Playing with sea lions and racing whale sharks!

Maudie and Camilla, our North America Travel Consultants, are in Mexico experiencing the best of the Baja California peninsula with naturalist guide Pahoran – here they tell us about their marine safari exploring the Espiritu Santo Islands in the Sea of Cortez.

Waking up in La Paz town, we strolled along the Malecon sea-front promenade to pick up a Mexican coffee and sticky cinnamon roll, before making our way to the dive shop, where we met up with Sergio, who not only would be our captain for the day but also has a natural sonar for whale sharks, our guide Pahoran assured us. Whilst not strictly whale shark season (it doesn’t start until October, running until May), due to the warm currents of El Nino coming early to Baja, we were told we were in with a chance, especially with Sergio at the helm!

From the dock, we boarded our dive boat and set off across azure waters to the Espiritu Santo Islands. The turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez dramatically contrasts with the Cacti desert and red-black volcanic rocks jutting out of the ocean.

While the scenery above water might be spectacular, it’s the ocean that steals the show. We spent the day playing with sea lions, snorkelling amongst tropical corals and colourful fish, watching dolphins frolic in the wake of our boat, spotting rare blue footed boobie birds (the same as found in the remote Galapagos Islands) – lunching on the freshest ceviche on a deserted beach – before swimming fin-to-fin with whale sharks.

While it was an incredible day all round, seeing the whale sharks were a real highlight. Sergio’s six sense spotted four of them for us and we were privileged enough to get in the water and swim alongside a 7-meter giant. Swimming fin-to-fin with these sharks, they are striking in colour – dark-green with a white spotty pattern, and 3,000 teeth – thankfully only used to filter 2,000 tons of krill daily! We swam front-crawl alongside them, flat-out, as they travel at a remarkable speed for such graceful creatures, but these gentle giants were perfectly happy to have us tag along on their journey. We kept up with one for around 20-minutes before he dived deep down into the ocean and out of sight. Climbing back into the boat we were absolutely buzzing with excitement from our close encounter.

Baja’s whale sharks have just travelled into the sanctuary of the Sea of Cortez, some 7,000 km’s from Australia or South Africa to the Espiritu Santo Islands to feed – and how lucky we were to get to meet them so early in the season!

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