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Snorkeling in La Ventana

The Baja Peninsula is a magical place. What makes it even more phenomenal is the marine life of the Gulf of California. Also called the Sea of Cortez, it was nicknamed the “world’s aquarium” by explorer Jacques Cousteau for its unique marine environment and astounding amount of sea life.  On our recent Baja adventure, we knew we wanted to experience this underwater world. One of the snorkeling hotspots that was a local recommendation was the town of La Ventana.  While this coastal town on the East Cape has earned a reputation as one of the best places in the world for wind sports and many visitors come to kiteboard, windsurf and wing, snorkeling in La Ventana is equally enchanting.  This captivating area is just over 2 hours from the crowds of Cabo, and offers a unique opportunity to explore underwater through snorkeling and diving trips.  The reefs in this area are teeming with activity, and snorkeling and diving trips provide an up-close view into the intricate ecosystem beneath the surface.

Our La Ventana Snorkeling Tour

I chose the 5-star rated Baja Wild Encounters for my La Ventana snorkeling trip – a 6-hour snorkeling trip aboard a new panga boat, with many stops for snorkeling plus snorkeling gear and lunch for $160 (may fluctuate with exchange rate).  Baja Wild Encounters turned out to be a very wise choice.

I joined 6 other excited visitors at the La Ventana boat ramp bright and early and met our guide Jamie, a British expatriate who started Baja Wild Encounters and employs local commercial fishermen for his trips across Baja with the goal of helping them transition to tourism rather than overfishing and/or shark finning (still sadly legal in Mexico).  Jamie talked about the benefits of tourism income to the locals and the positive impact it has on reducing overfishing.  He leads snorkeling tours, scuba diving trips and whale watching trips throughout Baja, mostly in La Ventana in the winter.  His captain Lorenzo’s boat looked brand new and was the nicest I saw of the boats that day – it had a shade, dry compartments, etc.  Jamie provided snorkeling gear and catered lunch, but we provided our own wetsuits (easy to rent from Playa Central right in La Ventana).

Jamie’s passion for wildlife and Baja is obvious and he is a wealth of information, a self-taught guide who was able to answer all of our questions about the flora and fauna of the Gulf of California.  The consensus from the group was that whale sightings were in high demand, so we set off in search of sea life.  We didn’t have to wait long – within minutes we were surrounded by huge schools of mobula rays (sometimes referred to as “flying rays”) jumping many feet out of the water and belly flopping back down.  Researchers still aren’t sure why they do this, but one common thought is to fling off parasites.  We slowly lowered ourselves into the water but the mobulas took note and swam away.

As we headed out to explore other areas, Lorenzo received a call from some fisherman who had spotted orcas in the bay – a rare treat in this area.  Orcas are full-time residents in the Sea of Cortez but aren’t seen often.  The area isn’t a protected marine park like Cabo Pulmo so snorkeling with dolphins (which orcas are considered) is not restricted.  Whales must be observed from the boat though – no snorkeling with them, unless they happen to visit while you are already in the water.

Seeing the pod of orcas crest the surface of the water was truly incredible – there were 8 or 9 females and even a baby orca with the pod.  Once Jamie told us that orcas have never harmed a human outside of captivity, my anxiety waned a bit and we gently lowered ourselves into the water, donned our masks and snorkels and took in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.  We soon realized they were feeding on the huge schools of mobulas and could not care less about our presence.  We heard their excited noises as they hunted, and watched the group circle the mobula and dive into the center to pluck one away, swimming off gleefully with mobula in mouth.  After a few minutes of our in-real-life National Geographic experience we climbed back on the boat to let them eat in peace.

As we made our way back to shore, we marveled at an impressive pod of hundreds of common dolphins perfectly synchronized as they leapt across the waves.

The 6-hour adventure included enough experiences for 6 years – definitely a 5-star adventure.

Getting to La Ventana

La Ventana is a little over 2 hour’s drive from San Jose del Cabo airport (146 km) on a good, paved road.  The best option is to rent a car from the airport for the drive.  There are also shuttles you can book to get to La Ventana.  The town is larger than Cabo Pulmo (which has equally amazing snorkeling adventures) and has a good selection of accommodations ranging from bungalows to hotels, and a variety of restaurants, bars, shops and outdoor adventure providers.  La Ventana offers a wide variety of outdoor activities – from wind sports to mountain biking to snorkeling and scuba diving.  It is a delightful destination for those seeking adventure away from the crowds in Baja.

Snorkeling Dos and Don’ts

  • Do observe marine life from a distance, without getting too close
  • Do bring a reusable water bottle – there’s too much plastic in our oceans already!
  • Do follow Leave No Trace principles
  • Do look for tour operators that promote Leave No Trace by not providing plastic water bottles, respecting wildlife, and not allowing participants to touch, feed or chase
  • Do check out our Snorkeling for Beginners article to learn more!
  • Don’t ever feed any wildlife or marine life – human food is not good for them, plus they may become dependent on humans and not find food themselves
  • Don’t ever touch any wildlife or marine life – they are very sensitive and a human touch is not only terrifying but could make them sick or even kill them
  • Don’t touch coral – it’s very sensitive and it can cause irreparable harm
  • Don’t ever chase a wild animal or sea life, if they swim away please let them be

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