Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park & Los Arbolitos
Cabo Pulmo, the famed diving destination on Baja’s East Cape, doesn’t look like much more than a seaside pueblo. With one sandy street, a few restaurants, and a handful of dive shops, the town might be easy to overlook. But it’s what’s in the water here that makes this place so special. Looking out over the ocean it’s common to see whales and mobula rays jumping, maybe sea lions playing in the surf, but get in the water and the sea here truly comes alive.
Massive schools of fish, sea turtles, sharks, eels, and a mind-bending rainbow of small reef fish can be found just below the surface. Home to one of the largest reefs in the hemisphere, Cabo Pulmo National Park is the crown jewel of southern Baja. But it wasn’t always this way. It took one of the world’s most successful conservation efforts to save Cabo Pulmo and begin its restoration.
The history of Cabo Pulmo is one of exploitation leading to conservation and restoration.
For decades over-fishing decimated local fish populations. Because entire fish stocks were collapsing, the people of Cabo Pulmo and other communities on the East Cape who made their living from fishing had to search further and further to find fish. Keystone species like sharks disappeared due to hunting and lack of food, which further destabilized the fragile ecosystem. The coral reefs of Cabo Pumo experienced frequent bleaching and algae took hold in these once-pristine waters.
The idea to protect the waters of Cabo Pulmo from fishing came from the fishing families of Cabo Pulmo themselves. In the 1980s, concerned about the dwindling health of the reef and fish stocks, locals — including members of the Castro family — came together to take action to protect what was left.
Organizing together to ban fishing and other destructive practices in the area
They leaned on an existing statute in Mexican law, the Law for Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection, and lobbied the Mexican government to legally declare the reef a Natural Protected Area. With support from international scientists, conservationists, and family members from nearby Hotel Villa del Faro, the movement was a success. In 1995 the Mexican government created Cabo Pulmo National Park, protecting more than 27 square miles of coastal reef waters.
But the National Park designation didn’t automatically mean the waters were safe from destruction. Enforcement was needed, and it took two years for the Mexican government to designate a park director.
So in the beginning, conservation efforts and rules were largely enforced by the local community.
Even after the government designated a park director in 1997, and finally put in place an official management plan in 2009, the local community remains primarily responsible for self-regulating and protecting the National Park. They’ve been incredibly successful. Within 10 years of the National Park designation, scientists found that overall biomass in Cabo Pulmo’s waters had increased more than 450 percent, to levels similar to pristine coral reefs that have never been fished. The biomass of top predators had increased by more than 1000 percent, with a 30 percent annual increase of predatory fish.
Today the park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site with diving and snorkeling enthusiasts traveling from around the globe to visit these waters.
SNORKELING & DIVING IN CABO PULMO
If you’d like to visit the Cabo Pulmo reef, the best way is by boat as part of a snorkeling or diving tour, but even snorkeling from the nearby beaches can be breathtaking. There are numerous dive shops in the town of Cabo Pulmo, which is about a 40 minute drive north from Villa del Faro. We are happy to help book tours for hotel guests, or feel free to reach out to them directly to book a tour. Please be sure to bring reef-safe sunscreen and don’t forget your underwater camera, you’ll be glad you brought it!
Cabo Pulmo EcoAdventures
EcoAdventures has participated in various workshops and programs to strengthen local tourism companies, and participates in the Advisory Council of the National Park Cabo Pulmo and in the Community Committee of Cabo Pulmo.
Cabo Pulmo Sports Center
Pioneers in ecotourism in Cabo Pulmo, the goal of the three brothers who started Cabo Pulmo Sports Center was to share the wonders of the National Marine Park while raising awareness of ocean wildlife and habitat protection.
Pepe’s Dive Center
Pepe was appointed as the first Park Director of Cabo Pulmo National Park in 1997, and serves as a park ranger.