The look of the Baja California Sur can appear tedious: cactus, desert, rocks, beaches and vice versa, but the underwater side of the coin is awesome. We came here with the spirit of the traveller, with curiosity, in search of the surprising underwater nature of the Sea of Cortez, and we fell insanely in love with this charming destination.
Even though the stories of Ernest Hemingway are surely exciting, the Sea of Cortez deserves more passion, it's more intriguing. Basically, it is an almost primordial soup which feeds a perfect marine food chain and a great variety of marine birds (among them beautiful pelicans and gulls). It holds the record of the richest sea in the world, full of fish species in spite of Japanese and Korean trawlers who are still ravaging the most precious varieties.
Although the dive spots seem to be a natural extention of the land environment (an endless bare area: rocks, canyons worn away by marine currents, granite blocks emerging from the sandy depths; all of this in a monotonous beige/grey-green colour) you will be surprised by the quantity and variety of fish thriving everywhere. Divers who are looking for coral gardens, gorgonians and soft-corals, would do better to go for the polychromy of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Diving in the Sea of Cortes is extraordinary and gives great satisfaction to those looking for an abundance of fish without the common view of the many boats distinctive of the Red Sea, the Maldives or Indonesia.
Located in the Bay of La Paz, the islands of the Espiritu Santo archipelago and the surrounding waters provide a habitat for algae, fish, marine mammals, birds and invertebrates including some species at risk and 38 species of plants and animals that are not found anywhere else in the world. Nearly 49,000 hectares of the surrounding sea have been declared a marine reserve because of their great biological importance. One of the more peculiar attractions is a huge sea lion colony. These cute and super-curious marine mammals, mostly the cubs and the juveniles, just want to play and find something, or someone, with whom to spend their time. The interaction between the sealions and scuba and freedivers is simply incredible.
Further south there is another true “hot spot”: the Cabo Pulmo reserve is considered to be one of the most successful marine protected areas in the world and it is part of the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since the reserve was established, after imposing a 15-year ban on fishing and other extractive activities, the fish population biomass has increased by more than 460 percent! Capo Pulmo was once depleted by fishing. In early 2000 there were only medium-sized fish, but ten years later it was full of parrotfish, trevally, groupers, snappers and even sharks. No other marine reserve in the world has shown such a recovery. Factors such as the protection of spawning areas for large predators have been of key importance to the reserve. Local leadership and self-enforcement, led by the determined action of a few resident families, have been major factors in the park’s success. Everyone (boat captains, dive masters, etc.) works to enforce the park’s regulations and share surveillance, fauna protection and efforts. They are like vigilantes and more, and demonstrate that when people pull together not only with individual leaders but as a community working together, changes are possible.