Arriving in Mulege, most southbound travelers get their first taste of the tropical Baja atmosphere that will grow as they continue on the transpeninsular. While the highway first meets up with the Sea of Cortez at Santa Rosalita, the mountains around Mulege provide a more favorable microhabitat and the town has a friendly and less industrial feeling. This is an ideal point to stop and catch your bearings for a few days before continuing to Loreto, 84 miles (135km), to the south, or before the last push to the Cape Region. Tree-lined narrow streets and balmy breezes off the Gulf waters provide a stark contrast to the expansive deserts to the north. Lush, with excellent beaches and plenty of charming shops, restaurants, and hotels, Mulege is indeed an oasis in the desert. Located near a narrow inlet from the Mulege River, palms, reeds, and mangroves welcome visitors to the Sea of Cortez. Immediately south, is the mouth to Bahia Concepcion, one of the most sheltered bodies of water in the Gulf of California. Protected on three sides, this region possesses more than 50 miles (80km) of beaches surrounding a clear and warm lagoon that teems with marine life. This is a sheltered and spectacular haven for learning kayaking and snorkeling. Must Sea’s Bahia Concepcion For many travelers this is a site that begins as a camping vacation; one that evolves over many repeat visits into a community that springs up along the shores each winter, replete with a small armada of RV’s and ATV’s. Despite the seasonal influx of visitors, the waters have remained pristine, and there is no shortage of sites for scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking these proteced waters. Within the Bay, most depths range from 10ft/3m to 30ft/9m, although there are some good scuba sites at depths of up to 70ft/20m. At a few points, depths can even reach 120ft/36m, but there is generally little to see at those depths in the bay. With a sandy bottom over much of the bay, most of the good scuba diving sites are along the numerous boulders and tumbled outcroppings from the peninsula to Punta Agula and Calenta los Pilares. There is excellent scuba diving at Isla Guapa and Isla Pargo. Depths range to 70ft/20m and provide an excellent chance of seeing big cabrilla hiding in the numerous overhangs and crevices. Barspot cardinalfish and coral hawkfish are also seen among the many sponges and sea fans along these small islands. Isla San Ildefonso Isla San Ildefonso is probably the best scuba diving in the immediate region with tall jagged rock faces jutting 400ft/122m into the air. The remoteness of this island has made it a favorite nesting site for large numbers of birds including seagulls, pelicans, and boobies. Equally dramatic are the drop-offs below water. In many areas, the walls of this remote island plummet past 200ft/61m. There are no friendly landings on this island; nor are there any protected coves, so both boaters and scuba divers should have at least moderate levels of experience before attempting this destination. While it is a relatively long boat ride from Mulege, this is a favorite site for scuba divers and well worth the effort to get here. Outside of La Paz, Isla San Ildefonso is arguably the best site in Mexico for seeing larger animals, such as Mobulas, Manta Rays, Hammerhead Sharks, and of course, the ever playful Sea Lions.