Getting there …
Well, so starting off this vacation did not quite go as planned. Already 40 minutes late for takeoff, our plane decided to turn around at the border to Mexico because the conditions to land supposedly were too bad at all 3 alternates and they hadn’t taken on enough fuel for the windy conditions. So, hello Houston. Never mind that this airport was 1 hour in the wrong direction. Whatever happened to planning a flight beforehand? In all, an additional 3 hours delay. I won’t bore you with the details. On the bright side, both (!) my suitcases unexpectedly arrived in Mexico City. Alright, so they were the last ones on the belt and i was utterly exhausted by the time I got to my hotel, but i suppose those are first world problems.
Mexico City and Teotihuacan:
I did not spend a lot of time in Mexico City, but luckily, it was enough to visit the famous Mayan site Teotihuacan – very impressive, the dimensions are just enormous. I had a great guide who pointed out a ton of things I would certainly have missed otherwise. For instance that they used obsidian stones to be able to look at the sun and note its exact position, or that they had a canalization system in place, or where the human offerings were found and that their number coincided with the days of their calendar, the orientation of the temples and the significance of some of their symbols. Not unlike the old greeks they had several mythical, sacred chimera like the feathered serpent, the jaguar-snake and so on.
In the afternoon I headed out to explore some of the old city, the centro historico. I confess that jetlag, the heat and the sheer mass of people combined to cut my visit rather short. Nevertheless I managed to see the cathedral, la plaza del Zócalo, el palacio de las bellas artes and the house of tiles.
Onward to Cabo my flight also had a delay of more than one hour and took 30 mintues longer than what was indicated on the booking. But the best laid plans have plenty of reserves and so I still made it in time to board the Nautilus UnderSea. If my luggage hadn’t arrived with that flight I would truly have been fucked.
This time around (my third time – can you believe it?), conditions were pretty windy and visibility was quite low for the first couple of days, so not great for photography. We did see a couple of mantas, sharks, dolphins… but in general rather short encounters. Braving the suboptimal conditions was rewarded by excellent diving at the boiler with 2 mantas circling around us during most of 2 dives and mantas on all other dives there as well. Must have been some of the best dives I have had so far.
One of the divemasters was very helpful with fixing my drysuit that had somehow acquired 3 holes plus a leaky valve in between my last dive on home soil and its arrival in Mexico. It took a couple of tries to remain relatively dry. Reminder to self: always bring spare parts to fix potential leaks. Do not assume that just because you were fine the last 4 times you are going to be fine this time.
The crossing back was rather rough with 3-4m waves. I decided to stay in the horizontal to avoid feeding the fish
After a comfortable transfer to La Paz, I arrived at the hotel Posada de las Flores, a very pretty, cozy boutique hotel directly at the Malecon with traditional decor and a homey atmosphere.
As I was travelling in the low season and la Paz was mostly deserted, it took me a couple of tries (well, 3 to be exact) to find a dive center that was actually going out to dive. I finally settled on the Cortez Club. Service was great, they offered to pick me up from the hotel and you could choose the lunch you wanted the day before. Divemasters and captains all very friendly, helpful and professional.
I absolutely loved diving with the sea lions at los Islotes, in the north of the Espiritu Santo national park. The visibility could have been a bit better but the sea lions are just so much fun to dive with. Especially the pups – showing off, biting fins, stealing hoods – just amazing. On the 1,5 hour boat ride to the colony we often saw dolphins, humpback whales and jumping mobula rays in front of the spectacular island landscape.
The sea lion colony at los Islotes is situated on two small rocky islands and comprises more than 800 animals. Their home is beautiful with lots of light falling in between shallow rocks that are dotted with coral and surrounded by schools of colorful fish. The adults don’t hunt near the colony, probably to leave the fish for their young to learn how to hunt.
The mature bulls can be quite territorial and will get in your face if you get too close for their taste. Especially this close to the mating season. Massive in size, 400-500 kilos, agile and sometimes aggressive. Definitely not advisable to get in their way. On the other hand, while I’ve had a massive bull tell me in no uncertain terms that I was not to get closer on one dive, the next day he was totally relaxed and allowed me to approach his harem. So just like in humans, their mood seems to depend on the day. The juvenile males have a slightly lighter fur color and are still extremely playful despite their already considerable size. They will spend a lot of their time playing with both pups and divers.
While the males are certainly impressive in size, their manner is sedate in comparison to the pups. It is just awesome when sea lion pups come to harass you and play with you. They will swim in circles around you, getting on your back, holding you or your camera with their flippers while trying to bite at your suit, your dive gear, your regulator, your camera, your limbs and your fins – in short everything they can reach. Sometimes you can even rub their belly a bit. They are just amazing – so full of energy. They do remind me of puppies, so the Spanish name lobo marino (marine wolf) is actually quite fitting.
The moms will mostly look on, enjoying their sunbath at the surface, with the pups going to them for reassurance. From time to time, the moms will join in the games and it looks like they’re having just as much fun as their pups.
I really enjoyed being in La Paz during the low season. It may be harder to find a dive center, but often being the only guest on the boat and having very few other boats around makes everything far less crowded and it becomes even easier to relax and enjoy the diving. The only drawback is the lower visibility but as long as you can see the sea lions I’m all down for it.
La Paz with sea lions …
La Paz above water:
… and Socorro in low visibility conditions: