After a wonderful 10 days in La Paz, we were heading to Los Cabos. Specifically, Cabo San Lucas, a place that one of our language teachers had simply described as “Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta”. That wasn’t really what we were after, but we were keen to see more of the peninsula and we had another underwater experience lined up for our time there (as you can probably tell from the photo above).
On our first full day in Cabo San Lucas, we started the day with a boat tour out to the famous El Arco. The lovely lady who we had met on the bus to La Paz worked with one of the numerous cruise ships that frequent Cabo San Lucas. She had very kindly offered to put us on a boat tour as she was in town that day.
As it transpired, we ended up with a private tour and paid nothing more than the cost of using the jetty (less than pound for both of us). Our salty sea dog of a capitán was brilliant too, patiently listening to our basic Spanish and speaking exclusively in slow(ish) clear Spanish on the tour for us to follow after we had explained that we were trying to learn.
The classic El Arco tour takes less than an hour, as the sights are all close to the harbour. Even in that short space of time, it packs a punch. The rock formations along from the harbour are a geography teacher’s dream, with all sorts of coastal erosion features on display. The arch is clearly the most famous of these features, but there is also a stack called “Neptune’s Finger”, a rock that marks the end of the Baja California peninsula and the window to the Pacific. What with this and the tour of Espíritu Santo, we were starting to get rather good at coastal geography in Spanish!
There was also an opportunity to see the sea lion colony on the tour, but we had already met some of its residents the day before as they are often swimming around the marina in search of offcuts from the many sports fishermen filleting their days catch.
For lunch we found a wonderful little taqueria in the back streets not far from our hotel. Before our tacos came, the table was loaded with brightly coloured zingy salsas, totopos (tortilla chips) and a small bowl of pinto bean soup each. The tacos were pretty good but not particularly noteworthy, however the salsas were probably the best we have had so far in Mexico. High praise indeed in the land of the salsa!
We spent the height of the early afternoon heat out of the sun, practicing Spanish and writing, before heading down to the beach for the late afternoon. The beach was pretty lively, with one of the bars blaring out music whilst we swam in the sea. The patrons of said bar were getting rather lively from the rooftop terrace swimming pool. With the sun yet to set, there would surely be some sore heads tomorrow. Our evening would be considerably more low key, as we had little desire to be tired and hungover for our activity the next day.
Swimming with Sharks
“The only sharks that eat people are in the movies”
At least that was what our guide confidently told us, as we were briefed ahead of the boat leaving the marina. Still, I had been buzzing all morning with a mixture of nerves and excitement from the thought of swimming with some of the most ruthless predators in the sea.
It had been a dream of mine to swim with sharks for quite a while, so as soon as we had seen that a company offered the chance in Los Cabos, we had signed up. It was probably the most expensive single day activity that we had ever done on our travels, but we hoped it would be worth it.
We had been warned that we may have to wait a couple of hours for sharks to show up, but minutes after getting the chum (tuna blood) in the water the first tell tale fin appeared above the water. Our guide got in first to assess the shark’s behaviour, before calling us in behind him. I had been ready and waiting from the moment we had arrived at the dive site, so I was first in, not wanting to miss a moment of this experience.
At first, I couldn’t see the shark, but Miguel (our guide) pointed into the dark blue of the open ocean and I waited. Sure enough, the shadowy figure of a female silky shark appeared from the gloom and she was swimming straight for me. Only at the last moment did she turn away, coming within a couple of feet of me. Luckily, we had been warned about this behaviour, so I had half expected it. It is a shark’s way of sussing you out, it is a show of curiosity rather than of aggression. Still, even with the warning, it certainly set the heart racing.
As the rest of the group joined behind me, more and more silky sharks joined us too. All of which wanted to swim in close to see what we were all about. Trying to keep eyes on all of the sharks was proving difficult now that there were 5 or 6 of them circling us. Other than the odd moment, when a shark got really close or I saw a flash of teeth, it was a surprisingly relaxing experience. As with so many marine encounters, there was a serenity to the whole thing, despite the edge that sharks bring to proceedings.
As I was pondering just how calm I felt, Miguel asked us all to leave the water as there were so many sharks now circling us. We were then allowed back in smaller groups so that he had keep a closer eye on what was going on. This seemed sensible, as there were now 9 or 10 sharks circling us.
As we sat on the boat on the way back, thinking about what a wonderful afternoon it had been, a dolphin leapt out of the water in a picture perfect pose (had anyone had a camera to hand). The sea of Cortez really was proving to be an absolute treasure trove of marine life. As we were pulling into the marina, I had assumed we were done with marine life for the day. However, unbeknownst to me (sitting on the back of the boat) a huge sea lion was following the boat in search of fish. I was within a foot or two of probably the biggest sea lion we have ever seen, but was only aware when another boat had pointed it out!
That night we were both exhausted and were asleep by 8pm. So much for Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta!
San Jose Del Cabo
After a brief stay in Cabo San Lucas, we made our away along the stretch of coast collectively known as Los Cabos, to San Jose Del Cabo. Our accommodation there was bizarre, “reception” consisted of a couple of people under the shade of a tree in the car park of a neighbouring hotel. From the outside, the room looked like a shed. Inside though there was AC, fast WiFi, cable TV, hot water and a little kitchenette. It was also considerably cheaper than everything else locally, so it worked just fine for us.
After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we went to find some lunch. The restaurant we ate at was just as bizarre as the accommodation. We were told that they only had grilled chicken despite checking twice if there was anything else we could order, only for other people to come in and order something else. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but we were left more than a little confused. Our strange start to our time in San Jose Del Cabo continued when 10 policemen carrying automatic weapons entered the restaurant for their lunch. I imagine they could order whatever they wanted from the menu.
We spent a quiet afternoon planning the next leg of our journey. We would be taking the ferry to the mainland from La Paz, then the famous and incredibly scenic “El Chepe” train up into Barrancas Del Cobre (Copper Canyon). Logistics sorted for the next 10 days or so, we took a stroll along the beach in the late afternoon sun.
That evening we went to the famous (locally at least) Taqueria Rossy, but ended up being the only people in there. The food was good though and I had my first taste of the local specialty Marlin Ahumado (smoked marlin). I was a big fan.
We started the next day with breakfast in a quaint little cafe near our hotel that doubled as an art gallery. Their burritos with chorizo and egg were stunning, particularly with the fiery salsa that was handed to us with a warning. Every word had been in Spanish during our time in the restaurant, but when the lady put the salsa on the table, she said very deliberately in English,
“That is very spicy.”
She wasn’t wrong. We spent another quiet day down on the beach. I was trying to read a recently acquired Spanish language version of Matilda. With Roald Dahl’s fondness for weird and wonderful similes, it was taking me quite some time. Funnily enough, I didn’t know much of the vocabulary used for a particularly colourful description of tearing off a scab. That kind of thing simply hadn’t come up so far…
We took a late lunch of ceviche tostadas, which were quickly becoming my favourite lunchtime snack, washed down with a cold beer. Chatting to the very nice restaurant owner in the process.
After lunch, we took a walk around the estuary area, enjoying the abundance of bird life and the colours as the sunset over the beach.
The next morning we would be taking the bus back to La Paz for a short stop there before our ferry to the mainland. We were slightly sad that our time in Baja California Sur was nearing its end, but with the rest of Mexico and indeed the rest of Latin America calling our name we were going to have to leave at some point!
Additional Photo Credits
Thanks to JBUW Photgraphy and Cabo Shark Dive for the incredible shark dive photos.