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Diving in the Sea of Cortez

The Aquarium of the World

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...Good for: Large animals, underwater photography...
...Not so good for: Wrecks, non-diving activities...

The Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, is a 700 miles (1,126 km) stretch of water sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by the Baja California peninsula. As a result, the swells of the Pacific have little effect here meaning the seas are often flat calm.

Within the sea there are thousands of islands, pinnacles and rocks around which are countless liveaboard dive sites. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions

La Vela, Angel Island - One of the first spots to dive on a northern Sea of Cortez liveaboard cruise is Angel Island. It is a great site for sea lions that may swoop and swim around you like the playful puppies of the ocean that they are. When at the surface the smell from the bird droppings that cake the rock of La Vela, meaning 'the sail', encourages a swift submersion. Show more

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How to Dive the Gulf of California

While many of the sites close to shore can be dived as day trips, liveaboards operate here and provide the best means of experiencing all that this wondrous stretch of water has to offer. For more information on the tour options, and all the travel information you might need to visit Mexico, read our section:

Depending on the liveaboard you choose, you will either board at Puerto Penasco on the Mexican mainland along northern coastline of the Sea of Cortez, or Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula.

There are not many diving safaris operating here so it is common for yours to be the only one in the area. Of course this means you can be sure of avoiding 'diver soup' even at the more popular, closer-to-shore locations where liveaboards can overnight and have you in the water before any daytrip boats arrive.

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Diving Season

July to October is the Sea of Cortez liveaboard season, although shore diving is possible year round. Temperatures can vary from site to site and are usually in the range of 70 to 82°F (21-28°C), although thermoclines can make the temperature gauge in your dive computer work hard.

Although generally a sheltered stretch of water with calm seas, the surface can become choppy especially when the wind picks up.

Whales sharks are commonly spotted throughout the year with juveniles more frequent between late September and the end of November. At this time they come to feed on the plankton blooms so do not expect great visibility. Large adults are known to show up in the spring months of April and May which is also a time that sees large schools of yellowfin tuna, and schooling scalloped hammerheads.

Sea lions are present all year round. August and September is a great time for scuba divers to play with curious juveniles. In the months prior to that you may witness the birth of this new generation. Gray whales are most commonly encountered between January and March when they seek sheltered bays to mate and give birth. Winter months are also the best time for blue whales.

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Where is the Sea of Cortez and How Do I Get There?

Review our map below of Mexico, showing the location of the Gulf of California. Here, you will find information on how to get to the Sea of Cortez.

Map of Mexico (click to enlarge in a new window)

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Reef Summary

Depth: 16 - >130ft (5 - >40m)
Visibility: 50 - 115ft (15 - 35m)
Currents: Usually mild, can be strong
Surface conditions: Usually calm but can be choppy
Water temperature: 68 - 84°F (20 - 29°C)
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: >40
Recommended length of stay: 8 days

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Useful References


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