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Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

In cooperation with: Visit Mexico
Santa Rosa Beach...
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Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

I am sad to report that during my last trip to Cabo Pulmo in April, I had some negative interactions with marine park guards that makes me not want to go back. I say sad, because I just love this place with its low-key, uncrowded ambience and good snorkeling right off the beach at Playa Arbolito, Playa Sirena, and Los Frailes Bay. I am a very avid snorkeler, and the main reason I went to Cabo Pulmo was to snorkel and take underwater photos. I had a great time in 2009, and went back in April 2011. Towards the end of this year's trip (luckily it was after I had been there several days), I was snorkeling with a weight belt at Playa Sirena when park guards snuck up on me with a boat. They told me that it was illegal to snorkel in the marine park with a weight belt, and moreover, it was illegal as a snorkeler to dive below the water's surface unless you paid a guide to accompany you! I've been snorkeling in many places in both the Atlantic and the Pacific for many years and I have never encountered such absurd regulations. If you are a serious snorkeler, what snorkeling is all about is diving below the surface to examine things at close proximity. Also, diving down is the only way to get decent underwater photos, which is my main hobby when I take a tropical vacation. These regulations against diving below the surface were not posted anywhere on park signs or brochures. I guess the ostensible reason for these regulations was to protect coral, but most snorkelers know not to touch coral; signs were posted in several spots on the beaches in Cabo Pulmo informing you not to touch coral or take marine life. In addition, this area is remote and gets little use and does not really have that much coral cover anyway in snorkeling depths. What it comes down to is that Mexico does not really understand the concept of a park and is only interested in ensuring that Mexican commercial enterprises that use the park are taken care of. This is very short-sighted on the part of Mexico because I was spending 100s of dollars/pesos staying in Cabo Pulmo accommodations and eating in local restaurants, renting a car at the Cabo airport, etc. Cabo Pulmo has now lost me as a future paying customer.

After this first encounter with the park guards, I did not learn my lesson because I thought I could get away with diving beneath the surface a couple of days later in a more remote spot off Playa Arbolito. After all, snorkeling was the main reason I was at Cabo Pulmo and floating at the surface on a tour with a bunch of non-swimming cruise ship passengers wearing life vests is not my idea of snorkeling. Despite my remote snorkeling location, the guards snuck up on me again, and told me that if they caught me beneath the surface again, they would send me to the Mexican Marines! Imagine, me a 58-yr old who loves marine life and is the straightest guy in the world being sent to the Mexican marines. Needless to say, I did not go snorkeling again.

I spoke with a couple of local gringos who own houses at Cabo Pulmo, and they were quite upset with what happened to me. It was gringos who had pushed so hard to get Cabo Pulmo declared a marine park. Both of the guys I talked to were experienced snorkelers who frequently dove beneath the surface. One of the things they mentioned was that it was Easter week (Semana Santa in Spanish) which is the only time of the year that Mexicans flock to the beaches around Cabo Pulmo. Perhaps the guards were putting on a show of force during this week and at other times of the year they are not around or are not so aggressive.

Finally, my particular "incident" reminds me of what I heard a few years ago about another fairly new Mexican National Park in Baja that was established around the Sea of Cortez islands off Loreto. These islands were very popular with kayakers, and gringo kayakers were instrumental in the establisment of the park. However, after the islands became a park, kayakers were dismayed to find that park regulations forbid anyone from landing on the islands unless you were part of a paid Mexican kayak tour. Independent kayakers could not go there anymore. In this case, it seemed that the park was being used more as a means to increase commercial activity than it was to actually protect the environment or to encourage use by the public.

Edited: 5:39 pm, July 14, 2011
54 replies to this topic
Santa Fe, New Mexico
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1. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

I have been reading about Cabo Pulmo and am wondering

how the snorkeling compares to Hawaii or to Bonaire. It

sounds interesting in that there are bigger animals -- sharks,

groupers, seals, etc. -- but maybe they are only accessible if you

dive.

Thanks,

Jack

Apple Valley...
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2. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

We will be driving from cabo whats the drive like??? seems like a nice place to snorkel

Santa Rosa Beach...
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3. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

The last 6 miles or so are on a graded, but washboardy, dirt road. Then from Cabo Pulmo Village it's another 4 miles on a graded dirt road to the main snorkeling beach (Playa Arbolito). It's no problem for any vehicle, but for the small rental cars I used you have to drive slow or you might shake something loose. I drove about 15 mph. The only problem would be if it rained significantly. I wouldn't want to drive the road then. August and September are supposed to be the "rainy months".

Edited: 9:40 pm, August 31, 2011
BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR
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4. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

Hola !! my name is Pepe Murrieta and Im the Co founder of Cabo Pulmo National Park and you are right about the Park rules the government needs to place those rules on every business in Cabo Pulmo as welll as they should be informing visitors about them rather than bothering visitor that way ! I will make sure to let them know about this and I feel so sorry for you ! next time will be different !!!

Greetings from Cabo Pulmo !

San Mateo...
4 posts
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5. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

The park regulations on the site http://www.cabopulmopark.com/rules.html are very confusing. I don't understand where Zone 1 ends and Zone 2 begins. Also, in Zone 1 shows free diving as an incomparable activity but not prohibited. What does that mean?

Rule 35: During snorkeling/ freediving activity, users and guides in reef areas must use lifejackets. How do you free dive with a lifejacket? I've snorkeled for years and never worn a life jacket. Also, no mention of using a life jacket when on a boat. That's where everyone should wear a life jacket!

Also, the beach of Los Arbolitos seems to be included in Zone 2 but no mention of snorkeling as a permitted or prohibited activity. Zone 2 shows swimming as an incompatible activity, does that mean you can't jump in the ocean and cool off or snorkel which is a swimming activity.

Rule 39 states it is prohibited to get closer to reef than 2.5 meters, but in may places the reef almost comes to the top of the surface. Why 2.5 meters? It is already stated that one can not touch the reef.

As Hawkfish commented, the joy of snorkeling is being able to swim with the the fish and turtles and take underwater pictures. Avid snorkelers are usually very good swimmers and concerned about protecting the natural resources. I see many out of shape scuba divers that are a lot more dangerous to the reef than snorkelers. Please, if you have any input into the rule for snorkelers, please express these views. I would like to return to Cabo Pulmo, but with such struct and in my opinion, unreasonable rules, I'll probably go somewhere else. Too bad because in my opinion, the influx of scuba divers in motor boats are much more of a danger to the reefs than snorkelers. But I guess scuba divers bring in more money.

BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR
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6. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

Hola Howard !

You are right about those rules been unreasonable I will bring them on the table next time there is a Cabo Pulmo National Park meeting in fact they need to change the Management Plan soon ! I hope to see you back again !

Temecula, California
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7. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

Thank you for answering the posts regarding rules of the Park. We have spent three weeks every Christmas for the past ten (10) years in Baja. We have never had any issue! Not one! We are divers, kayakers, golfers, snorklers, fisherpeople, and nature lovers. I work for a Park in Southern Cali., and embrace preserve and protect the resource. Understanding the rules is key. We are headed to Capo Pulmo this year. Hopefully the rules will be clear, understandable and consistent.

Berkeley...
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8. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

Dear Pepe M.

You need not bow to the many tourists who complain about the regulations necessary to protect your reef. Please explain to them that many people who want snorkel (since it is easy and doesn't require training) are not very knowledgeable about the harm their curiosity, hands, and feet can do to the reefs.

How are you to know that an Individual (Your Complaining Snorkler) is more informed and careful? The problem is that coral reefs, the fish nurseries of our earth, are dying so fast that no precautions and rules can be too harsh.

I plead with you, Pepe, to persuade the visitors to your Sanctuary to think of themselves less as a frustrated User and more as a Protector of earths' vital resources.

There are so few living reefs in accessible places on earth, that your healthy reef (very accessible to the popular Cabos) must be stringently protected less it become not worth viewing! YOU must be strong in protecting Mexico's resources; if you are successful, you will never ever lack for customers.

Sincerely

Mary Lou

Berkeley...
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9. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

I said what I wanted above. Was I not allowed to write that?

What do you want?

ML

Bay Area, California
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10. Re: Cabo Pulmo Marine Park not snorkeler-friendly

I'm really torn on this issue. I totally understand the need to protect the earth's precious diminishing reefs. Yet reading the extensive and complex Rules of the Park page on the Cabo Pulmo Park website was a total turn off. For ex, it appears that one cannot just throw on a mask and fins and head out to explore the sea without a life jacket and, in some areas, a guide. I'm now re-thinking my trip to Cabo Pulmo, for I essentially travel to swim, scuba dive, kayak, and snorkel--basically explore the ocean's bounties. (I truly try to lesson my mark on nature: I wear wetsuit/skin/swimshirt instead of sunscreen; I never touch anything; I never feed anything; I never litter; etc....)

Essential questions I need to clear up before booking:

-Must I indeed wear a life jacket to snorkel in Cabo Pulmo--even in the areas immediately off the shoreline?

-Can I swim in the bay in the morning for exercise (without life jacket)?

-Can I snorkel/explore the waters of Frailes Bay/Los Arbolitos/Playa Sirenita (without life jacket)?

-Can I take out my own kayak and explore on my own?

-Can I dive off a panga into the cool, clear waters and swim in deep areas?

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