Sea Of Cortez, Mexico

The strikingly beautiful Sea Of Cortez is formed by the long peninsula of Baja California to the west and the mainland of Mexico to the east. To people who live here or visit, the Gulf is clearly a special place, where stark, rocky desert meets this inland sea's sparkling waters. A complex system of currents divides the Gulf into a cooler northern half and a warmer southern half. Both offer fine diving, but fans of sharks and rays prefer the warmer waters around the major port of the Baja peninsula, La Paz, and adjacent islands. Divers usually fly to La Paz and join a live-aboard boat.

A complex system of currents divides the Gulf into a cooler northern half and a warmer southern half. Both offer fine diving, but fans of sharks and rays prefer the warmer waters around the major port of the Baja peninsula, La Paz, and adjacent islands. Divers usually fly to La Paz and join a live-aboard boat.

High on the desired site list is a seamount, El Bajo, just east of Isla Espiritu Santo. In this group of rocky pinnacles, 60 feet (18 m) below the surface, moray eels seem to occupy every crevice. Shoals offish abound and Pacific manta rays , billfish, and an occasional finback whale or whale shark may also swim by. But schools of hundreds of scalloped hammerhead sharks ,with adults up to 12 feet (3.6 m) long, are the main 

attraction. The boat uses sonar to locate the underwater pinnacles and divers drop down to look up at the grand fleet of sharks, all headed in the same direction, schooling around the pinnacles. Despite continued study and many creative explanations, scientists are still not certain why the hammerheads do this.

Isla Las Animas to the north is one of the most exciting and colorful dive spots in the Sea of Cortez. Rock walls are dominated by sea fans and gorgonians and are dense with invertebrate life. Schooling jacks number in the hundreds and there are underwater caves for the adventurous, plus more opportunities for viewing the hammerheads and other pelagic species.

Isla Los Islotes, just north of Isla Espiritu Santo, hosts a sea lion rookery. The island's east end, with a drop-off into deep water with many detached boulders, is good for sighting big fish.

Although spearfishing is not permitted now, years of overfishing and careless practices have jeopardized the Gulfs ecological health. Baja's dive operators, Mexican and American alike, are dedicated to preserving its fragile beauty .The area is still rich in marine life, although numbers of large groupers and shellfish are declining.

EQUIPMENT

Dive shops in La Paz are well- equipped but it's best to travel with your own gear. Live-aboards provide weights and tanks. Night-diving is popular and worthwhile. Divers often bring good diving lights, batteries, and "cool light" sticks. On the boat deck, a 5 mm wetsuit can become unbearably warm, but it feels good in the water, especially during winter.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Isolated small coral heads occur throughout the southern Gulf but Cabo Pulmo, south of La Paz, can be said to have the only living coral reef on the Pacific coast of North America. Many reef fish will be recognized as relatives of central and South Pacific species. Farther offshore, fields of garden eels wave sinuously in the current, half their bodies burrowed into the sand while their big eyes search the water for plankton to snatch into mouths the diameter of a soda straw. Where rocks meet the sand at Cabo Pulmo and farther north toward La Paz, a sharp- eyed diver may see the rough- skinned Mexican hornshark, discovered near here in 1972. In spring, the Sea of Cortez is a good place for sighting whales, including gray whales,finback whales, and the occasional 80 foot (24 m) blue whale.

 


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