When the San Andreas Fault separated a sliver of land from mainland Mexico, it created a legendary Sea, unique in its history, species diversity, and rugged beauty. This sliver of land is the peninsula known as Baja California. Separating the Pacific Ocean from the Sea of Cortez, Baja California has created a varied ecosystem that within the Sea of Cortez is home to approximately nine hundred species of fishes. Both the terrestrial and aquatic residents of this region have been affected by a relative geographic isolation. Scuba divers and snorkelers will be stunned by the sheer abundance of life below the waves and kayakers and sailors travel from around the world to cruise this sea.
Within the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, it is estimated that seventeen percent of the marine species are endemics, found nowhere else on earth. The Sea of Cortez is even home to its own unique species of marine mammal, The Vaquita, Phocoena sinus. The Vaquita, which is also referred to as “the little ghost”, is the world’s most endangered species of marine mammal. A small porpoise, there are fewer than three hundred individuals left. This is largely due to their accidental entrapment in fishing nets, which were set to capture the Totoaba, Totoaba macdonaldi, a large sea bass prized for its delicious meat. Like the Vaquita, the totoaba is also severely endangered and was the first marine fish to be placed on the endangered species list.
Although commercial fishing has damaged some of these fragile ecosystems, the Sea of Cortez remains a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The value of these waters has been recognized in recent years and several regions have been made a part of the United Nations biosphere reserve program. In addition, numerous islands within the Gulf are protected as national parks. Among the myriad species found here, some of the most majestic include manta rays, whale sharks and schooling hammerhead sharks. Fisherman travel here to catch marlin, sailfish, dorado, and wahoo. Scuba diving, kayaking and snorkeling are all popular sports in the Sea of Cortez and hold the promise of unexpected large animal encounters.
The land region of Baja California is broadly separated into three regions, Northern, Desierto Central, and Southern. Northern Baja contains the cities of San Felipe, Mexicali, Tijuana, Ensenada and El Rosario. At the very northern tip of Baja lies a barren region known as El Golfo (Gulfo) De Santa Clara. This is near the point at which the Colorado River met the Sea of Cortez, forming a positive estuary until 1953 when the Hoover dam was built.
Central Baja is the least often visited area of Baja by tourists, but contains many regions of unmatched beauty. This includes boojum forests and cave paintings of Catavina, the sleepy town of Santa Rosalia the whale breeding ground of San Ignacio and the secluded retreat of Bahia Concepcion. Also included in this region is the beautiful town of Mulege, as well as the town of Loreto, known for fantastic scuba diving and its majestic mission.
Southern Baja, the cape region, is a destination for both outdoor adventurers and jet setters from around the globe. The only coral reef in the Sea of Cortez is found around the region of Cabo Pulmo. The port city of La Paz offers world-class scuba diving only miles off shore, and for individuals looking for the best nightlife in Baja, Cabo San Lucas is tailored to their needs. In stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Cabo San Lucas, the Pacific town of Todos Santos is an artist’s retreat featuring a small town atmosphere in a beautiful setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Nearby, one of the few accessible beaches offers what is considered to be the best surfing in all of Baja.