World's Aquarium

Scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez

Declared “The World’s Aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez is a scuba diver’s ultimate candy shop.

Admiring the views before going out for my inaugural dive along Coronado Island. Spoiled to have such great weather and pristine beach.

Declared “The World’s Aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau and deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Sea of Cortez is a scuba diver’s ultimate candy shop.

Why Clint and I have not ventured out scuba diving with the Sea of Cortez a stone’s throw from our Casa del Lagarto Azul in Loreto, Baja California Sur is a mystery to me. Perhaps it has a little to do with the movie “Jaws” which have given all sharks a bad rap. Or, it may be because yours truly can swim as well as she can dribble a ball past Shaquille O’Neal.

Fortunately for us, our friend Bob and Sandy decided to visit us on this November R&R in Loreto and drag our land-loving bodies out to sea.

Initially, the plan was for Bob and Sandy to go scuba diving on a Monday, while I was preoccupied in all day conference calls and would be less than an amiable host. I suggested Clint accompany them and come back with a full report on the adventures and a recommendation of whether this is something I would enjoy.

Sara, Sea & Land Eco-Tours, points to a mural map and describes the different islands and diving spots around Loreto, Baja California Sur.

About an hour into a conversation with Sara, proprietor at Sea & Land Eco-tours, our plans changed. Sara started telling us of the adventures out in sea as she enthusiastically pointed to various points on a mural map, showing us where we were and the distance to the adjacent islands: Coronado, Carmen, Danzante, Monserrate and Catalan.

The colorful mural on the outside of the office. Tells you a little of what they do, even if you don't speak Spanish...or English!

The Jacques Cousteau in me awakened! The prospects of me tethered to a phone while my friends and partner in crime explored the teeming sea life in sapphire blue waters was too much to bear. Instead of a scuba trip out on Monday, the excursion would be pulled in by one day and happen on a Sunday. We signed up for the “Discovery Dive” which is part of the PADI designed courses. The day-long session would give us a taste of what scuba diving is all about. I think I left the scuba shop the most excited out of the four of us. Yes, I was literally jumping up and down with excitement.

The next day, we made it to the Loreto Farmer’s market early to buy our meats and vegetables before meeting our guides at the Loreto Marina. We could not have asked for a more gorgeous day, the sky was clear except for a couple of streaks of dramatic white, fluffy clouds. The water was calm. As we zoomed to Coronado Island, we munched on quesadillas and felt the cool air blow past us.

On our way to meet our scuba instructors, Juve and Sarah, at the Loreto Marina. We're running a little late since we had to pick up some fruits and vegetables at the Farmer's Market and traffic back was slow because of a street parade.

Juve is our diving instructor. It took me the entire day to finally remember how to say his name, which is pronounced Who-vAY.

It's my first time meeting Juve and he explains what we will be doing for the whole day. For Clint and I, the beginners, we will be doing a confined dive on the beaches of Coronado Island, followed by an open water dive from the boat along the rocky shores of the island. Bob and Sandy, who have completed over 50 dives each start off the day with 70 feet dives. We later hear stories of their adventures swimming with sea lions.

Juve and Sara, the owners of Sea & Land Eco-tours taking us out to Coronado Island for our first confined dive.

Quesadillas on the boat ride. Delicious!

Pretending to be Jacques Cousteau off on another adventure!

We anchor on the beaches of Coronado Island. Clint scopes out the area as we start moving the scuba equipment from the boat onto the beach. There are worst places to train for one's first dive.

The first dive Clint and I did was a confined water dive. Most times, in the San Francisco Bay Area, these are done in a pool. We were spoiled. Juve, our PADI-certified instructor, taught us about the key pieces of scuba gear and how to check if they are properly set up on the beaches of Coronado Island.

The air tank, which is usually made of aluminum, holds about 3000 psi of air. When full, there should be a cap on the tank. The first thing to do is to make sure the tank nozzle is pointing away from you and you are standing behind the tank which should be on stable ground, here the beach sands kept the tank upright and snug. Juve makes sure to describe a couple of horror stories about people who have placed their thumbs on the opening of the tank. Not a good idea when you turn on the air nozzle and 3000 psi compressed air comes rushing out. He shows us the proper way to test to make sure the air is: compressed, clean and dry.

Incredible cloud formations. In the foreground, we place the scuba equipment on a beach towel. The is to keep the sand from the equipments, especially the breathing receptical. Breathing down particles of sand would not be fun.

Juve goes over the safe handling of an air tank and also how to check to make sure the air is "clean, compressed and dry" using ones senses. The example he uses to emphasize why one should never put a thumb on the air hole of a scuba tank is vivid.

Something about a skin tight scuba outfit and the pristine beaches and waters of Coronado Island inspired me to pose in strange super hero characters. Not sure who I am here. Probably trying to be a cross between Charlie's Angels and Wonder woman.

We also learned about how to read the markings on the tank to make sure it has been certified within the last 5 years, how to clear the water from your goggles under water and how to grab your BCB air regulator should you loose it underwater.

Then, we donned on our scuba outfits and this is where I couldn’t help but strike a couple of wacky super-hero moves in our outfits. Looking for an alternative to Spanx? Look no further than your nearest scuba wet suit.

Ready to enter the water. The tank is extremely heavy so we were looking forward to entering into the water so the buoyancy sea could lessen the burden on our backs.

Coming out of the water after a 45 minute confined water dive. Turns out my 3000 PSI of air was now at 1,750 whereas Clint's was down to 900. Men do need more air than women on average.

After our confined swim, we were ready for an open water dive from a boat. More to come on this in a later entry, including video. For now, I just want to report that we went to a depth of about 27 feet on our second dive. Not bad for someone who is squeamish about swimming.

Incredible views. Love arriving to Coronado Island and there is no one else there. The luxury of a private beach. Great place to catch some sun and snack on some more quesadillas before dive number 2 off of the boat into open waters.

Heading home after a day long scuba adventure. Scuba diving, I've concluded is like hiking under water. Incredible terrain and wild life.

Last look back at the marina.

We head back to Sky and Land Eco-tours in Loreto to get our dive records updated and to find out the process we need to go through should we decide to become PADI open water diver certified.

Sea and Land Eco-Tours - Loreto, Baja California Sur

Sara is a little camera shy here. To be fair, we just spent a whole day out in the waters, wind blown hair. Plus, she hasn't acclaimated to Clint's trigger-happy ways.

The whole diving trip was incredibly fun. Beyond all the physical techniques you learn, what I discovered is that a lot of scuba diving is making sure you stay mentally calm. Humans, without compressed air tanks, are not meant to be in the sea at 30 feet depths. Because of this, I found I had to consciously stay calm and fight the biological urge to panic and go back to the surface of the water. I did that my channeling my inner mermaid…and a couple of zen moments from Yoga classes.

A few days later, it was my birthday. To celebrate, I decided to sign up for the PADI open water diver certification course. I’ll start the classroom portion the next time I return to Loreto. For now, I have the student kit and can start reading the manual.

Yes, Clint and I are on another adventure thanks to our friends Bob and Sandy, and our delightful instructors, Juve and Sara.

“If we were logical, the future would be bleak, indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope, and we can work.” Jacques Cousteau

Dare to live a little. Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 8,300 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on the Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Subscribe to Stark Insider TV on YouTube, the largest (and quirkiest!) arts & entertainment and food/wine channel in San Francisco.
Loni Stark
Loni Stark is a self-professed foodie, adventure travel seeker and passionate about technology’s impact on business and creativity. She's also the host of Stark Insider TV. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite. As director, product and industry marketing at Adobe, Loni oversees global product positioning, and go-to-market strategy and operations for Adobe’s web experience management business. Loni's story...