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

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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:

Instagram: instagram.com/JayClue

Facebook: facebook.com/iamjayclue

Website: www.DiveNinjaExpeditions.com

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: www.DiveNinjaExpeditions.com.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Ana Filipa Sobral, Founder of The Manta Catalog Project in the Azores (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Ana Filipa Sobral, Founder and Project Leader of The Manta Catalog Project in the Azores.

Ana Filipa Sobral is a marine biologist and conservationist based in the Azores Islands. She moved to the Azores in 2011 and once there, realised that this was one of the few places in the world where Sicklefin Devil Rays (Mobula tarapacana) gather in large groups, making it a strategic place to study them. She started the The Manta Catalog Project and through this project, collects photo ID and occurrence data on Mobulid Rays, with the precious help of divers and dive operators as citizen scientists.

Ana is also finishing her PhD which focuses on population genetics and connectivity of migratory elasmobranchs in oceanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The main goal fueling my research has been to help fill the knowledge gaps on elasmobranch biology and ecology to ultimately assist in the design of effective conservation and management plans aimed at protecting their populations in this remote region of the North Atlantic Ocean.

You can find out more about Ana’s important work at: https://mantacatalogazores.wixsite.com/mobulaid/project.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Dive Holiday Deals from Diverse Travel

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Planning your next dive holiday? Check out the latest special offers from UK-based Tour Operator Diverse Travel and get yourself a great dive holiday deal!

INDONESIA | MY Emperor Harmoni | Bali, Sumbawa & Komodo | 15 – 23 September 2022

Save up to 1/3 off a trip to Indonesia!

Your chance to dive Bali, Komodo and Raja Ampat aboard the NEW luxury MY Emperor Harmoni for less!

Launching in September 2022. Emperor Harmoni is Emperor Divers Indonesia’s brand new liveaboard.

Built of Sulawesi Ironwood and offering a truly new experience to liveaboard holidays, experience a true sense of sailing the Indonesian seas in freedom, style, comfort and confidence with her two engines. Enjoy spacious diving and relaxation areas or relax with a massage on deck.

Example price based on Bali departure to Komodo

WAS £2900 / NOW from just £1995* per person based on sharing a twin luxury cabin including:

  • 1 night in Bali before the boat departure with airport transfers
  • One way flight from Labuan Bajo to Bali after the liveaboard with 20kgs baggage
  • 7 nights onboard MY Emperor Harmoni with 3 meals a day, afternoon snacks, unlimited drinking water, tea & coffee
  • All diving with guide, cylinders & weights, Marine Park & Port Fees
  • Free Nitrox
  • 1 cocktail party on a local island (weather allowing)
  • Return airport transfers

* Price excludes international flights, these can be quoted at the time of reservation

Booking deadline: Subject to availability.

Other Dates available – book before 30 September!


MALTA | Dolmen Hotel | 28 September – 05 October 2022

With easily accessible dive sites offering great visibility, caves, overhangs and swim-throughs, with few currents, Malta is an ideal diving holiday location.

A modern hotel, with spacious, comfortable guest rooms and a choice of restaurants with delicious international and national cuisine. Several wonderfully relaxing bars, outdoor and indoor pools, plus a casino and several function rooms.

Price from just £975 per person and includes:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Malta with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in twin room
  • Bed & Breakfast meal plan
  • 5 day / 10 dives diving with guide, tanks & weights

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – alternative dates available


MALDIVES | Emperor Atoll | Best of Maldives | 10 – 18 September  2022

This popular liveaboard and her crew give a personalised welcome to small groups of no more than 12 guests.

Built to high, comfortable standards she measures 26 metres and accommodates guests in 6 twin-berth cabins, all with air-conditioning and private bathrooms.

From just £1925 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from London to Male with 30kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, afternoon snacks, unlimited drinking water, tea & coffee
  • 6 days’ diving – total of 17 dives (incl. 1 night dive), guide, cylinders & weights
  • Free Nitrox
  • 1 BBQ dinner on uninhabited island (weather allowing)
  • Malé city tour (on request)
  • Return airport transfers

Booking deadline: Subject to availability.


EGYPT | Emperor Superior | Reefs & Wrecks | 11 – 18 November 2022

A very popular liveaboard, Emperor Superior offers fantastic diving in comfortable surroundings. Her experienced crew make this one of the best for divers in the Red Sea.

NOW from just £1255 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox
  • Airport transfers

Booking deadline: Subject to availability. Limited spaces available.


EGYPT | Emperor Echo | South & St Johns Itinerary | 05 – 12 January 2023

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

Price NOW from just £1035 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Booking deadline: Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price.

Alternative departure airports available at a supplement.


All offers are subject to availability. Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002, email the team at  info@diversetravel.co.uk or click HERE to see the latest special offers on their website.

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Save up to 1/3 off a trip to Indonesia! Your chance to dive Bali, Komodo and Raja Ampat aboard the NEW luxury MY Emperor Harmoni for less! Launching in September 2022. Emperor Harmoni is Emperor Divers Indonesia’s brand new liveaboard. Built of Sulawesi Ironwood and offering a truly new experience to liveaboard holidays, experience a true sense of sailing the Indonesian seas in freedom, style, comfort and confidence with her two engines. Enjoy spacious diving and relaxation areas or relax with a massage on deck. Example price based on Bali departure to Komodo WAS £2900 / NOW from just £1995* per person based on sharing a twin luxury cabin including: 1 night in Bali before the boat departure with airport transfers One way flight from Labuan Bajo to Bali after the liveaboard with 20kgs baggage 7 nights onboard MY Emperor Harmoni with 3 meals a day, afternoon snacks, unlimited drinking water, tea & coffee All diving with guide, cylinders & weights, Marine Park & Port Fees Free Nitrox 1 cocktail party on a local island (weather allowing) Return airport transfers * Price excludes international flights, these can be quoted at the time of reservation Booking deadline: Subject to availability. Other Dates available - book before 30 September! Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk. More Less

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