river otters.


First time kayakers with a sense of adventure welcomed!

Join us! You will not regret it!



Our Baja adventure 2013 had so many incredible moments. On our final day in Baja, it was suggested by our boat captain that we skip our last whale watching session as high winds were making the seas rough. A few of us so deeply yearned for a final goodbye to the whales that we bundled up and ventured out. Our Mexican based outfitter, Mar Y Aventuras is fantastic and agreed to take us out on that windy early morning in Magdalena Bay. As we watched a gray whale repeatedly breach off in the distance, we reflected upon our profound whale encounters in the breeding lagoons of Baja. I think each of us were quietly accepting that a final friendly visit by a California gray whale was unlikely.

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I had just mentioned to my group that it was Jean Peterson’s memorial service and we collectively sent love and light to Jean, her partner Mary and daughter Lucy. Jean yearned to be close to whales. Before she died, Jean gave me the book Grayson, a true story about a young swimmer who encounters a baby gray whale off of southern California.

Moments later, Frieda a California gray whale, a so called “friendly whale”, one that intentionally seeks human contact paid us a final visit. We recognized her by the distinctive scar on her barnacle laden rostrum. Moved beyond words, we watched her leave titling her head upward catching a final glimpse of us. Slowly and with intention she made her way to the only other boat in the vicinity.

As we drove off we watched a group of excited strangers thrilled by a visit from a whale named Freida. Though we will never meet the members of that small vessel, we share a common thread, a sublime encounter that will not be forgotten.

Kim Powell is owner, operator and head naturalist at Blue Water Ventures in Santa Cruz, CA. Each winter she travels to Baja, Mexico leading a 10 day eco-adventure, from desert to sea.

Blue Water Ventures Offers naturalist-led field trips for students and adventurous vacations for adults designed to be relaxing with an educational component. Kim has been organizing single and multiple day excursions to extraordinarily beautiful places since 1985. Find out more at http://www.bluewaterventures.org



Elkhorn Slough offers an incredible location to kayak among sea otters, harbor seals sea lions and an array of migratory birds. We encourage teachers to get your students on a naturalist-led field trip to Elkhorn Slough.

We offer a unique program that includes activities both in the water and on land to reinforce our outdoor curriculum. Most outfitters only spend a few hours on the water. We feel we offer something special.

Our Elkhorn Slough program includes: wetlands ecology, endangered species, natural history of sea otters, harbor seals, sea birds and cultural history. Leadership and teamwork are key components of your field trip.

After lunch, we pull a large seine net to examine our catch and discuss the theme of animal adaptations further.

We offer a leisurely paced, full day in Elkhorn Slough from 9:30-2:00 for only $38 per person. This includes time on the beach for lunch and activities.

Contact Kim Powell,Owner at: bluewaterventures@sbcglobal.net or 831 459 8548