Baja California Sur Safari – 2023 season

by   Profile Franco and Sabrina   When 28th November 2023
1- 2353350-Enhanced-NR
Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax) feeding on
sardine's bait ball (Sardinops sagax), Magdalena Bay, West Coast of Baja California, Pacific Ocean, Mexico
3 sb - 2148565
Orcas / killer whales (Orcinus orca) swimming in open water. Baja California, Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California), Mexico, Pacific Ocean.
5- 2191938 MC
6 sb - 2353565 MC
7 sb - 2353515
8- 2353820 MC
Scuba diver with big Gulf grouper (Mycteroperca jordani), Cabo Pulmo Marine National Park, Baja California Sur, Mexico
11- 1932110 MC
12- 2142793 MC

It’s easy to understand why we return to Mexico's Baja California Sur almost every year. The five destinations we visit during our safari host some of the richest, most diverse and healthy mega-fauna on the planet. We would like to see other sites and broaden our itinerary, but unfortunately you cannot see everything in two weeks.

For this itinerant safari, we had to make a compromise and packed a mix of scuba and freediving gear. Luckily, in our spacious Cruise Backpack Roller (weighing only 3kg with a capacity of 128 litres) everything had a place. We took our X-Wing Apnea S (blade length 61.3 cm, blade width 19 cm) which are slightly shorter than the X-Wing Carbon (blade length 69.3 cm) and they were excellent, even when we were wearing our scuba diving gear. We also took our XR-Rec Silver Single Backmount Seta versatile BCD like no other.

For the trip, we also chose to take our Ultra Adj 82X regulators. They ensure maximum breathing comfort thanks to a Twin Power System which allows you to adjust airflow, and provide constant natural breathing thanks to Vortex Assisted Design (VAD). For the night dives we brought our EOS 20LRZ torch which can be recharged via USB cable and grants 100 minutes of autonomy with 2300 lumens of power. We also opted for 3 mm Reef  suits. With a few extra accessories, we were impatient to immerse ourselves in Eden!

The vast Sea of Cortez and the north-eastern Pacific Ocean are home to thriving, productive and self-sustaining ecosystems, despite fighting against well-known issues related to pollution, illegal commercial fishing, warming sea temperatures, changes in the direction and depth of marine streams and changes in salinity as well as dangerous hurricanes. This year, Mexico was severely hit by Hurricane Norma on Oct 21 in the area of BCS (Cabo San Lucas to La Paz) and then Hurricane Otis on Oct 25 on the Pacific Coast (Acapulco), just ten days before our arrival.

As a consequence of the really warm temperatures off Bahia Magdalena, we found unexpected schools of gleaming Mahi Mahi and Dorado (Coryphaena hippurus) instead of the more common Striped Marlins who usually play with the sea lions, binging on the bait balls of sardines, at that time of the year. We free-dived with hundreds of golden dorados, darting everywhere, to the right and left, above and below, back and forth. The water shimmered yellow/green with huge fish and the sardine's scales reflected the strong rays of the sun. Looking at those oily scales dancing in the water it seemed like it was snowing. We were understandably happy to witness this unique and rarely documented gathering of Dorados, but we were also puzzled. We did not know where to look anymore, with the sardines wrapping around us, looking for shelter from the darting fish, and the chaos of the feeding frenzy. We were dazed, like children on a huge merry-go-round.

Prey calls predators, and predators turn to prey when the bigger hunters arrive. Nowadays it is not unusual to see a pod of orcas in these stretches of the Pacific Ocean, and jumping in the warm, relatively clear water with them is just awesome compared to the environmental conditions in Norway (cold / icy with low lighting / dark). Together with the orcas there are often humpback whales, but it is forbidden to dive with them in Mexican waters. They are majestic in the water and their powerful flukes are incredible. We will always remember and cherish such sights.

After a few days in Bahia Magdalena, we moved to the Sea of Cortes. In Isla Espiritu Santo and La Paz we set off earlier to mitigate the unpleasant side effects of strong winds and bumpy sea conditions. We enjoyed scuba dives with sea lion colonies and close encounters with a truly relaxed, large male sea lion taking a nap at the surface. There you can find the Fang Ming wreck which was intentionally sunken to become an artificial reef. It has lots of different marine life and, due to the presence of numerous jellyfish, it is home to a few healthy, green sea turtles. Diving cormorants are not a common sight for divers, and we admired these athletic birds pushing themselves through the water with their powerful wings to catch their prey one by one.

In Cabo Pulmo we found the natural, self-sustaining marine food chain for which it is deservedly well known. It was thrilling to observe the lazy, slow pace of six elegant bull sharks, totally indifferent to our presence, swimming even a couple of meters from us without being lured by any bait.

Here there is food for all creatures and the ecosystem remains in a natural balance. There is a huge aggregation of big eye jacks, large Goliath groupers, even larger, graceful diamond sting rays … Cabo Pulmo has plenty of megafauna to witness, but if you are fed-up with large animals, a skilled guide can even find nudibranchs.

We ended our itinerary in San Jose del Cabo, where we planned to snorkel with elongated, graceful silky sharks. Unfortunately, because of Hurricane Norma and the debris of Hurricane Otis transported by the currents, we did not find good conditions to document their presence; nevertheless, on the left you can see a picture taken a couple of years ago, showing the majestic beauty of this active and inquisitive migratory shark.

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Written by
Profile Franco and Sabrina
When 28th November 2023
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