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This is a region where visiting at the proper time of year is critical to the success of your holiday. If coming for scuba diving, you may expect good Sea of Cortez weather conditions June through November. Prior to June, Sea of Cortez water temperatures are relatively quite cold. By the end of November, the winds have changed direction and sea conditions will deteriorate. Barring a hurricane, best conditions may be expected during August, September and October.
The Sea of Cortez is bordered by the mainland Mexico state of Sonora to the east, and the Baja California peninsula to the west. Open to the south, the Sea of Cortez feeds into the Pacific Ocean. The result is a unique and intriguing ecology and some wonderful scuba diving opportunities.
The attractions are first and foremost Baja sport fishing. Anglers come from around the world to try their luck fishing in the bountiful Sea of Cortez. Changing with seasonal migrations, the catch includes Striped Marlin, Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Dorado, Roosterfish, Mackerel and Wahoo. Both heavy tackle and esoteric saltwater fly-fishing are supported. As befits an ocean side paradise, other Baja outdoor activities include scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, ATV tours, beach combing and good old fun-in-the-sun relaxing.
The whale shark, the largest fish in the sea, is an immense animal that can reach lengths of 50 feet. Though it seems to barely sweep its large vertical tail, the whale shark is capable of swimming much faster than a scuba diver, so chasing one is rarely productive. Like most marine animals, they are both curious and wary. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the water with a whale shark, move slowly, avoiding jerky motions. Rather than swimming at the animal, set a parallel course and slide closer a little bit at a time. Avoid prolonged eye contact. By approaching in a non-threatening manner, you may enjoy an encounter of minutes or even hours with this amazing, gentle giant of the sea.
The Sea of Cortez is a great place to make use of a live-aboard dive boat. It will enable you to get more and better scuba diving, reaching places that are simply not accessible by shore-based dive services. Most of the live aboards sail from the safe harbor of La Paz and offer diving in the central Sea of Cortez. One very sophisticated option, the M/V Sol Mar V, sails from Cabo San Lucas, and heads farther south to the remote island of Socorro, where divers can enjoy some of the world's best diving and big animal encounters.
Sea lions are mammals, and while they hunt their sustenance from the sea, they live topside on small islands or rocky outcroppings. A sea lion colony will be composed of a dominant male, his harem of mating females, and their juvenile offspring. When entering the waters around their colony, the bull will first come out to meet scuba divers and let you know he is the boss. If you pass that test, the females may enter the water with their young and swim past you to be sure you are non-threatening. If the cows decide you are safe, they may allow the juveniles to come over and play with you. Swimming with young sea lions is like interacting with playful dogs. The sea lion pups will mouth your hand, pull your snorkel, and nibble on your fins; it's great fun. A truly awesome experience is to watch the adult sea lions hunting through a big school of jack. As clumsy as they may be on land, in the water sea lions are masterful swimmers and well adapted-predators; mammals surviving and hopefully thriving in the Sea of Cortez.
Beyond the developed areas, the winding roads through Baja are bordered by a thorny array of cactus plants and scrub brush, interjected occasionally by splashes of color from blooming acacia and bougainvilleas. The terrain is a mix of convoluted canyons, wide dry arroyos, and the rare spring-fed stream. Cattle range freely, scrounging for their sustenance while squadrons of turkey vultures circle languidly overhead. Wild mountains punctuate the distance inland. In this arid environment, a scuba diver will find the cool waters of the Sea of Cortez all the more inviting.
Changing Sea of Cortez water temperatures control the life forms that can survive and thrive in the Sea of Cortez Mexico. Fed by cold, nutrient rich currents moving north from Antarctica, the Sea of Cortez water temperatures range from the low 60's in the winter to the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit in later summer and fall. Come supplied with the appropriate wetsuit so you can comfortably enjoy dive times of one hour or more.
When travelers think of Sea of Cortez and Baja, it is the tourist Mecca of Cabos San Lucas that first comes to mind. But for scuba divers looking for land-based diving in the Sea of Cortez, the dive resorts of La Paz and those of the even less well-known region of East Cape may be a better bet. These areas are much less touristy than Cabos San Lucas, and closer to the good diving.
The lower extreme of the annual Sea of Cortez water temperatures means that hard corals are scarce. But the nutrient rich waters make for a spectacular population of fishes from small inshore dwellers to large schools of jack, tuna, dolphin, and "sportfish" such as dorado and marlin. There are resident colonies of sea lions and migratory visits from whales and hammerhead sharks. A fortunate scuba diver may also encounter manta rays, and even whale sharks in the plentiful waters of the Sea of Cortez.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|