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Neil Folsom: Diving in Baja: An Interview with Neil Folsom, Expedition Leader

Trey Byus and Elisa Behnk

Neil Folsom: Diving in Baja: An Interview with Neil Folsom, Expedition Leader

Trey Byus and Elisa Behnk

What makes Baja such a hot diving destination?

The quantity and quality of life here is awesome. I have had over 40 dives here and every one has been different. In Baja, it is attention to the small details that will reward you – such as watching Cortez wrasse clean a damselfish over a small coral outcropping with sea stars perched nearby.

One of the most consistent dives in Baja California is Pelican Rock. The horizontal distance you travel is very short, but depths go from 20 feet to deeper than you ever want to go, very quickly. Los Islotes, El Bajo and Cabo San Lucas also provide unique environments for diving. The sea lions of Los Islotes are curious, playful and acrobatic, moving with great elegance. Sometimes they are so comic that it’s hard to keep the regulator in your mouth, you just want to laugh out loud. And when conditions are right, a trip out to the El Bajo Seamount can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for advanced divers. The diving in Cabo San Lucas is also superb. The abundance of fish life and corals is visually stunning, the sand falls at Pelican Rock are unique, and the backdrop is awe-inspiring.

What are the most important issues about diving in Baja?

To have fun! The diving is not particularly difficult in Baja, though you certainly need to have some experience. But, generally speaking, the currents are not too strong, the depths are not too great and visibility is usually quite good. No worries!

What has been your most exciting or extraordinary diving experience to date?

By far the most “fun” dive I’ve had in Baja California is with the sea lions of Los Islotes. These engaging marine mammals seem to be magnetically attracted to divers, maybe it’s the bubbles – they usually blows bubbles at each other when they play. I remember one curious individual who seemed utterly fascinated by bubbles coming from my regulator. After we had stared at each other, eye-to-eye from a distance of ten inches for about three minutes, the sea lion gently took the regulator from my mouth. This at 60 feet! As the sea lion did not seem inclined to return the regulator, I switched to my second regulator, but this time I held on to it with my hand. I guess I had intruded into his home and this was his way of reminding me!

Another memorable dive was in February, during my first dive here of the season. We were in the midst of hundreds of large, beautifully pulsating pelagic jellyfish, which I had never seen in eleven years of dining here. They did not appear to be of the stinging variety, but their beauty certainly became the highlight of the dive. Six years ago I was enjoying watching the life at another site when in a blink it all changed. All the fish disappeared in a flash as a school of at least a thousand jacks came in on a foraging run. The whole thing was over in less than 20 seconds, but it took at least five minutes before the reef fish started coming out of the crevasses where they had taken refuge.

*This article was published by Lindblad Expeditions, Inc. in the Summer/Fall 2001 newsletter.