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Sea of surprises

By on July 25, 2017 in Travel with 0 Comments

This is how close the whale sharks came to the boat during a snorkeling trip.  They were all longer than the boat.

Return to the Sea of Cortez, where the fish are putting on a show

By Dave Graybill

I was so impressed with my experience on the Sea of Cortez at Loreto last year that I just had to return to this body of water.

This year my wife Eileen and I took a group back to spend time in La Paz, which is about three hours north by road from Cabo San Lucas.

Once again the marine life we observed surprised us all.

To be sure I had a place to stay that would please our group, and to find a good fishing charter service, I traveled to La Paz last February. During my short stay I discovered the Costa Baja Resort, which adjoins a marina complex just north of the city of La Paz.

The hotel itself has two restaurants. Steinbeck’s is rated as one of the best in La Paz and named after the famous author, John Steinbeck, who made La Paz one of his favorite getaways. The other restaurant served excellent breakfasts and lunches and served hot meals and poolside snacks.

There are many excellent restaurants in the city of La Paz. One of my favorites is the Tres Virgenes, which is located near the cathedral square, and housed in the historic former home of three former Baja Sur’s Governors. It offers both dining in a patio setting, when it’s cool enough, in the evenings, inside air-conditioned comfort. It is famous for its “Mexican original” Caesar salad, which is prepared at tableside.

Dave caught this dorado while fishing on the Sea of Cortez.

There were three days of fishing planned, and each of the fishing days our charter service would pick us up at the hotel lobby and deliver us to a small marina just to the north.

We caught a variety of bottom fish, including delicious triggerfish, cabrilla and pargo, plus some huge roosterfish, and most all of us caught dorado, too. The charter service vacuum-sealed, labeled and froze all of our catches so we could take home coolers full of fish.

The fishing is always fun, but the time on the water in the Sea of Cortez means you will be seeing amazing things.

As we ran from various fishing locations we would have surprise encounters with a variety of marine life. We would see flying fish skipping across the water. Sea turtles would dive as the boats approached. Many times pods of dolphins would be seen and at times would play under the bow of the boat.

We saw many manta rays and some jumping high out of the water.

On two different days we spotted whales from our boat. On one occasion we followed two humpback whales for 20 minutes. They fogged our camera lenses with the spray from their spouts and one large male gave us a deep-throated chortle before dipping just below the surface.

When we were in Loreto we heard of whale sharks being sighted, but here in La Paz they had actual tours where you can snorkel with them.

We did just that one morning. We were fitted with snorkels and fins and boarded the boat, which ran a couple of miles out into the bay.

Before we entered the water we received very detailed instructions. They explained much about the habits and behavior of the whale sharks, but also gave us very specific rules about how to conduct ourselves while in the water with them.

We were told to keep at least three feet from the sharks, and to never touch them. If you touch a whale shark on these tours you will be “red carded” and banned from all whale shark tours in La Paz.

La Paz is about three hours north of the airport. located at Cabo San Lucas.

The boats would slowly cruise a safe distance from the slow-moving creatures until they were just ahead of them, with us sitting on the side of the boat with fins on and snorkels in place. When given the signal we would launch into the water and swim to either side of the shark.

These are the largest fish in the world and to be face to face with one and have it pass by at close range is quite a thrill.

Another one of our group took a tour with the same tour operator a couple of days later, and got a different set of instructions.

He was told that these animals would actually come up to you and even nibble at your arms and legs. “Don’t pull away,” they said. “They have very sharp teeth.” He was a little bit intimidated by this news, but found these animals friendly and curious and were like large puppies.

On the video he shot, you can see them swimming on their backs so people could rub their bellies.

On both my February and May trips I had a rental car and have driven both highways north from Cabo to La Paz and all over the town of La Paz. Stop signs can be “optional” here, but I had no problems driving around.

Once again the Sea of Cortez provided a marvelous experience. There are many different destinations on the Sea of Cortez, from small villages to the city of La Paz. I have visited just two, Loreto and La Paz.

I would return to either of these in an instant. The towns, resorts and restaurants are a pleasure.

More than anything it is the access to the wonders of the Sea of Cortez that makes these destinations so special.

Dave Graybill is the owner of FishingMagician.com LLC, and provides current fishing information for Eastern Washington. His reports are delivered to newspapers in the region, radio stations, and appear on his Facebook page and on his web site at www.fishingmagician.com. He is also currently serving as Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife commissioner for this region.

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