The documented history of San Jose del Cabo goes as far back as Hernan Cortes and the Spanish explorers who passed through this area as early as 1535. A Jesuit mission wasn't established in the city until 1730. The town's past reflects with undisputed clarity of San Jose del Cabo's Estuary and Bird Sanctuary, being the largest body of fresh water in Southern Baja California. The estuary´s vast waters are fed by an underground river, known as Rio San Jose, which inherits its water flow from the Sierra Laguna Mountains, located and visible within the near distance.
For a very good part of nearly 300 hundred years, this now famous body of water has been the drinking and irrigation backbone of San Jose del Cabo. In its earliest reported stages, the estuary provided the rare source of drinking water for Spanish sailors and missionary Jesuits. British and Dutch pirates also found refuge amidst its waters as they eagerly hunted and preyed on Spanish merchant ships hauling gold, silver and valuable pearls to the Philippines from Acapulco.
Earlier than all the chronicled Spanish adventures and history, the waters of the estuary helped support the Pericues natives of this land and their ancestors for what has been determined as thousands of years.
For said historical and environmental reasons, the estuary today is protected by Mexican Law as a natural preserve; which is home to what some estimate at hundreds of tropical native and migratory birds as well as a select species of marine life, reptiles, amphibians, mammals (including the somewhat bothersome insects who reside there also).
The estuary is situated on approximately 125 acres which are located mere minutes and a short walking distance from the heart of Central San Jose del Cabo. As a nationally protected bird sanctuary, the estuary maintains a cultural center where visitors can find detailed information and maps; as well as having any questions answered by their friendly bilingual staff. Admission is free. For visitors who are serious bird watching aficionados, it's suggested they arrive during earlier daylight hours to better identify the exotic feathered birds of God's green earth.
And while most outdated websites pertaining to all things ''Cabo'' suggest there are anywhere from 150-250 different types of birds that migrate to the estuary/sanctuary, or actually live and can be found there permanently. The actual number is probably closer to 46 as defined by a bird watching site which has categorized them as follows.
Red-Tailed Hawks, Herons, Egrets, Pelicans, Gulls, Frigate birds, Turkey Vultures, Caracara, and Osprey are listed as the year round family of birds. Others of note are Grebes, Ibises, Spoonbills, Swan, Geese, Ducks, Kites, Yellow-Tail Hawks, Eagles and Allies. Rails, Gallinule, Plovers, Avocets, Sandpipers, Short-Billed Dowitchers, Pigeons, Doves, and Cuckoos round out their list along with Piculets, Woodpeckers, Tyrant Flycatchers, Wrens, Mockingbirds, Thrashers, Wood-warblers, Starlings, Mynas, Brushfinches, Seedeaters, Sparrows, American Blackbirds, and Orioles. And while there are different types of Sparrows, like Savanah and House.
All told, there are just under 50 types of birds that have been spotted and catalogued by die-hard seasoned bird watchers that have visited the estuary and sanctuary for just that very reason. To find, watch and marvel at the multitude of inhabitants that can be photographed and video recorded within the estuary's vast environmentally protected property.
Vacationers with week long stays at El Presidente Hotel find themselves right next door to the estuary grounds and early morning walks along its paved pathways are pretty common amongst health conscious guests. Others tend to enjoy the walk along the estuary into downtown San Jose del Cabo over the typical stroll into El Centro along city streets.
''The estuary was located right next to our hotel. It is nicely paved and a 10 minute walk into San Jose. Not too much extraordinary bird sightings, but it was calm and cooler than walking the main road into town'' said Sharon of Nanaimo, Canada after her visit of December, 2012. Transplant local J.J. Condos, formerly of San Diego, CA mentioned on tripadvisor that, ''I walk here every other day. The city has cleaned up the walking trail for better access. Anyone can walk all the way to the beach from downtown SJDC and see numerous birds and colorful Flora Fauna.''
Amazing also, is the simple fact the Rio San Jose runs a lengthy 30 miles from its mountainous origin to where the fresh river water blends in some areas of the estuary with the salty ocean waters floating in from the Sea of Cortez. This unique mixture creates the estuary's biodiversity which provides a healthy habitat for the variety of wild animal and bird life who seemingly enjoy their existence here. Feathered characters who rarely flinch at the sight of human gawkers.
Motorized vehicles are strictly prohibited around the estuary as are most horses, although once in awhile, a local farmer or resident can be seen riding his horse home through the protected oasis. A really cool activity offered by some tour companies is the kayak excursion at the estuary. The experience differs from the semi-similar kayak tours offered at Cabo San Lucas Bay's Medano Beach, in that there are no wave runner jet skis zooming by, no cruise ships obstructing the natural views of the Arch, and no water taxis congesting the place with traffic.
At the estuary kayak tour, people enjoy the tranquility of calm waters and a wonderful outing; sight seeing the colorful, quiet, habitat. The bilingual guided tour lasts 3-4 hours and costs $ 55 USD. The price includes drinks and snacks. It's one of the best ways to go bird watching and experience the full beauty of the estuary and its bird sanctuary.
Some tourists have posted online tripadvisor concerns and comments regarding the estuary's once pristine condition, impacted by modern pollution. To that end, a local environmental group, Angels of the Estuary, has been very active in maintaining the estuary's cleanliness and protecting the area from industrial pollution and also predatory, invasive species.
One lady tourist recently posted (December, 2012), that it wouldn't hurt if people walking along the estuary were to simply stop and pick up any litter the Estuary Angels may have missed attempting to garbage-patrol such a vast area. And while it's alleged the Puerto Los Cabos Marina development has taken a toll on the sanctity of the estuary, to what extent is unknown as citizens of San Jose del Cabo and municipal leaders long have recognized its inherent value to tourism.
Moving to earnestly safeguard it and themselves from government scrutiny or fines while some American and Canadian guests perceive its wildlife protected designation by Mexico, as just in name and not through action. The community has also done much to keep the beaches along the estuary safe for swimming.
And it seems, no matter how many efforts are made by the people of Mexico to keep the estuary as it has continued to be for over thousands of years, the Talco Palm trees that line its border, are mother nature’s way of helping the sanctuary withstand the occasional floods that are very uncommon in Los Cabos, but occur periodically over the years.
And while there are a litany of scientific reasons that the colorful wildlife thrive in San Jose del Cabo's famous estuary, its best to forego attempting to grasp the equations and Einstein-like theories and simply check the place out and soak in the smile-causing atmosphere of its existence.
Want to go hiking up beautifully natural mountains and peaks? Come to Los Cabos. Want to arrive with a team of sports fishing anglers and attempt to win millions of dollars? Enter Bisbee's world famous tournament. Want to party like a rock star and drink till 4 in the morning? Visit the strip in San Lucas.
Want to bird watch and enjoy the peace and serenity of the estuary and bird sanctuary? Come to San Jose del Cabo. It's free!!