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Diving and Snorkeling The World’s Aquarium


By Jay D. Gittens
source: Baja Bound - updated: Nov 20, 2018 10:10 AM

Once dubbed the “The World’s Aquarium” by none other than marine explorer and conservationist, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, is located on the western side of Mexico, separated from the Pacific Ocean by the Baja California peninsula. Its surface area spans in excess of 60,000 square miles with depths surpassing 3,000 meters.

The Sea of Cortez crept into existence some five million years ago when tectonic forces of an unimaginable scale slowly but surely separated the Baja peninsula from mainland Mexico resulting in the creation of a unique assemblage of marine and terrestrial organisms, some of which are endemic to the region.

The Gulf of California is still to this day widely considered to be one of world’s most biologically rich bodies of water, harbouring close to one thousand species of fish and a prize of majestic marine animals such as whales, dolphins, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, bull sharks, sea turtles, oceanic giant manta rays, sea lions and even orcas.

La Paz Bay and its surrounding islands are home to a large number of the marine animals that can be found in the Sea of Cortez and it is this bounty of marine life that attracts ocean enthusiasts from across the globe to discover or revisit the great sites we have in this unique location.

Diving and snorkeling sites (accessed by boat) Los Islotes – *suitable for diving and snorkeling
These rocky islets lay within the Espiritu Santo Archipelago forming one of three main no-take zones in the Espiritu Santo National Park. Los Islotes is home to some 400 plus California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) which are one of the most popular wildlife tourism attractions of the island group due to their abundance and the playful nature of the juveniles. Because fishing is prohibited here, the fish are present in all of the diversity and abundance that Jacques Cousteau once described. This site is suitable for both scuba divers and snorkelers, with the sea lions and most of the marine life occupying areas of shallow water close to the rocks, caves and crevices.



El Bajo – *suitable for diving only
El Bajo is comprised of three open-ocean seamounts located around 30 minutes north-east of Los Islotes. Amazing rock formations covered in marine life decorate the seascape with a wide range of vivid colors and textures. The main attraction to El Bajo is the possibility of observing oceanic sharks; the most common species encountered being the scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) and the silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis). Even in the absence of these great beasts, El Bajo is a fantastic dive site crammed full with life.

La Reina – *suitable for diving and snorkeling
La Reina is a rocky islet situated off the northern tip of Isla Cerralvo. It is home to a small bunch of California sea lions, mostly retired bulls banished from the main rookery of Los Islotes. The dive site has some amazing rock formations, the most stunning of which is a submarine canyon whose walls are dressed in sea fans that quiver in the soft currents among colorful colonies of sponges. The marine life here is in abundance. The main attraction of La Reina is the visitation of oceanic giant manta rays that grace the waters here from around mid-June to mid-October.

Swanne Reef – *suitable for diving and snorkeling
Located in the San Lorenzo Channel between La Paz and Espiritu Santo island, Swanne Reef, or Swanne Rock, lies under around 10 meters or 30 feet of water at its deepest point. The reef’s crown falls just short of the surface making it easily accessible to snorkelers. Due to the reef being located in the channel, it’s important to note that on occasion there can be moderate to strong currents resulting from tidal flows. Swanne Reef is vibrant with life and color and on occasion large schools of fish can be encountered here. If you are really lucky you may see sea lions and cormorants diving down to a feast amongst the schools.


El Salvatierra (shipwreck) - *suitable for diving only
The Salvatierra began its life during WWII in the Chesapeake Bay area serving as a ferry to carry shipyard workers across the bay. Sometime after the war ended, the ferry was bought at auction by the Ruffo family who brought the ship through the Panama Canal to La Paz to serve as a ferry to and from mainland Mexico.

In 1976 the Salvatierra ferry collided with Swanne Reef before drifting further across the channel and settling on her port side in 20 metres or 60 feet of water. A salvage operation was cut-short when Hurricane Liza passed over La Paz, resulting in a large number of deaths in the city and major destruction to its infrastructure. This violent storm also shifted the Salvatierra turning her upright but tearing the entire housing from the deck in the process rendering her unsalvageable.

Today the Salvatierra still remains and has attracted an abundance of marine life that is enjoyed by divers year-round. To me, it is one of the very best dive sites we have. As well as huge groupers and sea bass that can be seen tapering away into the sandy depths, this marine oasis attracts sea turtles, mobula rays and huge schools of fish and is carpeted with invertebrate life.

Fang Ming (shipwreck) - *suitable for diving only
The Fang Ming is a shipwreck originating from China. In 1995, she was seized by Mexican authorities for attempting to smuggle Chinese migrant workers into the United States and in 1999 she became Latin America’s first intentionally sunken ship for the purpose of creating an artificial reef.

Almost two decades down the line, the Fang Ming has developed into a haven for marine life harboring numerous species of fishes, mobula rays and sea turtles to name but a few. This shipwreck is sheltered from much of the effects of winds and swells by Isla Espiritu Santo making it suitable for divers of all levels.

Marine Life
While much of the marine life in and around La Paz Bay is present year-round, some species are seasonal and in some cases are known to cover long distance migrations. The following information serves as an approximate guide to what marine wildlife attractions may be available throughout the year.

Whale harks
Whale sharks are one of the long-distance migratory species that somewhat predictably visit La Paz each year. Each year around October, whale sharks begin to gather in the bay of La Paz. Historically November and December have the highest abundance but the species is present in sufficient numbers from around mid-October to the end of April. While it is not possible to scuba dive with the whale sharks within the designated viewing area along the Mogote sand spit, visitors are able to snorkel with the sharks since the sharks spend much of their day on or close to the surface.

Sea Lions
The California sea lions are permanent residents of La Paz and some of its islands. The two most popular locations to interact with sea lions are Los Islotes in the Espiritu Santo Archipelago and San Rafaelito, a small rocky islet in La Paz Bay itself. During the months of June, July and August for Los Islotes and June and July for San Rafaelito, it is not possible to snorkel or scuba dive with the sea lions as it is mating season for the species, however observation from a boat is permitted and can be very interesting to witness their courting behavior and observe mothers’ nursing their new-born pups. For the rest of the year, participants can enjoy in-water interactions with the species often leading to playful encounters with inquisitive juveniles that very often frolic in the shallow areas close to their shore.

Oceanic Giant Mantas
If you read my recent article about the giant mantas, you will know that they all but disappeared from La Paz for 15 years, returning in sufficient numbers just this year. The mantas historically occupied the area around La Reina between around mid-June and mid-November. This year the mantas arrived very close to past observations but they seemed to have left the area perhaps three weeks earlier than anticipated. Of course, the community waits in hope that the mantas return again next June.

Whales and Dolphins
There exists no dedicated whale or dolphin watching tour service in La Paz itself because their presence is very random. La Paz has a year-round resident population of bottlenose dolphins and also a migratory population that visits during summer months. These dolphins can often be observed from the shore or a boat and occasionally will interact with swimmers in the water. From around December to April, various whale species such as gray, blue, humpback and fin whales can often be seen in the bay or around the islands just offshore.

Sea Turtle
Of the seven species of sea turtle that roam today’s oceans, six of them are present in the Sea of Cortez. The two most commonly encountered species tend to be the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea). At times, sea turtles can be somewhat wary of boats and swimmers but will on occasion allow and even initiate close encounters with humans, particularly when diving the shipwrecks.

The bounty of marine life around La Paz is remarkable both in terms of species richness and diversity. Properly managed ecotourism plays a great part in the awareness and education of our marine wildlife and in the oceans in general. Visitors and locals are urged to use reputable operators when diving or snorkeling here particularly as we have several threatened and/or protected species and areas. It is crucial that private boats do some research before embarking on trips within the National Park or around threatened species.

For more information about diving and snorkeling in La Paz you can visit the Facebook page of La Paz Dive Club, email lapazdivers(at)gmail.com or call +52 1 (612) 197 5824.

Contact:
+52 1 (612) 197 5824 
Website 
bajawildlifediaries(at)gmail.com
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New Baja Temptations


By Misty Tosh
source: Baja Bound Updated: Oct 17, 2018 12:24 PM

Truly, the joy of driving the entirety of Baja multiple times a year is due in part to the profound change that continues to happen up and down the peninsula. It could be as something as astonishing as a tiny outpost along Highway 1 finally getting a much needed gas station and bustling mini market (Hello, Catavina, welcome to the 21st century!) or a beautiful old building being turned into an unexpected gastronomic epicenter (YES! Opening in Los Barriles in November). I just spent six glorious weeks peeking around all the corners and through all the doors down South, exploring it all and relishing in each new find. As they say…innovate or collapse. And, it seems to me, Baja is 100% on the innovation train.

Experience The Baja!


A road trip down Baja is a great excitement on its own. If you add some music and fun activities along with a chance to visit some exotic locales, it would be the perfect icing on the cake. Anyone would love to go on such an adventure. There are many amazing and unique places in the world. Some of them could be exhilarating, to say the least. The Baja Peninsula is one such locale. Do you want to go? Now is your chance to join the adventure of a lifetime The Baja Blues Tour. You will cherish this experience forever. Book Your Ticket or Join the Tour -  www.bajablues.com

The Baja Peninsula separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. The peninsula is the land of vast deserts and mountains, untouched coastlines, volcanoes, both ancient and historic landmarks, and other exquisite scenic spots. The Baja Blues Against Hunger Tour can take you on this exciting trip right down the peninsula, where you can experience (one of the only places in the world) the Baja gray whales.

BGLC DISCOUNT - San Felipe Brewing Company

San Felipe Brewing Company - San Felipe BC
686-119-6911
Discount: Happy Hour Price All Hours

Craft beer available in San Felipe at the San Felipe Brewing Company operated by two long-time residents of San Felipe, Joe and Scott. They currently have many beers to choose from including a few guest taps and of course their very own San Felipe Brewing Co. selections. The San Felipe Brewing Co. opened the doors in March 2018.

Tipping The Right Way

Living in Baja California has taught me that purchasing things from street tacos to hotel rooms cost about the same if not more than in California. Tipping can become a little much; tipping each and every person that helps throughout the day. At the gas station, tip the gas attendant. Grocery shop, tip the bagger then outside tip the shopping cart pusher, and maybe the parking helper guy blowing the whistle. With the dollar to peso ratio changing, so does the price of nearly every product on the market. Yet the salary wages remained the same.  So these service providers do count a lot on the tips given to them.