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Sea of Cortez

Playful sea lions, bull sharks and close encounters with whale sharks

The Sea of Cortez is situated along the west coast of Mexico and is one of the richest bodies of water on the planet. Also known as the Gulf of California, the clear, deep blue waters abound with sea life and are surrounded by stark desert scenery, dotted with cacti and rugged cliffs.

The Sea of Cortez is a great destination for those in search of big marine life and exciting diving. Legendary diver Jacques Cousteau once described the Sea of Cortez as the “world’s aquarium” and the “Galapagos of North America”. This is one of the best places in the world to see whale sharks, snorkel with sperm whales, dive with mantas, mobulas and hammerheads, as well as delight in the company of playful sea lions.

The Sea of Cortez enjoys fabulous weather all year round, with slight seasonal changes. Daytime temperatures are typically around 28C and water temperatures ranging between 20-25C. We therefore recommend a full 3mm or 5mm suit, depending on your preference, and to bring a fleece or a long sleeved top for the evenings, as repetitive diving, combined with cool offshore sea breezes, can make you feel a bit chilly at night.

Getting here
We have a range of great Sea of Cortez itineraries to choose from, with each trip requiring different flight routings to tie in with the liveaboard’s embarkation and disembarkation points. Further down this page you will find details of each of the itineraries, along with travel details on how to join them.

Exploring Mexico
Mexico offers world class diving on both its Pacific and Caribbean coastlines. There is something for everyone here, and at all diver levels. Visit our Mexico section for an introduction to where to go throughout this country, including Guadalupe Island, the Sea of Cortez, the Socorro Islands and the Yucatan Peninsular.

Quick Guide: Sea of Cortez

  • Location: West Mexico, Baja California
  • When to go: All year round, but Jul-Sep wettest
  • Average air temp: 23°C – 34°C (coolest January, hottest August)
  • Average water temp: 20°C – 28°C (coolest January, hottest August)
  • Recommended diver level: Good for all levels

 Liveaboard diving

Gallant Lady

Gallant Lady
The Gallant Lady is a 113 foot yacht that accommodates just 12 guests in 6 large suites. This beautiful ship combines the luxury of a Broward motor yacht with thoughtful liveaboard dive boat design, and features a main salon and dining room with wrap-around view, aft deck, dive deck, water level platform, sky lounge and even a crow’s nest. With 1700 horsepower of Caterpillar power and hydraulic stabilizers, the Lady can speed you wherever you want to go.

The Gallant Lady is available for private charters in the Sea of Cortez, as well as scheduled trips to Bahía de los Ángeles whale sharks or Cabo Pulmo marine park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cabo Pulmo Bull Sharks
The Cabo Pulmo National Park was created in 1995, after the fall of the pearl fishing industry, with full time park rangers. In 2005 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and has become famous with divers for its rich marine life and population of bull sharks. This area also has large schools of jacks, sea lions and is regularly visited by humpback whales towards the end of January. 

The 6 day itinerary will offer some of the best sites in the southern Sea of Cortez – including the Salvatierra wreck, beautiful Suwanee Reef, La Reina, Las Animas and Cerralvo Island – as well as a full day in Cabo Pulmo to dive with the bull sharks and schooling jacks.

Getting here
For trips on board the Gallant lady, to dive Cabo Pulmo, you will need to fly into San Jose del Cabo and take one night there prior to joining the liveaboard. Meeting point for these trips is at the Cabo Dive Centre, at the Tesoro Hotel, for 08.30am, ready for the drive to Cabo Pulmo to join the yacht.

Bahia De Los Angeles
Way off the beaten path, in a hidden bay in the northern Sea of Cortez, up to 220 whale sharks gather very summer. The whale sharks are amazing and the Nautilus team love nothing better than getting in the water with them.

The trip starts at 8.00am, at the Nautilus San Diego Dive Centre, and begins with a 4hr transfer across the Mexican border to San Filipe, where the Gallant Lady will be waiting for you. Once aboard, the boat will cruise south to Bahia de Los Angeles, ready for your first day with the whale sharks the next morning. The bay is home to between 85 and 220 whale sharks every summer as well as colonies of sea lions. 

An overnight cruise will take you to Isla San Pedro, where you will dive and explore the deep-water canyons. At night, the boat will launch their clear, acrylic, cylindrical squid cage, doing everything they can to get you in the water with the Humboldt squid. Divers should note; this is something new, so keep in mind that it is an adventure! Next day is more diving, then back to Bahia to swim with the whale sharks once again, before cruising back to San Filipe overnight, ready for your bus transfer back to San Diego the next day.

Getting here
For the Gallant lady Bahia de Los Angeles trips you will need to fly to San Diego and we recommend you take one night there prior to the trip. BA offer direct flights from London Heathrow to San Diego with flight time of around 9hrs. Meeting point for these trips is at the Nautilus Dive Centre for 08.00am, ready for the transfer to begin your trip.

Rocio del Mar

The Rocio del Mar liveaboard is a 27m steel vessel that accommodates a maximum of 20 guests in 10 comfortable twin or double staterooms. All have private bathrooms, with hot showers, western style toilets, windows and air conditioning.

Meals are taken in the large dining area, located in the lower forward part of the boat to minimize any sense of movement during meals. On the main deck there is a salon, with comfortable sofas, TV and a computer table. Outside there is a covered deck area with patio furniture, as well as a shaded sundeck with chairs.

At the rear of the boat is the dive deck. This offers good space whilst kitting up and includes a large camera table for preparing your equipment between dives. The dive platform makes it easy to board the two 18ft inflatables, from which all diving is done.

The Rocio del Mar offers diving in the Socorro Islands between October and May and two Sea of Cortez itineraries between July and October. You can see more information about the liveaboard on our Rocio del Mar Socorro page.

Midriff Islands 8 days
Each trip runs from Saturday to Saturday, with the boat departing from Puerto Peñasco, Mexico at around 5pm. Cruise time to the Midriff islands is around 12 hours, usually arriving by 7 next morning, ready for the first dive.

The Sea of Cortez offers diverse diving to suit all interests. There are nudibranchs, jawfish rays and guitarfish, Mexican horn sharks, frogfish and sea horses, and this is also the grounds for many species of whales that are seen frequently during the trips, including sperm whales and pilot whales. The trips also include visits to Bahia de Los Angeles, famous for its large congregations of whale sharks. 

The Midriff itinerary offers 3-4 dives per day, plus 2 night dives.

Guide price: 8 days from £2155 per person*
Includes: full board accommodation in a twin/double Standard lower deck cabin, unlimited tea, coffee, water, local beer and wine, diving and use of tanks, weights and belts.
Package excludes: International flights, transfers, National Park fees USD $28pp

*Price shown is for guide purposes only and is based on low season travel and for twin share accommodation. Please contact us for a confirmed cost based on your preferred duration and time of travel.

Getting here
The Rocio Del Mar liveaboard departs from Puerto Penasco in Mexico, a small harbour town situated at the northern tip of the Sea of Cortez. The closest international airport is Phoenix, Arizona, in the USA. Flight time to Phoenix is just 10.5hrs on British Airways non-stop service from London Heathrow. On arrival into Phoenix you will need one night’s accommodation prior to the scenic 4hr drive to Puerto Penasco, where you will embark the Rocio Del Mar liveaboard for your exciting diving in the Sea of Cortez Midriff Islands.

Explore Baja 13 days
The Rocio del Mar proudly offers their ‘Explore Baja’ trips, that explores the entire length of the Baja Pinisula. The 13 day trips travel port to port between Puerto Penasco, in the north, to San Jose del Cabo in the south, and vice versa. These unique trips are run only just three times per year and as such, they are incredibly popular. We recommend booking these 2-3 years in advance..!

The trip includes all the highlight dive areas of the Sea of Cortez, including sea lion colonies in the Midriff islands and the whale sharks of Bahia de Los Angeles. Also included are some land excursions to explore the islands.

Up to 4 dives per day are scheduled plus 4 night dives.

Getting here
For these trips we will arrange ‘open-jaw’ flights for you, arriving into either Phoenix and out of San Jose del Cabo, or vice versa, depending on where your trip begins and ends. Flights to and from San Jose del Cabo are usually via the States and there are many airlines servicing both Phoenix and San Jose del Cabo from the UK.

Mexico by region

Guadalupe
Adrenalin-fuelled cage diving with great white sharks

Socorro Islands
Schooling hammerheads, humpback whales and huge oceanic mantas

Sea of Cortez
Playful sea lions, bull sharks and close encounters with whale sharks

Yucatan Peninsular
Cenotes cave diving, reef walls of Cozumel and ancient Mayan ruins

Ready for your next adventure?

Great Escapes Diving Holidays Ltd

Westerfield Business Centre
Main Road
Westerfield
Suffolk
IP6 9AB
United Kingdom

Office hours: Mondays to Fridays 09.00am - 5.00pm
Tel: +44 (0)1473 921888
Email: info@greatescapesdiving.com

All the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLcertificate