Scuba Diving La Paz
Offer some of the best diving in the Sea of Cortez. There is a diversity of options: a shipwreck dive, a chance to swim alongside sea lions and the likelihood of shark encounters.
La Paz (The Peace) is the capital of Southern Baja California, nestled in Bahia de La Paz, and is the gateway to the Sea of Cortez. Its natural landscapes, deserts, mountains and seas — from the “largest aquarium in the world” to its islands that flank the bay — are the dream of every adventurer who enjoys diving, sport fishing, camping and extreme sports. It is secluded on the east coast of Baja California Sur, facing the Sea of Cortez and the capital city of the state.
La Paz is a place that offers first class services without losing the charm of a small city. Safe and cozy, but cosmopolitan, it has all the amenities a world traveler could want. There is an extensive range of possibilities for accommodations, with options for hotels and inns, including ones with all the comforts, as well as those for the traveler who enjoys nature and prefers to explore with a backpack on his shoulder.
SCUBA DIVING LA PAZ
For anyone who loves diving, whether a beginner or advanced, La Paz boasts an abundance of sites where you can enjoy a spectacular underwater adventure, not to mention more than 700 different species. La Paz offers a variety of different diving options, all of which depend on the weather, the conditions and the time of year. Enjoy diving with the sea lions of Los Islotes, the chance to see hammerhead sharks, whale sharks or the beautiful giant manta rays.
Fall through spring is the best season for diving and snorkeling, but some of these locations can be enjoyed year-round. Espiritu Santo features an artificial reef, the Salvatierra, a ship that was purpose sunk in 1999 for scuba diving. In 2010, the sculpture “Estancias Sumergidas” was sunk in Candelero Bay in the National Marine Park of the Archipelago of Espiritu Santo. The sculpture was conceived and designed so that, over the course of time, it will become another artificial reef, helping to generate plant and animal life on the seabed. Additionally, it will become an important highlight for scuba divers to visit and cross off their “must-see” list.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE SITES
LOS ISLOTES “THE COLONY” Situated half a mile north of Isla Espiritu Santo are Los Islotes, two large rock islets one of which is a natural arch. Diving through the center of this natural rock formation brimming with life one can expect to see dense shoals of silver sardines, blue and gold King Angel Fish and yellow surgeon fish amongst golden cup corals. These islets are home to a colony of over 200 Californian Brown Sea lions. These inquisitive creatures take great interest in those visiting their home. One can often turn to find the pups pulling at your fins, eager to play, showing off and turning circles around our comparatively clumsy underwater movements. The larger bulls become pugnacious and territorial during the mating season in protection of their harem. Underwater circumnavigation of these islands is invariably exciting and always visually diverse.
EL BAJO “MARISLA SEA MOUNT” The seamount is located 8.2 miles, 032° degrees from Los Islotes. There are three distinct underwater peaks arrayed along a three hundred yard line running 120o – 300o, the northern most rising to within 83ft of the surface, the central peak to within 52ft and the southern to within 69ft. The central peak, with its shallow depths and relatively flattop, is the primary dive site and anchoring location This is one of the premier dive sites in the world for schooling Hammerhead sharks. Schools range from between six to hundreds travelling in a clockwise direction around the seamount for unknown reasons. While schooling, hammerheads are not aggressive, and reassuringly enough they actually appear disinterested in divers. As a seamount El Bajo is home to an abundance of sea life, mass schooling fish (amber jacks, tuna etc), octopus and the impressive Panamic Green moray; a colony of over fifty can be found in a small canyon. Aside from possible encounters with hammerheads frequent visitors to the seamount include; whale sharks and giant pacific manta rays. NOTE: this is an Advanced Open Water Dive.
ROCAS LOBOS “SEA LION ROCKS” A local dive site boasting a large number of coral heads, small caves and overhangs. This is our popular night dive site, where on can see huge sleeping Parrot Fish cocooned in their own mucus hiding their scent from potential predators and upon waking, swim free of the cocoon. Once home of a colony of Sea Lions who occasionally return to visit their old home. There’s a multitude of fish life and several species of ray buried in the surrounding sand.
GAVIOTA WRECKS Just offshore Isla Gaviota (seagull Island) in the bay of La Paz we descend to 45 – 60ft to explore 2 sunken wooded boats with some penetration, which becomes home too much sea life. Anemones, Sergeant Majors and Lobster are among the abundant sea life to be found in and around the wrecks and the surrounding coast and its caves.
THE SALVATIERRA WRECK This site is the wreck of the cargo ferry “La Salvatierra” which sank in 1976 moments after striking the reef Swanee Rock (subsequently fitted with a warning light). Of the hundreds of passengers not one life was lost and the insurance company actually paid everyone for their losses.. 50 pesos each!
ISLA BALLENA “WHALE ISLAND” A small Island off the west coast of Isla Espiritu Santo featuring several dive-through caves one of which has a pocket of air allowing divers to surface inside the rock. Between the islands is a sand shelf containing a large “garden” of conger eels – these peculiar creatures feed by extending their bodies vertically from holes in the sea floor, swaying in the currents whilst waiting for passing morsels. Schools of Rays and pods of Dolphins can be seen passing this tranquil dive site.
FANG MING & LAPAS 03 On the 18th November 1999, two Chinese metal vessels named Fang Ming and Lapas03, of 56 meters and 36 meters of length respectively were sunk close to Isla Ballena. These vessels were confiscated by the Mexican government for the illegal transportation of immigrants, and remained in their possession until the golden opportunity arose of taking advantage of the situation to create an artificial reef. Offering full penetration diving over numerous levels, the wrecks offers the ideal setting for indulging in a wreck diver specialty.
LA REINA “THE QUEEN”A rock islet just north of Isla Cerralvo with a lighthouse. This site is among the most beautiful in the area. In depths of 80ft (25m) a large reef is found populated by gorgonias of all types, brain corals, large schools of brightly coloured tropical fish, rays, green, zebra & jewelled morays. This is a “must dive” site! This dive is subject to current, but is home to over 8 giant pacific manta rays.
LA REINITA “THE LITTLE QUEEN” This small rock pinnacle located on the west side of Isla Cerralvo has a constant current in which schools of fish “hang” waiting for their dinner to pass. Large groupers, sea fans, brain corals and conger garden eels are among the attractions, which make this a favorite site.
DIVE SEASON: July – December has the best visibility, often approaching 80 feet (25 meters). We’re fans of visiting the La Paz area between September and November, which is prime season for whale sharks. The whale sharks are generally found in the bay feeding on plankton, so visibility will be significantly less during these snorkeling sessions. December – March brings sightings of grey and humpback whales as well as mobula rays, however the water is colder with poorer visibility than the summer and fall. Temperatures range from 65F in the winter to 86F in late summer. It can also be windy during the winter months.
The Sea of Cortez and Baja Peninsula get hot topside during the summer, but it’s a dry heat and the refreshing Sea of Cortez is never more than a few steps away.
HOW TO GET THERE: La Paz is serviced by Manuel Márquez de León International Airport (LAP), with most flights arriving from Mexico City, Guadalajara or Los Angeles. Once on the ground it’s a quick shuttle ride to the dive resorts. Divers visiting Cabo Pulmo can fly into Los Cabos International Airport (SJD), which is about an hour away. This is also the airport for Cabo San Lucas. Loreto has an international airport, however flights are more limited than in the larger cities.
WHAT TO EXPECT TO SEE: The Sea of Cortez has a reputation for whale sharks. During the summer and fall, divers flock to the Sea of Cortez for a chance to swim with the largest sharks in the world, which generally move south as the season gets later. Another shark also put La Paz on the map in the ’80s, when divers could see massive schools of hammerhead sharks off El Bajo and Las Animas, but unfortunately these schools have been replaced with occasional hammerhead sightings. During the winter months, mobula rays are common. Manta rays are also sighted on occasion. Another main attraction for diving La Paz are the sea lions, which frolic and play with divers, presenting amazing photo opportunities. Sea Lions are found in a number of places in the Sea of Cortez, but none beat the sea lion colony of Los Islotes. Other Sea of Cortez marine life includes huge schools of jacks and baitballs, as well as tuna, wahoo and lots of other fish, dolphins, eels, jawfish, rays. Macro life can also be good, including nudibranchs, shells and various crabs and shrimp.
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