Sea of Cortez

As the temperatures here in AZ start climbing, all of us “Zonies” are reminded that summer is around the corner, and it gives us an excuse to start planning our escapes.  A short two hour plane flight away and we can be in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur (Southern Baja) to enjoy the beauty of the Sea of Cortez, the body

of water that separates the Baja California peninsula from the mainland of Mexico.  The Sea of Cortez is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet, hosting many migratory species from the Humpback Whale to the Humboldt Squid, as well as being a center for world class sport fishing activities.  Geographically speaking, Baja California is one of the longest peninsulas in the world, second only to the Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia.

I had my introduction to “Baja” at the age of 16 on a family vacation to Cabo San Lucas, located at the southern tip of the peninsula.  We went to celebrate a milestone birthday and to engage in some of my father’s favorite activities: deep sea fishing, drinking margaritas, and listening to mariachis belting out “Guadalajara”.  I have vivid memories of staying at the (then) fabulous (but now defunct) Hotel Cabo San Lucas, and of the stark beauty and remoteness of Baja.  This was the exotic and quiet Cabo, not the Cabo Wabo or the present-day overpriced hotel scene.  It is those tranquil images to which I choose to return, and fortunately, you can still find vestiges of the old days if you wander up the east coast from Cabo to the fishing towns of La Paz and Loreto.

La Paz, the capital of the state of Baja California Sur, has a population of approximately 250,000 and is a 3 hour drive from Cabo.  Here you have access to Sam’s Club, a choice of 35+ hotels, restaurants serving classic Baja fish tacos, and close proximity to snorkeling with sea lions at Espíritu Santo.  I like to go even more native by basing our adventures out of Loreto, a relatively undiscovered fishing village of 15,000 inhabitants that is 200 miles up the coast from La Paz.  A couple of real estate developments have surfaced in the last few decades in and around Loreto, but it seems like the openings coincided with a recession (or two), which means you will feel you have the place to yourself.  Not to mention the fact that the only direct flight from the US is on Alaska Airlines from LA, and the schedule changes seasonally.  To make that connecting flight out of LA, we have to leave Phoenix at 5:30 am, but by 2 pm we are sipping margaritas with the waves lapping at our feet.  Viva México.

Baja off the tip of the wing




Pulling out of the marina at Loreto


Almejas chocolatas, “chocolate” clams that we harvested the same morning


Every now and then you see another boat, but not often




Calm waters off the bow


Off to hook a dorado (mahi mahi)


The cacti come right to the ocean


Gone fishin’

What to read on the Sea of Cortez if you are still waiting for the next book in the Game of Thrones series?  In the 1940’s, John Steinbeck wrote a memoir of his month-long marine specimen collecting expedition in the Gulf of California with close friend, biologist Ed Ricketts.  It is a fun mix of science, adventure and philosophy to enjoy while waiting for that big dorado to bite!  xo M


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