Connect with us


Exploring with the Dive Ninjas: Diving with Striped Marlin at Mexico’s Secret Sardine Run



It’s November and I’m waking up in a small fishing village on Bahia Magdalena. We are about to head 20 miles offshore in search of one of my favorite open ocean encounters—and one of this region’s best kept secrets.

The warm Baja sun is just beginning to creep over the horizon as we finish loading the boat. Our captain, Mele, gives the ok to push off and we are on our way. Mele has an unmatched understanding of these magical waters. He’s a local fisherman that made the switch to working in ecotourism and conservation projects a few years ago. His passion for these waters and their inhabitants is inspiring.

Our journey seaward takes us past Isla de Patos—a small strip of sand home to thousands upon thousands of tightly packed sea birds. Then along the mangroves that play a critical part in making this area so remarkable. As we move further offshore humpback whales are spotted breaching in the distance as they make their annual journey down the coast to Los Cabos. But the whales will have to wait because today we seek something even more extraordinary.

Soon we spot flocks of sea birds flickering on the horizon beckoning us to come closer – a tell-tale sign of the gigantic bait balls we seek. As we draw closer packs of sea lions can be seen lifting their heads from the water to catch quick breaths. I’m always amazed at how far offshore these salty sea dogs can be found looking for a meal. And right now, it’s breakfast time in Baja. From the boat we can already see the ripples created by a huge ball of mackerel frantically zigging and zagging just below the surface as they try to outrun one of the oceans fiercest predators.

Slipping into the water gives you front row seats to one of the most action-packed experiences our oceans have to offer. Imagine over 40 Striped Marlin working together with packs of sea lions corralling their breakfast into a tight ball and pushing it up to the surface. Then one by one they rocket through the bait ball striking and spearing the fish with their sword-like bill.

Without a moment to think they have already welcomed you into the hunt. It’s a heart pounding encounter, yet mesmerizingly beautiful. Thousands upon thousands of shimmering silver fish spiral into shapes reminiscent of liquid metal dancing on a gorgeous deep blue backdrop. All the while a barrage of sword wielding super-fish and the lions of the ocean ignite the waters around you.

Striped Marlin, Kajikia audax, are one of our ocean’s great creations. A super-fish engineered for extreme speed and vast open ocean migrations. They are one of the fastest animals in the ocean and capable of quickly reaching speeds of 80 kmh (50 mph). Striped marlin are a highly adapted apex predator. Their bodies have insets that allow their fins to lay completely flat when tucked in to help eliminate drag.

Marlin can even heat their eyes and brain to help them be able to manage such great speed and agility. Although not the largest species in the billfish family, they can grow nearly 4 meters (12 ft) long and weigh upwards of 190 kgs (450 lbs). Their long bill is covered in millions of rough denticles and is thought to decrease hydrodynamic drag as they slice through the water—in addition to being used for hunting and protection.

However, these beautiful creatures are listed as Near threatened on the IUCN Red List with their populations steadily decreasing. They are the prized subject of many sport fishermen and Los Cabos to the south is considered the sport fishing capital of the world. It hosts one of the largest sport fishing tournaments on earth as well as a big marina packed with sport fishing vessels running charters 365 days per year. It’s estimated that more than 12,000 striped marlin are fished each year just in the waters around Los Cabos.

Because of this Cabo San Lucas based Dive Ninja Expeditions has teamed up with Nakawe Project to integrate a new marlin research & conservation project into their annual marlin expeditions. The new project hopes to help better understand the population in Baja as well as look at the sustainability and impacts of fishing, while taking you to experience this awesome natural event firsthand.

How to Experience it

The season for these incredible striped marlin encounters takes place every autumn along the pacific coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico. The marlin normally begin to start arriving in late September and will stay through December. This means warmer, blue waters and good visibility. You’ll still want to pack a wetsuit, as this is the eastern Pacific, but a 5mm should be good for most. Your nearest major airport will be Los Cabos International, which offers direct flights from many US & Mexican cities.

Getting to the action though can be a bit of an undertaking, especially if you aren’t familiar with the area. There are a few locations where you can get in the water with the marlin, with the nearest one being a couple hours drive from Los Cabos. These are small fishing towns though, most without any proper tourism facilities. However, there are a couple operators that run multi-day trips out to experience the marlin and bait balls.

Dive Ninja Expeditions is one of the few operators that regularly run weekly trips each season. They have been actively working on projects in these areas for a few years that help support the local communities and further ongoing research and conservation efforts. They also work in these areas all year long on different specialized expeditions, so they know the local areas better than most. Whereas all of the other ops usually just pop in for a week or two each year.

Due to the remoteness of these areas, and the speed at which the bait balls are moving, trips are usually more geared to freediving or snorkeling instead of scuba diving. But don’t sweat it because all the action takes place right at the surface. The marlin use the surface as a barrier to push the bait balls against, making them easier to hunt. So, enjoy not having to stress over airline baggage weight restrictions for this one!

Interested in exploring this adventure yourself? Visit the Dive Ninja Expeditions website. Their 2019 striped marlin season kicks off in the next few weeks and their 2020 Striped Marlin Expedition dates go on sale the beginning of October.

For more from Jay Clue and Dive Ninja Expeditions, follow:




Jay Clue is a conservationist, dive instructor, explorer, and photographer based in Mexico. Under all the tattoos you’ll find a big nerd, with interests ranging from shark conservation to quantum mechanics. When he’s not diving or teaching you can usually find him wherever there are an abundance of delicious snacks. Find out more at:


Diving below the waves of the Western Cape, South Africa – Long Beach at night (Watch Video)



Head under the waves of False Bay and explore the incredible diversity that is found along the Western Cape. The bay has popular dive spots from diving amongst the biodiverse underwater kelp forests to jumping in with the playful and friendly cape fur sealions (Arctocephalus pusillus). The bay along with the rest of the South Africa coast is known for the range of shark species that are found from the shallow coastal shores out into the open oceans. The coast is also home to numerous endemic shark species such as puffadder shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) and Pyjama shark.

Longbeach is a shallow shore dive close to the coastal town of Simonstown on the Western Cape. The dive is mainly made up of diving across the sand with a few wreckages, rocks and outcrops where there’s algae growing. A pipeline can be found at the site which provides locations for species such as Pyjama Sharks (Poroderma africanum) and octopus (Octopus vulgaris) to shelter. Diving at night at the site provides the opportunity to see species that are more often hidden during the day such as cape Squid (Loligo reynaudii) and Biscuit Skate (Raja straeleni). Other shark species such as the small Puff Adder Shyshark (Haploblepharus edwardsii) are also occasionally seen at the site.

Diving with the local dive club – Cape Town Dive Centre.

Follow Jake aka JD Scuba on the YouTube channel @Don’t Think Just Blog.

Continue Reading

Miscellaneous Blogs

Book Review – The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe (2007)



It was the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Cruiser Ordzhonikidz, supported by two destroyers, had brought Soviet leaders Khruschev and Bulganin to Britain for sensitive meetings with the British Government. The ships were moored in Portsmouth harbour and the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, had expressly forbidden any clandestine inspection of them. However, on the morning of 19th April 1956 Commander Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabbe, an experienced naval diver, slipped into the cold waters of Portsmouth harbour. His top secret mission was to photograph the hull, propellers and rudder of the Ordzhonikidze. He was never seen alive again.

A badly decomposed body, with head and hands missing, was discovered by fishermen in Chichester harbour months later. It was claimed to be the missing body of Buster Crabbe – but many had doubts. The incident marked the start of a controversy that claimed the posts of several high ranking naval, government and intelligence service personnel. The author of The Final Dive, Don Hale, claims it is one that still rages and which may not be resolved even when secret government files are released in 2057.

Don Hale, an acknowledged campaigning journalist and former Journalist of the Year brings all his experience and skill to unravelling this longstanding scandal. He has drawn upon official reports and private letters, statements from government representatives, fellow officers and friends to piece together Buster’s life and events leading to his disappearance and subsequent investigation. He speaks of “inquiries blocked by intrigue, constant cover-ups and government bureaucracy coupled with threats relating to the Official Secrets Act” (p. xi). If you like reading about subterfuge on a grand scale you will enjoy The Final Dive.

Don Hale’s meticulous account of the life of Buster Crabbe is supported by dozens of black and white photos and extracts from numerous official documents. It reveals how an amazing series of civilian jobs, wartime activities and friendships with high ranking government officials, British intelligence officers, American CIA operatives. . . and now known spies, prepared him for his final dive and perhaps his fate. One of Crabbe’s acquaintances was the author Ian Fleming – of James Bond fame. Indeed, it is suggested that Fleming based the character of 007 on Buster Crabbe. After reading of his exploits, both before WWII, his bomb disposal work during the war, and afterwards it is easy to see why. Certainly, those who worked with Buster Crabbe “all agree he was fearless.” (p.59). After reading of his exploits one wonders if he was too fearless.

In the later stage of Buster’s life, prior to his disappearance, Don Hall recounts “a constant merry-go-round of overseas assignments” (p. 118) for Crabbe and how he “began to receive increasingly hazardous commissions” (p. 136). It culminated in the morning dive in Portsmouth harbour. Hale’s forsensic-like account of the events surrounding the final dive and aftermath reveals absolute panic and bungling behind the scenes as official answers conflict with known facts. He describes how “The whole incident still seems bathed in secrecy, with the true facts deliberately buried in bureaucracy, and supported at the highest level by an incredible cover-up operation”.(p. 205).

A final comment by Don Hale adds to the intrigue. He states “The only part of the Crabbe puzzle about which I am not certain is not who sent him – we know the answer to that – but why on earth he was he sent, possibly at considerable risk?” (p. 248). After reading The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe you will no doubt have your own ideas.

The Final Dive: The Life and Death of ‘Buster’ Crabbe (2007)

  • By Don Hale
  • Stroud: Sutton Publishing
  • ISBN 978 0 7509 4574 5
  • 260 pp

Don Hale was a professional footballer before becoming editor of several regional newspapers. He has received numerous national and international awards for investigative journalism including Journalist of the Year. In 2002 he was awarded an OBE for his campaigning journalism in the Stephen Downing miscarriage of justice case. He has championed several others who have been wrongly convicted.

His other books include Town without Pity (2002), Murder in the Graveyard (2019) and Mallard: How the ‘Blue Steak’ Broke the World Speed Record (2019).

Find out more about Professor Fred Lockwood, who is also a published author, at

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!


Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

More Less

Instagram Feed