They say that Jacques Cousteau named these waters “The Aquarium of the World” for a reason. With over 900 different fish species, 170 bird types and more than 30 species of marine mammals, the Sea of Cortez is well-known by scientists and environmentalists, and it has become a diving hot spot thanks to its unparalleled marine biodiversity.
The Cortez is ranked as one of the top five most diverse marine habitats in the world, and all its islands and protected areas are recognized by the UNESCO and included in its World Heritage list. It is also a Class I highly productive ecosystem according to NASA’s SeaWiFS project, meaning that these waters are one of the most important food suppliers for marine species. With accolades like these, one can hardly imagine a better place to dive!
The Loreto Bay National Park
Loreto is still a small, quiet place in Baja California Sur. Originally established as the first capital of California in 1697, it slowly evolved from a fishing village to the boutique ecotourism destination that it is today. The finale of this evolution was the establishment of the Loreto Bay National Park and Marine Reserve in 1996, one of the largest protected marine areas in Mexico.
The park has five main islands, many islets, and several Ramsar Convention-protected wetlands and mangroves. The scenery is usually jaw-dropping. The blue, calm waters contrast with the reddish volcanic rocks, cliffs and lava formations that form the islands. Below the surface, the same rugged, often steep topography has created pinnacles, deep walls, canyons and, of course, a perfect habitat for an abundance of life-forms!
An Underwater Tour Around the Park
Coronado Island is an ancient, extinct volcano. Its south end is flat and idyllic. Its several bays with sandy beaches and sheltered shallow waters make for a postcard-like landscape. The north side, on the other hand, is totally different. Lava has solidified here, creating high cliffs and underwater drop-offs and steep walls. The underwater scenery is spectacular and ever-changing. Some dives offer unique deep walls covered with thick forests of gorgonians and white coral that can reach technical depths. Currents can be strong, which brings hundreds of schooling fish and their predators close to the area, like the local sea lions that live there.
Carmen Island is the largest and offers almost endless dive opportunities, with great variety. The north side is rougher and boasts high limestone cliffs, shallow caverns, and steep drop-offs. Around the middle region and south side of the island, one can find shallow pinnacles and reefs thick with reef fish, but also deep walls and seamounts.
Danzante Island and the southern region of the park have several steep and deep pinnacles, seamounts and the wreck of the C-54 Agustin Melgar, a 55-meter (180-foot) minesweeper sunk specifically for divers. This area also offers some of the most beautiful coves in the Park and the astonishing background of the nearby mountain range, Sierra de la Giganta, with its peaks and canyons right in our backyard.
Getting to the dive sites can take anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes, which is considerably shorter than most diving locations in Baja.
Wildlife is abundant around the marine reserve. Very often, large pods of dolphins are encountered during boat rides. Schools of mobula rays gather by the thousands and leap out of the surface, offering one of the most unique shows there is. Dive sites are often thick with reef fish, such as angelfish, surgeonfish, creole fish, snappers, groupers, schools of jacks and baitballs of sardines. Benthic life is equally rich. Big moray eels and many sorts of rays can be found on almost every dive. Likewise, macro lovers will have a blast finding nudibranchs, which are abundant, and night dives will unveil an army of grazing sea hares, wandering crustaceans and tons of bioluminescence.
A Word About Blue Nation, a Dive Center Made by Explorers for Explorers
Blue Nation is a new NAUI Dream Destination dive center in Baja, founded by Monica and Yago, a passionate nature-loving duo!
We have always guided our lives by the call of nature and the unknown. We have traveled the world and worked in almost every ocean — until we came to Baja. The Sea of Cortez is one of the most fascinating places we have ever been, and we think that Loreto is the best of it. Many years of underwater exploration and conservation projects convinced us to start our own shop in the heart of the Cortez, whose depths are still pristine and mostly uncharted.
We strongly believe that a top-class destination demands a top-class service. We are a “Doing it Right” oriented dive center, and we take pride in keeping our standards high. Our custom 8-meter (26-foot) dive boat, Aguacuate, has ample space to comfortably fit eight divers. Ample shade, a custom dive ladder, and two 115-horsepower outboards make the difference in longer trips to dive sites. We have both recreational and technical gear for rent and teaching and a mixed-gas fill station for all your nitrox needs!
Our job is our passion, and we currently have several exploration projects where everybody is welcome. Join us in Loreto, and find out why we fell in love with this marvelous place.
Complete travel information can be found at bluenationbaja.com/travel-information/.