It is a beautiful thing to be in the middle of nowhere on a very small boat with no agenda but joy. We’re in a panga (fishing boat) being chauffered to Isla Coronado off the coast of Loreto, Mexico. Looking through clear water below I see colorful fish dart through fantastic rock formations while the sharp silhouettes of frigate birds slice the sky above. There’s no sight or sound of civilization as our little boat glides into the Sea of Cortez.
Of course, these days the politically correct name for this magical sea is the Gulf of California. I suppose to free it from its disgrace by its European conquerors. But it was once commonly called the Sea of Cortez, and I agree with John Steinbeck that it’s “a better-sounding and more exciting name.”
After all, we’re here for the excitement and beauty.
Loreto, Mexico is a rare place where an inhospitable desert meets a body of water formed about 25 million years ago when two tectonic plates began separating, cracking the mountains in half, leaving a long narrow sea and a barren peninsula. The Sea of Cortez and Baja California. A world of harsh beauty.
It’s also a world of rare natural diversity. Only a few places in the world boast such an outstanding variety of marine life. In 1996, the waters and islands of Loreto Bay gained national park status. Covering roughly 800 square miles, the Bay of Loreto National Park stretches from Isla Coronado on the northern end to Isla Catalina on the southern edge. Grey whales come to the Sea of Cortez every year between January and March to mate and bear their young. Blue whales, humpbacks, sperm whales, orcas, fin whales and dolphins are also frequent visitors.
Not all the beauty lies beneath the Sea of Cortez. The landscape here is otherworldly. Gnarled cacti loom fantastically on white sandy beaches, acting as a dividing line between the shocking blue sea and a thousand colors splashed across the sheer peaks of the Sierra de la Giganta; steel gray warming to umber, ochre, and yellow. Not to mention all the colors in between whose names I’d have to make up – because there are no words. GREG