The journey back from the Archipelago Revillagigedo is not a short one. Our diving liveaboard, Nautilus Belle Amie, motored for some 30 hours to get us back at our dock at 7am in the morning. Our captain was on a deadline to get us back. Why? Because half of us had spurned a day in the sun, by the pool, in our 5* all-inclusive hotel, to head to La Paz to dive with the famous sea lion colony there. Rather than taking it easy, we got in touch with our friend from Cabo Shark Dive, who organised this day trip with the team from Cortez Club. So, after a mere three hour taxi ride, a one hour fast boat ride, we were back in the water!
Diving with sea lions in La Paz is an opportunity many of us could not pass up; how often will we be in this part of the world? When we arrived at the dive centre, we were asked if we might also like to snorkel with Whalesharks on the way back – you can guess what we all said. We loaded all our dive gear and underwater photography equipment into two small boats and with some excitement headed out on flat calm seas.
Our first stop was the sea lion colony. A small rock sticking out of the Sea of Cortez is where these playful creatures have made their home, and there are huge males patrolling the water as we arrive, but it is the youngsters that we will encounter under the water. There are strict rules to dive and snorkel here, with a marine park ranger ensuring you obey the rules of not going too near the resting animals, and not touching any of the rocks. As we got into our gear, we could see them playing under the boat, and in fact they were waiting for us there as we got in. These young sea lions are fast & furious too! Every diver in our group got encounters where a piece of equipment or limb was grabbed hold of (with flippers or mouth) before the cheeky pinnipeds zoomed off avoiding being caught in the act. It was a simply magical hour spent underwater.
As we headed off to find whalesharks, we noticed a splash and stopped the boats to watch to see if there might be more and we could see what was going on. Suddenly a mobular ray leapt clear of the water and belly-flopped down making another huge splash. Then another one joined in. We were amazed to see such an exhibition. The last one even did a full somersault for us. It was a display we thought we would only ever see on TV, and yet it was happening just a few yards away from us. Alas, our cameras were in their housings and had fish-eye lenses on, so we have no photographic evidence. You will just have to take our word for it. Motoring back to shore, we came to the whaleshark feeding grounds and within minutes, had our first giant shadow in sight. The boat manoeuvred roughly to be in front of their direction of travel, and we slid into the cool water. Again, we all had success, with one or more of these giant sharks swimming close to, or directly under us. The visibility was not very good at all (and that is why they are here, to feed on the particles) but the experience was inspiring.
Our final full day in Mexico saw us out on the water again. We really don’t do sitting on a beach or by a pool, so we booked a snorkelling trip. We were flying the next day, so diving was not an option. Jacob, from Cabo Shark Dive, took us out, again on two boats, to see if we could tempt in Mako and Smooth Hammerhead sharks. The coastline here is so rich, we saw sea lions jumping onto the back of fishing boats, and even saw sharks swimming under the boat before we had even stopped. It was not long before we were back in the water and seeing our first ever Smooth Hammerhead Shark. There was no need for scuba gear, as the shark was right at the surface, with its dorsal fin breaking the waves. We could watch it approach and then duck our heads under the water to get a shot. Amazing.
The Baha Peninsular and the diving both close to its shores and further afield have given us some of the most rewarding diving we have ever done. The sheer number of pelagics was astounding, and the close encounters a real treat for divers and underwater photographers alike. Even though it was a long and exhausting trip we were very sad to be heading home. Our 29 guests on the trip loved it, and fondly suggested that this kind of trip should be referred to as “extreme recreational diving”.
For more from Nick and Caroline, visit www.frogfishphotography.com.