Centuries ago whales migrating from Alaska discovered the Sea of Cortez and made it their winter holiday destination. They also found these waters to be the best place for their calves to be born. Later, native people discovered the richness of this ocean. But it wasn’t until French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau developed the diving suit in the mid 1950's that humans really discovered marine life. Cousteau himself spearheaded research in the Sea of Cortez (between Baja California and continental Mexico), which he called “The aquarium of the world.”
It is one of the world’s unique ocean environments, considered by some to be the most biologically rich body of water on earth. More than 850 species of marine life make their home in its temperate waters making it a year-round diving utopia. In fact, this Sea of Cortez is reputed to be the greatest fish trap in the Western Hemisphere. This unspoiled setting draws divers, eco-tourists, naturalists and whale watchers from around the world. Giant manta rays, whale sharks, colonies of sea lions, pods of humpback, blue, sperm, fin and seasonal migrating gray whales are very common sights.
There are more than 25 first-class dive spots around the many islands surrounding the bay of La Paz. Schools of hammerheads were first spotted at El Bajio, an underwater mountain rising 18 meters (60 feet) above the surface. El Bajio offers great diving year-round for experienced divers. Los Islotes is home to more than 350 very playful sea lions that love to perform for divers and snorkelers. Los Islotes is well protected from prevailing winds. A ferryboat sunk in 1976 after colliding with a nearby reef at Salvatierra. Stuck in a sandbar, the shipwreck makes a fantastic artificial reef teeming with sea life. La Reina and La Reinita islets in front of Cerralvo Island have huge concentrations of tropical fish. Whale encounters are common in the channel on a cruise from La Paz. The diving season is from June to October.
There are several excellent charter operators for fishing, as well as dive shops offering half-day, full-day excursions and PADI certification courses. Landlubbers might prefer to try mountain biking at El Triunfo, formerly a mining town 40 minutes away from La Paz. Get your adrenaline thrills while you cycle the hills in this historical village.