Los Candeleros did not only offer free wifi but also wildlife galore. From the anchorage you could look in one direction and see a giant resort and a denuded landscape, but turn the other direction and you’re gazing upon layers of uninhabited islands and so much wildlife that it seems to be overflowing because something is ALWAYS jumping out of the water. The three closest islands are just small rocks, which looked to someone along the way like candles (hence the name of the cove), where lots of animals like to hang out.
Our friends on the boat Summer, who we hadn’t seen since La Paz, showed up while we were there and we all had a lovely reunion. Jenn loves to cook and we all had some pretty serious feasts all together, especially since the cove was FULL of mahi mahi (dolphin fish). Everyone hooked one but us! We even had two or three living under Orion for days, as they hunted the school of needlefish who always live under Orion. Jonah would throw a hook in and alternate between casting and running back and forth to attempt trolling speeds…. but alas all we got was some cool UW video footage of them (which we are actually pretty excited about).
Mobulas, or devil rays, are found in incredible numbers in the Sea of Cortez. They look very similar manta rays (the really, really big ones), who are in the same family. They are smaller than mantas, yet can still grow up to 17ft wide. However those we’ve been seeing are generally 1-3 ft. wide and are best known for their spectacular leaps and belly flops. “Acrobat rays” would be a much more fitting name. There are many theories about why they do this spectacular flying and flopping, but the most recognized is that they are trying to be noticed by a mate. Both males and females leap but apparently males are seen doing so more often. It is certainly a great way to stand out! Upon running into a researcher friend who has spent a good deal of time studying these creatures, we learned that there are three different species of mobulas found in the Sea of Cortez and apparently two of them do flips when jumping (often making a quieter landing sound) and one species simply jumps and loudly flops. We had seen these antics almost every day since leaving La Paz but what we saw in Los Candeleros put all other displays to shame. You could just be gazing out at the water in any direction at nearly any time of day and WHOOSH one flies out of the water flapping it’s “wings”, followed by a loud FLOP! We found sunset to be the best time for mobula watching. One evening the girls (Jenn, Meagan, Silvia, and I) went for an evening paddleboard to one of the “candles” and about fell off our boards laughing when we saw up to 20 mantas all jumping at the same time over and over and over. It was loud and it was awesome! We also hopped in the water with our masks and saw huge schools of them gliding beneath us.
Since we arrived in La Paz whenever we told new friends how much we love diving we were told that we have to contact the boat Manta when we get to Puerto Escondido. The couple that live on that boat are apparently dive junkies and know a ton about the area. Since arriving at Los Candeleros we had been able to pick up the 8am Puerto Escondido announcement net on the VHF radio and we heard the folks on Manta chime in now and then. We decided to call them up and ask them about good dive sites. We finally got hold of them on the day that all our friends moved on to a new anchorage and we were on the fence about leaving because we were right in the middle of a sewing project. Manta told us that they were coming down to our anchorage the next day to dive and invited us to go with them. That made our decision to stay very easy.
The boat Manta is inhabited by Terry and Dawn who have been living on sailboats in Mexico and Latin America and diving like crazy for the last 30 years. When Terry first arrived to the Sea of Cortez he spent years driving a boat around with a depth sounder finding hundreds of seamounts, and he now has a GPS full of awesome secret dive spots. He made it clear that we are not to bring a GPS on dives he takes us on unless he gives us permission. He doesn’t want everyone to find out about his secret sites, and he says he doesn’t want to ruin our fun of finding our own secret spots. They told us amazing stories about their travels over the years and of their experiences underwater. Some of the stories were pretty hard to believe- like being repeatedly bear hugged by an elephant seal and riding giant manta rays- until they showed us the spectacular video footage from these events. They actually have hours of video of 20ft wide mantas stopping right in front of them so that could get on and ride them for kilometers, the manta looping around and dropping them off where they started. In the video there were up to three riders on the mantas and when one rider slipped off the manta actually stopped so he could get back on. Simply incredible! The truly astonishing thing is that the mantas really seemed to welcome the interactions.
S/V Manta ended up hanging with us for a couple of days in Candeleros and took us diving on two different seamounts, one extending from 10ft deep to about 80ft and one from 30-80ft. These were definitely advanced dives with ripping currents, and it was imperative to drop the dinghy anchor directly on the top of the mounts and pull ourselves down the anchor line. It just gave Terry an excuse to make fun of my fancy and wimpy split-fins, which he loved to do. Both sites were worth the extra kicking necessary. Through seeming infinite visibility we saw schools of large jacks, more triggerfish than you can shake a stick at, black coral, slipper lobsters, and more.