For centuries, the Sea of Cortez was a mysterious territory that sheltered a marine paradise. It was not until the 20th century when biologists and oceanographers ventured to investigate further because of its high, biological productivity, deep waters, rocky reefs and sandy beaches, Jacques-Yves Cousteau called it “The Largest Aquarium in the World.”
The Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) is one of the most biodiverse ecological regions in Mexico and the world. So much so, that it was declared a World Natural Heritage in 2005. The Sea of Cortez has warm waters and low surfaces that protect coral reefs, plankton and algae.
It is located in Northwestern Mexico, between the Baja California peninsula and the states of Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit. It is home to 39% of the known marine mammals in the world, a third of cetaceans, five of the seven existing sea turtles and more than 700 species of fish. Amongst the most important marine life include; Whale sharks, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, the totoaba fish and sword fish, seahorses, the Californian octopus, stingrays, sardines, shrimp, and giant squid.
In order to maintain the biodiversity of the Sea of Cortez, the Mexican authorities have created protected natural areas throughout the Peninsula such as Cabo Pulmo National Park and Espíritu Santo National Park.
Cabo Pulmo is a 20,000-year-old ecological treasure located an hour’s drive from San Jose del Cabo. It is home to many of the species that inhabit the Sea of Cortez. It has become a haven for marine species and its national park has become very popular for ecotourism. In the 70s, shark overfishing decreased the marine life and the disappearance of these mammals decreased tourism, which was disastrous for the local economy. In the 90s, fishing was banned for 10 years to save the coral reefs and marine life, and that is when Cabo Pulmo became a national marine park and a refuge for all threatened species. Due to this initiative, the marine life increased in the area and the sharks returned along with tourism.
ESPIRITU SANTO ISLAND
Isla Espiritu Santo is protected by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. It is located 45 minutes from La Paz in Baja California Sur and can be reached by boat. Activities are mainly based on its biodiversity as it is home to sea lions, stingrays, dolphins, turtles, and during season, gray whales and gray sharks. On this island you can enjoy swimming with the sea lions, an adventure that allows you to experience the island’s greatest attraction.
Enjoying the waters of the Sea of Cortez is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. The abundant marine life, associated with spectacular underwater views, and the transparency of the water makes the Sea of Cortez a paradise for swimming, snorkeling and diving!