20 years….. For 20 years I have been captaining dive boats in the Sea of Cortez, Socorro, and Guadalupe Island and I’ve never had the chance to dive Gordo Banks. Which really sucks because Gordo Banks has the reputation of being the best-darned dive site around Cabo San Lucas.
The site is an underwater ridge with pinnacles reaching as shallow as 100 feet located just 8 miles from our base at San Jose del Cabo. It can be a challenging dive if there is a bit of current or the visibility is down ( during spring it can be murky in the shallows with very good vis underneath) and there is the possibility for a careless diver on the surface to get swept away. We equip all of our divers with SMB’s, Dive Alert whistles, and Nautilus LifeLine marine rescue gps but it would still be somewhat hair raising to have to search for a drift away diver. I had to do that once in Alaska and searched for an hour off Wooden Island in the Gulf of Alaska before finding the missing diver… That was a very stressful hour and was actually the genesis behind our idea and design and manufacture of the LifeLine but that’s a different story! The short story is that as the captain responsible for the divers, I have always wanted to be on the surface watching and looking after our divers.
Meet Pedro Cervantes, divemaster extraordinaire, and the reason I got to finally dive Gordo Banks!! I met Pedro and we went diving even before the Nautilus Explorer arrived in Mexico. We had some fun dives, drank some beer, ate tacos, got invited aboard the Solmar V, and have been working together ever since. He’s not very experienced – I think he only has 15,000 dives or something like that!!! (Canadian humour). Pedro always looked after dive mastering our guests when I was topside at Gordo Banks. His wife Favi is the store manager of our new SeeCreatures in San Jose del Cabo and Pedro offered to show me around G Banks before heading off the next day for his month-long rotation on the Nautilus Belle Amie. Deal!! We lined up some staff to join us and booked Inde 2, our custom-built 32-foot aluminum sea sled to go diving. Inde 2 is no slouch with twin 225 hp Yamaha engines and a very deep V seaworthy hull. It’s a great stable dive boat and really fun to go for a ride in.
It was a quick ride out to Gordo Bank and a good opportunity to do some final checks on the boat’s new engines. We just replaced a couple of older 225 mercury Optimax engines with shiny 250 horsepower 4 stroke Yamaha engines. The engines are beautiful and Inde just flies with them. Got there. Motored around for a couple minutes checking things out. Dropped our grapple and descent line and it was time to splash.
I put my head in the water and cool, I could see the bottom. Vis looked pretty decent and the current was calm. Everything was aligning just right for as we hit deflated our BCDs and dove for the bottom which we hit at 32 metres. I looked around and hmmmmm, pretty but not exactly the dive site I was expecting. It was very pleasant but not a ton of coral. Not super colourful and while the vertical vis was great, the horizontal vis might have been 15 – 20 metres. I was still getting my bearings and figuring out a mental map of the ridge and pinnacle when Pedro started excitedly waving. Hammerhead sharks. 6 of them. Just in front of us swimming right to left. What a great start to the dive!!
ummmm. The dive was good. Big schools of fish. Video following is of me taking a break with a big school rather than being in the office trying to catch up on emails!
It was turning into a lovely dive. And then we saw a manta ray. Well actually, large mobula or small manta ray? The one way to tell the difference for sure is to check the location of the ray’s mouth. The mouth is terminal on a manta ray unlike every other species of ray in which the mouth is inferior (meaning the mouth on a manta ray is at the front instead of underneath).. I love rays. All rays. The giant manta rays that we see at Socorro. The mobula rays that we see schooling in the Sea of Cortez. They are just so cool. And so smart in my opinion with the largest brain to body mass ratio of any fish. I’ve been convinced for a long time that it’s possible to communicate with manta rays. At minimum you have to have an open heart and be very calm in the water but if you come in peace, you can have almost unbelievable interaction with mobula birostris. It helps to hang quietly with your arms extended mimicking the cephalic fins of a manta. Sounds corny?? I really believe this and this dive was no difference. I hung very calmly in the water with peaceful thoughts in my head and my arms extended in front of me and unbelievably, the manta slowed down, turned towards me, and did a very slow fly by looking me directly in the eye. It was beautiful and unforgettable. I get shivers even as a write this…
All too soon it was time to head to our safety stop after a beautiful dive.
Am I ready to head back to Gordo Banks?? You bet!!!! I can’t wait and will be sure to carve out the time on my next trip to Cabo San Lucas after DEMA.
And keep an open mind about our beautiful mantas!
Founder Nautilus and SeeCreatures