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February 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Dolphin Dive Center, Loreto, Baja CA, Mexico

dolphins and a mix of marine life in the Sea of Cortez

from the February, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

Chances are, your Baja California dive trip won't be like mine. I arrived in late October, a month after the peninsula received 21 straight days of rain, and a week after Tropical Storm Paul brushed past. The result: lush greenery everywhere, desert blooms in all colors. Was I diving the Caribbean or Baja California? Sometimes I got confused when I emerged from a dive and saw an emerald coastline. Baja's dry, red landcapes were nowhere to be seen; they were covered in green vines, grass and shrubs, and, most notably, the fuschia San Miguel flower.

I was also here during off season, when neither whale sharks, Humboldt squid, nor Spring Breakers are hanging around, so I felt like I had the already quiet town of Loreto to myself. It's tucked away on the east side of the Baja peninsula, 225 miles from La Paz and 365 miles from Cabo San Lucas. It feels even more remote because the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range that looms up from the sea fences off the town from the flat plain behind it. If you want to avoid the "Housewives of Orange County" who come covered in sequins and animal prints on the flights down to Cabo, Loreto is your kind of place.

A Resident of Isla Coronado (photo by Bruce Williams)It certainly appeals to Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who dukes it out with Bill Gates for the title of world's richest man. During a surface interval at Isla del Carmen, a former salt mine now turned private island for trophy sheep-hunting, I saw a huge white yacht in a cove downwind. "That must be Slim's," Rafa, divemaster and manager of Dolphin Dive Center, told me. "He loves it here because it's so private and quiet, and I see his boats a lot." At the next day's interval at Isla Coronado, north of Isla del Carmen, sure enough, there was Carlos, anchored by a golden horseshoe beach. While helicopters and kayaks are visible on board, Rafa doubts the billionaire dives on his vacations.

Diving here is mostly conducted around the five uninhabited islands across the bay from Loreto (Carmen, Coronado and Danzete are most visited, while Monserrate and Santa Catalina are farther south and require special-request trips), their 50-mile stretch making up the Loreto National Marine Park. Depending on wind and waves, the three islands closest to town take between 20 and 45 minutes to reach via fishing pangas that fill the marina and are used by Dolphin Dive as its dive boats. Loreto's marine park is the northernmost range for many tropical Pacific species that are present all the way down to South America. While the water was at its annual warmest, between 80 to 85 degrees, in late October, it's not warm enough on average for coral reefs, so marine life lives on coastlines of boulders, thick walks and rocky, rubbled bottoms....

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