Sea of Cortez July 2014 Trip Report - Bluewater Dive Travel
Sea of Cortez July 2014 Trip Report

Sea of Cortez July 2014 Trip Report



Rocio Del Mar, the easiest liveaboard from the US

By Mike Bartick

photos by mike bartick


Yes, you heard me right, the US. The Rocio Del Mar liveaboard departs from Puerto Penasco Mexico, a little over 60 miles south of the Mexico / Arizona border. Getting there is a short 4 hour shuttle ride from Phoenix, AZ but we chose a leisurely 7 hour drive from Los Angeles, leaving early in the morning and arriving in Puerto Penasco in the mid afternoon with a couple hours to spare before boarding the boat. The crew briefed the Bluewater Photo group over our first meal and soon we were off to begin our adventure in the Sea of Cortez.

The bell rang at 6:00am for the first dive and when I peeked out from our cabin window, I spent the first couple minutes just staring at was the glassy waters of our first divesite. The weather was very nice for the entire week as summer temps can climb as high as 95 degrees topside and 80-84 degrees underwater. Occasionally we hit a thermocline and cooled down to 77 degrees which was actually very refreshing. In fact, the water was so glassy that one of my favorite memories was being able to see the reflection of scattered clouds during the day and a blanket of stars at night on the water’s surface. The topside scenery of the Sonoran desert meeting the sea and mountains in the background is also quite a sight to behold. Cactus on the shoreline, deserted islands and barking sealions…priceless!

Playful Sealion
We were treated to very playful sealions


Underwater, the Sea of Cortez is unique in that there is a combination of tropical and temperate marine life. We were all treated to a variety of nudibranchs, seahorses, frogfish and unusual critters endemic to the Gulf of California like Signal Blennies. The sea lions are especially playful in the Sea of Cortez and many came right up to our lens ports to check themselves out in their own reflection. We also spent half a day free diving with whale sharks in the Bay of LA where we counted at least 10 biggies in the Bay!


Signal Blenny

 Unique critters were plentiful like this Signal Blenny

During each day of diving, I would conduct a photo review and a photo seminar on topics ranging from macro to wide angle photography, ambient lighting and feature techniques for lighting and how to shoot behavior. I even held a natural history seminar at the request of one of the guests. Photo review sessions are held each morning after a hearty breakfast utilizing their cool salon and the flat panel HD television.  One-on-one sessions were conducted at night or at any time the guests needed extra help and workflow tips.

The diving is conducted using the Rocio’s stable RIB/pangas that depart from the mothership to various dive sites 5 to 15 minutes away. The panga captains and Rocio crew were all very attentive to our individual needs and took special care of our camera and video gear. The dive deck featured a camera table which worked well with this photo intensive group and everyone had plenty of space. The dive stations were also different from what I have seen on other boats as the tanks and BCs are on shoulder-high racks, making it very easy to don and doff your gear. The tanks were filled in place and always pushed the 3200 PSI mark on my SPG.


Decorator Crab
Decorator Crab


Three times a day we were all treated to the culinary delights that the Rocio chefs continually whipped up which included well prepared Italian and Mexican cuisine along with some creative desserts. The top deck had an outdoor kitchen that the chefs used to prepare a couple of dinners under the stars. One night we had grilled rib eye steaks and another night we were treated to authentic carne asada with all of the trimmings! I eventually had to skip meals as I was just too well fed.

The crew was all very helpful including the captain. It seemed like he never stopped working and was present on deck almost anytime the ship was at anchor. He helped with loading the pangas, rinsing gear and of course plotting the next course and dive site.





 The crew of the Rocio Del Mar were very attentive to diver needs


The boat snaked its way through the Midriff Islands and allowed us to enjoy some dive sites that are rarely visited by divers. Sea birds such as boobies were seen several times and the chance of seeing sperm whales in the Gulf is always possible which added to the fun. In the late evening the captain would leave the deck lights on hoping to attract the elusive and feared Humboldt squids. They are the prime food source for sperm whales that roam the deep waters of this area that Jacque Cousteau called the “Aquarium of the World”.

The last morning was split between diving and snorkeling in the Bay of LA where whale sharks roam just below the water’s surface. As we made our approach towards the national park area the dorsal fins and tails could be seen breaking the surface which instantly grabbed everyone’s attention. The whale sharks were the icing on the cake for this trip which yielded some really fun experiences, great photo ops and another unique Baja California adventure with Bluewater Photo.

- Mike Bartick


Join us for our next photo workshop in the Sea of Cortez July 25 to August 1, 2015.

Email to reserve your spot today.


Bluewater Travel can book you on any Rocio trip, for the same cost or less than booking any other way. We know the routes, cabins, and when to go better than anyone else!



Barnacle Blenny
Barnicle Blenny

For more photos, view the slideshow at the top of the page



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