Scuba Diving Cabo Pulmo
The only living coral reef on the western coast of North America.
Not enough can be said about the Mexican National Marine Park at Cabo Pulmo! It’s a diving experience not to be missed. Cabo Pulmo is the only living coral reef on the western coast of North America. It is the most unique marine phenomena in the entire Sea of Cortez. A National Marine Sanctuary, it is protected and preserved, it’s rich in marine life and pristine coral. Cabo Pulmo is a 2 hour drive from Cabo San Lucas. Very Remote, Very Beautiful. The reef itself owes its existence to the natural geography of the surrounding bay which shelters the reef and keeps the waters constant at approximately 70 degrees, an essential environment for coral growth. The bay is an ideal place for snorkelers and beginning divers with much of the reef accessible from shore. However, there are also spectacular sites awaiting the more advanced and experienced divers
The reefs of Cabo Pulmo’s “National Marine Park“ are home to hundreds of different species of tropical fish and various crustaceans, which makes this reef system a spectacular site for divers and snorkelers. There are more than 10 dive sites in the Cabo Pulmo region but just to mention a few, here are the 2 most popular sites.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE SITES
El Bajo: This reef is approximately half a mile long and only 20 to 30-yards wide. The colors, coral and vegetation are spectacular. This reef draws an enormous amount of tropical fish as well as turtles. Surrounded by sand and thousands of Garden Eels, it is not unusual to see large Pargo and Grouper. This site also attracts Whale Sharks, Porpoise, and Manta Rays.
El Cantil: The maximum depth is 55 feet with many small caverns where divers can spot very large Groupers and Snappers. There are many ledges and crevices where vertebrate and invertebrate species find shelter. Since Cabo Pulmo has become a protected area, large schools of bat rays have taken residence there and it is not uncommon to see manta rays as well.
Islote: (Also known as White Rock Pinnacle and Pulmo Rock) A large rock promontory that pokes out from a largely sandy bottom at the south end of Pulmo Bay. The base of the rock spreads out in about 70 feet of water. The rock itself creates some great wall diving with fan coral, cabrilla, grouper and numerous varieties of reef fish inhabiting the site. At certain times of the year large schools of sizeable jacks by the hundreds congregate around the rock and rare golden grouper can often be found at the northern deeper facade of the rock wall. Conger eels, Morays and several species of Rays are also resident to the rock.
Frailes Rock Sea Lion Colony: Accessible only by boat or kayak, several rocks and platforms at the southern tip of Punta Frailes, serve to harbor several dozen sea lions who can usually been visited between January and October. The rocks are in approximately 10 feet of water dropping to approximately 40 feet of water making it ideal for snorkellers and divers alike. The sea lions can be playful and curious, but restraint should be exercised. Pelagic bluewater species such as small Tuna, Dorado and Wahoo as well as larger Grouper and Cabrilla can sometimes be seen in the blue depths off the rocks cruising along the shoreline.
Los Frailes Bay: Also part of the Pulmo Marine Park, Frailes Bay has several dive spots for both the beginning and advanced diver. Along the northern edge of Frailes Bay the rocky slopes follow down to the waters and descend to depths of 30-40 feet. The fallen boulders form a natural habitat for abundant marine life. An excellent spot for night diving as the rocks come alive with eels, pufferfish, lobster, scallops, grunts, parrotfish and other marine inhabitants. For more advanced divers the walls of the bay drop off into Frailes Canyon with reported depths of over 700â, much too deep for recreational divers, but worth exploring the shallower parts of the canyon with an experienced local divemaster. Keep in mind that Frailes is part of the Pulmo Marine Park and taking of all fish and shellfish is prohibited.
Eileen’s Reef: (Sometimes called the inner “Broccoli Forest Reef”) a series of flat shelf rocks beginning approximately 100 yards directly east of Antares beach at the south end of Frailes Bay. Some extremely large head coral (hence the name “Broccoli”) cover the rock formations providing abundant protections for many colorful reef fish. Excellent snorkelling and beginning diving in 10-20 feet of water.
Cabo Pulmo Wrecks: There are two wrecks to explore in Cabo Pulmo. One is the wreck of the freighter, Colima which ran aground and sank in 30-40 feet of water during a fierce 1939 storm strewing all manner of debris on the ocean floor. The other wreck is a large tuna boat which wnet down in 1978. The 90 foot wreck is in about 50 feet of water. Although the hull is long gone, much of the superstructure, cargo holds, rigging and netting have been left on the sand floor. During the latter parts of the year, the wreck can be host to literally thousands of fish of numerous species making for excellent photography.
Roca de Jonathan: (The middle Broccoli Forest Reef) separated form the inner reef by large fingers of sand. The rocks and coral heads are larger. Noted for several natural ampitheaters where grouper, bass and other species gather for excellent viewing. Whale sharks have been seen here during plankton blooms. The area is also populated by large groups of conch and scallops.
Piedras Wohlford Reef: (The outer Broccoli Forest Reef) in much deeper water to 50 feet with rock overhangs but smaller coral groupings. Located approximately 1/4 to 1/2 mile directly east of of Antares point. Large groups of schooling reef fish can be found at all times of the year.
NOTE: Cabo Pulmo Bay, including Frailes Bay is part of an official Mexican Marine Park and sanctuary. The taking of shellfish, marine life and fish is strictly prohibited. Additionally, the coral environment is extremely fragile and delicate. Extreme care should be exercised when anchoring boats.
DIVING SEASON: Year-round. The best time is late June to early November. The absolute best months are September and October, when the seas are flat, visibility peaks at 60 feet or more.
In winter, surface water temperatures drop to 65 to 70F. Seas can kick up to two to three feet, and vis drops to an average of 30 to 50 feet due to plankton blooms. On the plus side, gray whales and occasionally blue whales move into the sea in winter to feed and mate, increasing your chances of an encounter.
VISIBILITY: Summer time visibility peaks at 60 feet (18m) or more. During the winter months the vis drops to an average of 30 to 50 feet (9-15m) due to plankton blooms.
WATER TEMPERATURE: During the summer, surface temperatures hit a toasty 85F. It’s still cold enough below the thermocline that most divers opt for full 3mm wetsuits. In winter, surface water temperatures drop to 65 to 70F, so you’ll need a 5mm or 6mm full wetsuit with hood and gloves.
WEATHER: Temperatures can soar to 110F in summer, but the average is more like 95F. In the winter, expect daytime highs in the low 70Fs. The sky is usually cloudless and the sun intense, so don’t forget the sunscreen.
HOW TO GET THERE: There are two ways to get to Cabo Pulmo. From the airport (SJD) we recommend that you follow Highway 1 North, that way you will only encounter about 6 miles of dirt road. From Los Cabos Airport (SJD) travel North on Highway 1 past Caduano, Mira Flores, and Santiago turnoffs. Once you approach a small village called Las Cuevas you will find a right turn to La Ribera / Cabo Pulmo (if you cross a long bridge you went too far). Follow the road to La Ribera and turn right just prior to entering La Ribera. You will see the Cabo Pulmo turnoff. Follow the Cabo Pulmo road south until the pavement ends. Continue another 6 miles on the dirt road until you reach the village of Cabo Pulmo. The two most popular ways to get to Cabo Pulmo are with a rental car or with a private transportation service.
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