Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cabo Pulmo Diving

"The world's aquarium!" 
- Jacques Cousteau's description of Baja's sea of Cortez

Cabo Pulmo is an isolated spot about 1.5 hrs drive from Cabo on rough roads. It's a protected marine area with more hard coral than other dive sites in Baja.

We took the bus to San Jose del Cabo, spent the night, and then got driven out to Cabo Pulmo. There are several dive operations. We chose to stay at the "resort" and dive with them. Note: This is not a resort in the Cabo San Lucas sense. It's a small collection of casitas (cabins), a restaurant, and a dive shop. So far Cabo Pulmo has fought off the advances of the big resorts, but they keep trying to move in and I fear one day they'll succeed.

One nice aspect of diving here is that most of the dive sites are relatively close - a 10 or 15 minute boat ride. Their is no marina or even dock here, the boats are launched off the beach. See Shelley's blog post for the amusing details.

The three days before we arrived they couldn't dive due to high winds and waves. It was slightly less windy our first day of diving and they managed to launch the boats. We got shuttled by van to the next bay which was more sheltered and the boats picked us up there. This is a busy time of year for diving and they had four boats, each with up to six divers or snorkellers.

Out first dive was at the sea lion colony. There were a few out on the rocks but we didn't see any in the water. We did see an eagle ray go by, the first of the trip. The second dive was better, on a shallow reef with lots of hard coral and fish.

Eagle ray

With new divers arriving all the time we ended up doing repeat dives to a couple of popular sites - Los Morros where a big school of jacks hangs out, and a small wreck. But there's always something new to see (and photograph!) even at the same site. The marine park also has monthly quotas for visits to dive sites so by the end of the month you can't visit some sites.

We got in four good days of diving before the high winds returned and stopped the diving. Rather than hang around for a slim chance of diving one more day we headed back to San Jose del Cabo. We were happy with our 29 dives in 13 days of diving.

One of the attractions of diving at Cabo Pulmo are the big schools of fish. They don't seem afraid of divers and would swim all around you.

so many fish!

Shelley watching (and videoing) the fish circling.

sitting down on the job

As well as the schools of fish, another sign of a healthy marine system is the presence of large fish (since they're what get fished out first). These guys were up to a meter long (3 ft)

Grouper & garden eels

In the background you can see the garden eels sticking out of their holes in the sand. It's hard to photograph them because as soon as you approach they disappear. I tried to get down on the sand and "sneak" up on them by moving very slowly (I think it's the movement of the water they sense, more than "seeing" you) but I had limited luck. You'd have to have enough patience to stake out a hole and wait (assuming you could stay motionless). This is cropped from a fairly distant shot.

Garden eel

Most of the time the problem photographing individual fish is that they tend to not like the attention and swim away when you come close. But this Cortez Angelfish was the opposite, it seemed quite curious and swam so close that I had to back up to photograph it!

Cortez angelfish

The Moorish Idols seem so graceful and elegant. One of the treats at Cabo Pulmo was to see larger groups of them (usually you only see one or two at a time).

Moorish idols

There were quite a few stingrays around. They are usually buried in the sand and hard to spot, often all you see is a vague outline and if you look closely, a pair of eyes. It was a fun challenge to try to spot them.

spot the stingray

stingray eyes

They would stay in hiding as you approached, but if you got too close (like taking closeups of their eyes!) they would take off, shedding their cover of sand.


Jewel moray eels seemed quite common (along with the usual greens). Around the small wreck we saw a number of them out swimming, often in and around the fishing nets from the wreck. Shelley got some good video of them.

Jewel eel

This green moray eel was inside a cavity in part of the wreck. The gaping mouth can look fierce, but it's as much a part of their breathing (because their gills are small) than a sign of aggression.

Green moray eel

Some divers are obsessed with seeing sharks. Don't get me wrong, sharks are cool and I like seeing them, but they're just one of many many amazing underwater creatures. We did one whole dive looking for bull sharks where all we did was swim along slowly about 15 m (50 ft) down and about 15 m above the bottom for 45 minutes and saw almost nothing but a few turtles in the distance. I'd much rather have spent that time on a reef seeing a ton of stuff.


For more photos see all 46 as a slideshow or overview

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