Southern Baja Yachting – The Ultimate “Social Distance” Heaven
Written by Rebecca Ehrenberg, Pisces Sportfishing and Yachts
Photos Courtesy of Pisces Sportfishing and Yachts
This year has brought quite a few twists and turns and with the surprise of the COVID- 19 Pandemic, we’ve all been in isolation for at least a month, no matter where you are in the world. Many have been left looking back to better days, or regretting the loss of their vacation plans, but more and more people are looking to the future with even grander travel plans. Because it’s times like these that really get you thinking and appreciating life. I think the world collectively has stopped to see how big our need for the outside natural world is to us. When every man made thing or place or social interaction is taken away, it is nature that can bring us joy and life and peace.
There is no place in the world, in my opinion, that can bring you back to your roots, renew and revive you more than Baja and the Sea of Cortez. There is something about this terrain, described by John Steinbeck as “ferocious with life” that simply touches your core.
And as we come to terms with the realization that this Pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world and the future of how we do day to day life and plan our time off, life at sea has never had more appeal. Exclusive yacht charters or fishing ventures are an incredible way to enjoy nature while still maintaining social distance. And Baja Sur, the least inhabited state in all of Mexico, with a density of only 10 inhabitants for every half a mile (compared to 64 people per half mile at the national level) is a truly unique destination in times like these.
Yachts or fishing vessels are hygienic, self-contained and controlled environments that can offer extremely limited contact with other people. On a luxury liveaboard charter on a yacht, your contact will be limited to the crew only, many of which live onboard the yacht itself and therefore have limited contact with the “outside” world. And in a destination like Baja where the itinerary consists mainly of visiting un-inhabited islands or fishing in the open ocean, it has an advantage over other more populated, typical boating destinations like the Caribbean, France, Italy, the East Coast of the USA or even other areas in Mexico.
Not only this, but liveaboard yacht charters in the Sea of Cortez and/or on the Pacific for specialized fishing charters, are more economical than in other areas of the world. Plus, you have the added value of having three international airports close to many of the favorite cruising areas: San José del Cabo, La Paz and Loreto. You could depart Los Angeles and be onboard your private yacht or fishing vessel within 2 hours or so!
Some of the best boating destinations for the tip of the Baja Peninsula include Cabo San Lucas of course, which although more popular, still has quite a few hidden gems to discover. And if time or budget is a factor, a charter based out of Cabo may just be the perfect fit. The famous Cabo Arch is a must see; the Pacific Ocean, just minutes away is one of the best fishing grounds in the world and offers some of the most spectacular sunsets. Nearby beaches like Santa María and Chileno offer amazing snorkeling, and even if only onboard for one night, the option of sleeping under the stars and seeing the city lights at Médano Bay is a wonder in itself.
For those travelers with more time on their hands, a visit a few hours up the Coast leads you to Cabo Pulmo, an UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park. Amazing snorkeling and scuba diving or even fishing outside the park near Los Frailes are all must do’s.
Just 2 hours North of Cabo by car is the capital city of Southern Baja, La Paz, which has a laid- back atmosphere and still holds some of that old Baja charm. The beaches nearby are some of the most beautiful in the world (take Balandra for example). The Islands of Espiritu Santo and Partida have crystal clear, turquoise waters and white sand beaches. The diversity of marine and bird life here is unparalleled.
Then there is Isla San Francisco or “Hook Island”, a small charming land with a few natural salt flats. Just “next door” is Isla San José, which has a complex mangrove system that is enchanting to explore via kayak, stand up paddle board or snorkeling. If you venture even further up the coast, less than a hundred miles South of Loreto, you will find beautiful areas like Agua Verde, on the mainland of the Baja, which means “green water” (and wow does it live up to its namesake). Some of the most popular Islands in-between there and Loreto include Carmen Island, Santa Catalina Island, Danzante Island or “Honeymoon Cove” and Coronado Island. Each is unique and incomparable to the other. Danzante is made of volcanic rock and has many endemic bird species. The beautiful texture and color of its terrain set across the backdrop of the Sierra La Giganta mountain range makes for some of the most amazing sunrises and sunsets ever; with the land seemingly changing colors along with the sun. The rarely- visited island of Santa Catalina has giant biznaga cactus which are not found anywhere else in the world. Some have grown up to 3 meters tall! Not only this, but this is the home of the “rattleless rattle snake”, yes thats a thing (this may be one of the reasons it’s so rarely visited of course). Coronado Island is closest to Loreto and boasts white sand, sea lions and other abundant marine life.
For the fishermen at heart, any of these areas (of course those not protected or national marine parks) are great for fishing or even trolling along the way between each destination. The waters of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific along from Cabo San Lucas, are some of the richest in the world for prized big-game fish. Incredibly diverse species are caught here: Marlin, Sailfish, Wahoo, Dorado, Yellowfin Tuna and others like Roosterfish, Yellowtail, Sierra Mackerel or Snapper. World record fish have been landed in these waters, for example the world record Yellowfin Tuna caught in 2012, which weighed in at 427 pounds. A few years earlier, the all-tackle world record Wahoo was landed by a female angler in Cabo as well, weighing in at 184 pounds! Both records are yet to be shattered.
And for those that are informed on Cabo’s history, you will know that the city only had its beginnings about 50 years ago, with fishing at its core. The once sleepy village has grown and transformed since then, but the impact of the ocean and nature surrounding it has not diminished. Cabo locals are proud to support “catch and release” of Marlin and other Billfish, and are considered pioneers in Mexico for their conservation efforts. Pisces Sportfishing and Yachts for example, a fishing and yachting fleet based in Cabo going on 43 years now, provides all of their anglers with tags. These tags can be placed on their released Billfish and tracked online for scientific studies and conservation efforts; all while promoting safe-handling and in-water releases of the fish.
Fishermen are moving more each day towards releasing fish like the Striped Marlin that so abound in this area. Recently the fishing world has been turned upside down with the discovery of the explosively productive area of the Finger Bank (only 51 nautical miles North from Cabo on the Pacific) and Magdalena Bay, about 6 hours north by car. Marlin releases have numbered in the hundreds for one boat over the span of only a few days.
These liveaboard fishing ventures are somewhat new to the boating scene here in Baja but are quickly becoming some of the most popular and sought after experiences in the world. The Baja yachting experience is also, truly, bar-none. And just think, with COVID-19 keeping us all at home, and the marine life undisturbed, can you imagine what will await us once we’re back on the water again?
Whether it is to cruise or to fish, or both, it is increasingly clear that finding our way back to ourselves and acknowledging what is most important is one of the biggest blessings and takeaways from this life-changing moment in time. When every man made thing or place or social interaction is taken away, it is nature that can bring us joy and life and peace.