Few divers know about Mexico’s sardine run yet it rivals its equivalent in South Africa and is an impressive display of nature’s raw power. Accessible to divers and non-divers alike, all you need is a sense of adventure and reasonable swimming fitness to experience this unique event for yourself.
Here are my top reasons why Mexico’s sardine run should be on every diver’s wish list.
1. Witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles.
In the pristine waters of Magdalena Bay, Mexico, one of nature’s most extraordinary spectacles unfolds – the annual sardine run. This phenomenon sees millions of sardines migrating along the Baja California coastline from October to December each year, attracting an impressive array of predatory marine life. Whales, dolphins, sea lions, marlin, dorado, and various species of seabirds join this marine feast and create a unique experience for ocean fans.
2. Explore one of the richest underwater worlds
I didn’t know what to expect at the Mexico sardine run, other than a lot of sardines, warm blue waters and hopefully plenty of hunting marlin. All of which I experienced….and a whole lot more.
Days at sea during the sardine run start early and are spent with the local fishermen turned wildlife guides. These guys know everything about their local patch of ocean and are very skilled at finding bait balls and the array of marine life that shows up.
Being in the water with huge marlin and countless dorado as they hunt the bait balls is mesmerizing and action-packed. They are powerful predators and zip in and out of the bait balls at high speed. There are also dolphins, sea turtles, numerous sharks, sea lions, a variety of seabirds, and whales to encounter.
3. Snorkel with hundreds of sea lions
Snorkelling or diving with sea lions is an amazing experience, and it gets even better when you’re surrounded by hundreds of them! Watching large groups of these playful animals interact, hunt, and make everything look so effortless is truly captivating.
They dive down to the depths to hunt deeper bait balls and rise to the surface like torpedoes, sardines casually hanging out of their mouths. And the best bit? Because there are plenty of sardines to hunt, the sea lions stay for a long time. They are also completely at ease with people in the water.
4. Encounter ocean giants
Thousands of whales migrate to the warm waters of Baja California every year to mate and give birth, creating one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Humpback whales are often seen during the sardine run (October to December) as they travel down the coastline on heat runs.
There is also a chance to spot grey whales, though they usually arrive after the sardine run (January onwards) and fin whales. Fin whales are enormous; at 18 to 20m long, they are just slightly smaller than blue whales and make short work of the bait balls.
Not only can you spot whales during the sardine run, but you can also go snorkelling with them. Being in the water with these huge animals is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
5. Escape daily life!
The world can be a busy and stressful place these days, with ever-changing and competing demands on our time and attention. But all of that fades away when you’re 30 miles out in the warm, Pacific Ocean and immersed in nature far from the noise of humanity.
Spending your days in the open ocean and watching nature at its finest is the perfect way to boost your well-being and remember what matters. If you want a dive trip that melts away your stresses at one of the best marine life destinations on Earth, this is it.
6. Explore Mexico’s other top dive destinations
Another reason to love Magdalena Bay is its proximity to Mexico’s other premier dive spots, many of which are just a 2-5 hour road transfer (or a short flight) away. You can go diving with sea lions, swim with whale sharks, and explore the beautiful Sea of Cortez at La Paz.
Further down the coast, you can experience the huge schools of jacks that Cabo Pulmo diving is known for, or head to Cabo San Lucas to go liveaboard diving at the incredible Socorro Islands. Conveniently, the peak season for the sardine run (November) is also one of the best months for diving at the Socorro Islands.
Top tips for Mexico’s sardine run:
- Use reef-safe sunscreen and wear a hat; you’re in the sun a lot, though there is overhead shade on the boat.
- Freediving fins are best for keeping up with the bait balls, but scuba fins are fine as well.
- Take a windproof jacket to wear over your wetsuit once it gets wet. You’ll be in that wetsuit all day.
- The Pacific Ocean can be choppy and have reasonable swell, so pack sea sickness medication if needed.
- Take a dry bag for anything you want to keep dry.
- Bring a wide-angle camera to capture all the action.