The Finest Reef in Mexican Waters
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Cabo Pulmo National Park is located just 60 miles north of Los Cabos.
This jewel of the East Cape region of Baja California Sur stretches five miles from the northernmost tip, Pulmo Point, to the southernmost tip, Los Frailes. Surrounded by undeveloped desert and a stunning mountain range, the pristine beaches of Cabo Pulmo Park give way to a shallow bay that cradles one of the three living reefs (and the only hard coral reef) in all of North America.
For many years, this precious place was unprotected, but through the tenacious efforts of the Cabo Pulmo community, in 1995 it was finally designated a National Marine Park by the Mexican government. Over the past 10 years, the park has endured pressures from commercial fishing and abuse from irresponsible visitors. Additionally, in a region where the locals live on the seafood they catch by hand, enforcing a ban on fishing presents a real challenge.
However, both Mexican and American residents are committed to protecting the marine environment and promoting sustainable fishing practices.
The reef, estimated to be 20,000 years old, is the northernmost coral reef in the eastern Pacific. The reef has a number of fingers of hard coral occurring in progressively deeper water offshore.
Cabo Pulmo is a magnet for serious divers, kayakers, and windsurfers, and remains one of southern Baja's natural treasures. Once in the water you will find that the reefs are full of hard corals and sea fans, creating an amazing habitat for lobsters, octopuses, rays and small fish. During some seasons thousands of mobula rays congregate inside the park and swim above the reef clearly visible to all. Scientists have been combining efforts to monitor the Gulf of California's rocky reefs every year for more than a decade, sampling more than 30 islands and peninsula locations along Baja California, stretching from Puerto Refugio on the northern tip of Angel de la Guarda to Cabo San Lucas and Cabo Pulmo south of the Bahia de La Paz. In the ten years studied, the researchers found that Cabo Pulmo's fish species richness blossomed into a biodiversity "hot spot." Animals such as tiger sharks, bull sharks and black tip reef sharks increased significantly. Scientists continue to find evidence that such top predators keep coral reefs healthy. Other large fish at Cabo Pulmo include gulf groupers, dog snappers and leopard groupers.
Onshore you can wander around the small pueblo of mixed locals, American ex-pats and vacation bungalows and stop for lunch in one of the beach bars. Power comes from solar panels, and drinking water has to be trucked in over dirt roads. Shaded restaurants, such as Tito's Bar next to Pepe's Dive Center, serve fabulous fish tacos and cold drinks, and the temptation to linger for days is nearly overwhelming.
A visit will not disappoint!
The Decree: June 6, 1995 the reef system was declared as natural area protected under the category of national marine park, was changed to National Park, through secretarial agreement published in the Official Journal of the Federation (DOF) on June 7th 2000 in accordance with the General Law of ecological balance and protection to the environment (LGEEPA); points out, among other things: "that the Cabo Pulmo reef is one of the few reef areas in the Eastern Pacific and the only one in the Gulf of California... which confers not only regional and national, but also international significance... "That given the antiquity of the reef, it might be the oldest reef of the American Pacific, existing paleontological remains of the reef fauna like in the Bay of Cabo Pulmo, where there is a marine terrace of the late Pleistocene… That there is an adverse pressure on the resources of the reef because of the developed activities in that area, such as commercial and sports, fishing sport diving and tourism in general; which has generated a process of deterioration in the reef by the sacking of coral, fish and mollusks...
From the Studies and evaluations have been finished so far, it has been proved that it is required to preserve the natural environment of Cabo Pulmo, in order to ensure balance and continuity of their ecological processes. The National Park is part of the Patrimony of the Humanity of UNESCO from 2005 and joins RAMSAR in 2008.
The Park went through a small colony of fishermen to one of the main conservation tourist centers, thanks to the vision and perseverance of the Castro family, in the first instance who got the attention and the Decree of 1995.
Currently and according to the management program which was concluded in 2009 by the National Commission of natural protected areas on the National Park, has high demand of water sports lovers and underwater research. It has tourist infrastructure of low density, thinking about in their conservation and load capacity that does not mean severe damage to the environment. Activities like diving, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing and mountain biking are practiced in the area, where it boasts hotels, bungalows, cabins and camp areas, governed under a simple regulation and a fee set by the General Law of rights and some from private businesses.
Currently and despite protests and arguments submitted to the respective authorities in the three levels, the risk Cape Cortés gets involved in a mega-project of Spanish investment, which boasts close to 28 thousand rooms (houses, condominiums, shared time and hotels), golf courses and marina adjacent to the reef, hasn't stopped to be concern of friends and strangers, with the presence of UNESCO and international NGOs.
To get to Cabo Pulmo, there are two ways: once reached the peninsula; from La Paz, it is suggested the transpeninsular highway route that passes by the communities of San Pedro, El Triunfo, San Antonio, San Bartolo, Los Barriles and Buenavista and take the deviation to the Ribera, from there, follow the signs pointing you to the heart of the Park. From Cabo San Lucas or San José del Cabo, you can take the transpeninsular Road heading northeast to the deviation to La Ribera, approximately 45 minutes from the international airport, either take the road (dirt) coast, where the view is unique, however given the growth of tourism development, access to the beaches are every day more complicated which is frustrating for the lovers of the nature. Take this route in San Jose del Cabo, turning to one side of the village of La Playa and bordering the Puerto Los Cabos development. The dirt road is slow and can take up to a couple of hours, without considering stops to take pictures or simply admire scenery, stretch legs and other natural needs. In any case, it is suggested; required!: Don´t kill anything that lives in there; Don't cut any plants; don't throw any garbage. The only thing you can leave will be your footprints and what you take away will be your memories.
Don't leave anything you bring with you… Pack your trash!