At Home in The Sea of Cortez
Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the Aquarium of the World, while writer John Steinbeck used the “ferocious with life” sea as the setting for many of his stories. For those who visit La Paz, the Sea of Cortez and Isla Espirtu Santo are a not to be missed experience.
The Nature Conservancy promotes The Sea of Cortez as a global conservation priority, with 31 species of marine mammals, 500 species of fish and 4,848 known species of marine macro-invertebrates and 626 forms of macroalgae. It is the breeding grounds for colonies of sea lions and several types of turtles, many exclusive to the area. In January of 2003, the Mexican government acquired the Isla Espiritu Santo, a 23,383-acre island that invites exploration and discovery.
Isla Espiritu Santo is part of a federally decreed Flora and Fauna Protection Area and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve. Located directly north of the Bay of La Paz, running north-to-south for 20 miles, two islands are separated by an isthmus that is revealed as the water recedes. Together the islands are arguably the most popular island play ground in the Baja.
The unique marine life has created a thriving ecosystem; smaller microorganisms attract the diverse small fish, which then attract larger gamefish, which support the active yet respectful fishing pastime. Between the waters themselves and the hundreds of islands within, the Sea of Cortez and nearby lagoon Magdalena Bay are active home, birthing, and nesting sites for a large number of marine mammals, birds, and fish, some of which you can only find here. Blue Whales, Humpback Whales, California Gray Whales, Orcas, Manta Ray, and Leatherback Sea Turtles migrate annually to the area, and it’s not unlikely to spot a Vaquina Porpoise speeding alongside your boat or kayak!
The Baja Desert Comes to Life
While in one direction is the enchanting Sea of Cortez, in the other lies an expanse of reds, oranges, browns, and greens of the Baja peninsula. Naturalists from around the world are attracted to the area’s sheer diversity; desert flora and fauna, mangrove estuaries, and the coastal shorelines make up the intriguing terrain. The area provides nesting sites and migratory habitat for about 210 bird species (both terrestrial and marine) ad a number of endemic species, including the world's largest cactus, blacktailed jack rabbit, ground squirrel and a variety of reptiles. Valleys covered in the thousands of desert plant varieties lead to ravines and streambeds, the site of primitive cave and gorge paintings and carvings. You might see California Sea Lions sunning on the offshore rocks, or venture through the expansive arroyo canyon while frigates, seagulls, and pelicans soar above and a roadrunner speeds by. The unique alluvial plains, dramatic cliffs, and waterside wonders make Azul de Cortez and the Baja peninsula a flourishing tropical ecosystem.