I am a fish diver. Some divers like wrecks, some like to take photographs, and still others just cruise to see what they can find. But, me, I am definitely a fish diver. Dale knows that if I happen to disappear, it’s because I became engulfed in a school of fish. I love to be with them, to swim with them to immerse myself in the full experience of being a fish. I thought I had experienced what is was to be engulfed in a school of fish—that is until I dived the Salvatierra wreck off La Paz, Baja California Mexico.
I found so many fish that I couldn’t concentrate on the photos we were supposed to take. Which school should I swim with; which direction should I head? Should I go inside the wreck, outside, up the mast or behind the props? Dale finally took the lead and led me to one area adjacent to a still intact room of the once enormous ship. The visibility was easy over 100 feet, probably the best I have ever seen, including many dives in the Caribbean. The huge expanse of visibility didn’t help with the photos as I literally had to wave my hand between the camera lens and my position to get the schools of fish to move out of the way. I giggled into my regulator at the absurdity of my cursing at the fish that were “ruining” the photos we were trying to take.
On another day my fish quest took me to shallow waters with much less visibility, but I wasn’t discouraged. This was just about my favorite dive of the trip. I dived with whale sharks! Or more accurately, I snorkeled with whale sharks. The dive operation of Club Cantamar sends up a spotter plane and directs the boats where to drop the snorkelers into the water. This was so incredibly exhilarating. The operation was very precise and we jumped into the water and let these large graceful fish swim right past us. I swam after them a few times, but learned the trick of letting the boat do the work and enjoyed the experience of a lifetime.
The dive operation was very in tune to the needs of their divers and did a very good job of mixing it up. We dived wrecks, big fish, sea lions, fish reefs and wrecks again.
I really enjoy wrecks. You get a varied bottom profile, large schools of fish and with an active imagination you can experience a story told underwater. The second wreck of this trip was the Fang Ming or the “Chinese wreck.” It is very large and really interesting to dive, but I found it eerie to be on. Sometimes my mind runs crazy and I start to imagine silly things. As I posed for pictures and penetrated this very large wreck, somewhere in the back of my mind I felt I was diving on a haunted wreck. Who knows what had taken place aboard this ship when in use. After all, this wreck was used to transport hundreds of illegal Chinese immigrants. It was confiscated by the Mexican government, then cleaned and prepared to be used as an artificial reef. It is still completely intact with safe rooms and passages to penetrate. Large hatchways have been removed to allow ambient light in. The consistent visibility, close to 80 feet this day, and the schools of fish that have moved into this relatively new reef make it a joy to dive.
One dive site I have to mention just bowled me over. Just eight minutes from the boat dock, we pulled up to a non-descript rock with a navigation light tower. This was an “off-gas” dive at the end of the day. The fish life, coral, rock formations made me want to spend the next few days here instead of anywhere else.
Every dive location left me wanting more and gave me a thrilling vacation. This is one place I have to return to!
Special thanks to the dive resort Club Cantamar for making this week of diving one of the most memorable trips we have taken in a long time. The all-inclusive club sits to the east of La Paz, closer to the dive sites and allowing for boat travel time to be relatively short.