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Sept. 6-13, 2003

La Paz

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Baja Bound: Between Red Cliffs and the Deep Blue Sea
Flying down over the Sea of Cortez, a short 5 hours from Seattle, it seemed like Baja was too green and mountainous to be a desert. September is the rainy season and the hills were covered in growth from the wet weather. Tall craggy peaks surrounded Cabo San Lucas, the true geographic end of the North American West Coast on the Baja peninsula. The Sea of Cortez, also known as The Gulf of California, lies south of Arizona and California trapped between Baja Mexico and the Mexican mainland. A desert above, it's a rich paradise below the water.

I was in La Paz to check out the diving and enjoy my 50th birthday; the invitation from the friendly folks at Cortez Club and Hotel La Concha too good to pass up. La Paz is an interesting two and a half hour drive from Los Cabos on a twisting modern road dotted with old silver mining towns. It is the capital of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur (or south Baja) and is a large city of 200,000. Unlike Cabo San Lucas, it was not created for tourists. Retaining its "old Baja" charm, it features a large palm lined harbor with modern marinas and is a hub for scuba diving operators and liveaboards.

Bouncing along in a fast 6 pack boat the next morning, it still seemed lush, but in a different way than I have experienced before. It felt like a lot of places I've been - all rolled into one another, yet different and inviting. The craggy mountains looked like Viti Levu in Fiji, the red cliffs like the Grand Canyon, and the water, well the water was a warm, rich, turquoise blue like the Mediterranean, but unlike it, a sea bursting with life. Right about then it burst forth - first, with a fin-backed whale, and then with large pods of spinner and bottlenose dolphins.

Pelicans circled and dove as we enjoyed the scenery on the way out to dive La Reyna, a small seamount and rock about 45 miles east of La Paz and just north of Isla Cerralvo. When we got there, the sea was rolling a bit, but our English guide Luke thought the chop would die down as the day progressed. It was actually not too bad as we anchored in the lee of the rock and dropped over the side into the warm 83F water. The visibility was asi-asi, maybe 60', due to Hurricane Ignacio which had slammed into La Paz a couple of weeks previously, but the site was filled with huge schools of fish, moray eels and sea lions.

We toured around the island on our dive, and then motored back to the wreck of the Salvatierra ferry. As we swam to the anchor line to go dive down, baby mantas called Mobolus jumped nearby. The there was worse visibility there, but enjoyable with mild currents and interesting sea life amidst the broken remains of the wreck. Later in the week visibility returned to it's more normal 80' range and upon my return to La Reyna, it was an easy 100'.
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Click on photos to view larger image and caption. Numbers refer to dive log # above.
Pennisula-N-of-La-Paz.jpg
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Bottlenose-Dolphins_1.jpg
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Bottlenose-Dolphns2.jpg
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Espirtu-Santu-east-side.jpg
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351-Blue-and-Gold-Snapper.jpg
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351-Sealions.jpg
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352-Green-Moray.jpg
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351-Hawkfish.jpg
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352-Balloonfish.jpg
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342-Cortez-Angel.jpg
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342-Balloonfish.jpg
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342-Panama-Graysby.jpg
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342-Parrotfish-and-Hogfish.jpg
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