Mexican Sardine Run
San Carlos, Mexico
Join the non-stop, breathtaking action
Predators big and small are on the hunt during the annual Mexican sardine run where the underwater action is fast and furious. And the best encounters take place within ten meters (30 feet) of the surface, making this a perfect adventure for non-divers, free divers, and snorkelers to see:
- Striped Marlins who are the star of the show
- California Sea Lions join the chase and compete with the Marlin
- Frigate Birds with sharp eyes track the sardines, making it easy for us to find the action
- Bonitos, Bryde’s Whales, and Tiger Sharks show up, but with less frequency than the marlins of the sea lions
- Every once in awhile, we get really lucky, and a pod of transient Orcas shows up
Liveaboard — Avoid Traffic, Spend More time In the Water
After years of getting up very early and sitting in traffic for hours on the way to and from the boat, I have now set up a new liveaboard option to eliminate that part of this adventure, opting instead for the comfort, luxury, and convenience of our floating hotel, the catamaran Mango Wind. At 45′ x 24′ wide, this vessel offers three large cabins, each with one queen-size bed, private head and shower, and individually controlled air conditioning.
Each morning, we will depart from our mooring, located in a safe, quiet bay at the entrance to Magdalena Bay and the Pacific Ocean, at least one hour away from the nearby town of San Carlos. This arrangement should save us the roughly two hours of daily travel that it normally takes to get back and forth from the marina to the hotel. We can also expect to be the first onsite each morning for the sardine and the marlin action, and we will have the option to stay at sea after everyone else leaves at 3 p.m., enjoying the beautiful warm light just before sunset from the deck of the boat.
Send Me More Information
Amos Nachoum is a distinguished figure in wildlife and underwater photography, with a remarkable career spanning over four decades. His unique ability to blend exploration and artistry has captured the attention of audiences worldwide, with his work being prominently featured in esteemed publications such as National Geographic and The New York Times.
His talents have earned him numerous accolades, including the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year award, received twice in recognition of his unparalleled skill and commitment. Amos is the founder of Big Animals xpeditions, inviting adventurers to join him on extraordinary journeys to witness the majesty of wildlife in both marine and terrestrial environments.
His 2019 documentary, “Picture of His Life,” highlights his relentless pursuit of excellence and undying passion for wildlife photography. It chronicles his quest to photograph a swimming polar bear in the Canadian Arctic, showcasing his ability to connect with nature’s most magnificent creatures.
Joining Amos on an expedition transcends the ordinary adventure; it is a profound learning experience, an opportunity to immerse oneself in the beauty of the natural world, under the guidance of a master photographer. His work serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving the planet’s incredible biodiversity. Amos Nachoum’s expeditions are a celebration of wildlife, a journey of discovery and appreciation, from the depths of the oceans to the far reaches of the mountains.
Arriving Cabo San Lucas, group pick up at airport and drive to LaPaz. Check in for one night. 2.5 – 3 hours drive
Morning, hotel check out and depart La Paz – drive to San Carlos, 3 hours drive – at the PM board the vessel and cruise out of town to safe anchorage
Days 3 – 7
5 days search and dive with BaitBall, Striped Marlins, Sea Lions, possible Humpback whale, Orca and Mobula ray
End of the day the Catamaran return to Town for one last night
Early morning departure and drive back to Cabo San Lucas airport or to other Baja adventure
Water 80 – 82°F (26 – 28°C)
Land 70s – 80s°F (20 – 30°C)
100+ feet (30+ meters)
Hotel in San Carlos
Vilas Mar y Arena
- 24 feet wide
- 45 feet long
- 3 cabins each with queen size bed, private head and shower
- Three crew members and one chef
- Newly built
- Fast and reliable
- 6 nights on board the catamaran
- 5 day of diving
- All meals onboard
- All diving services + replacement gear
- Round trip transfers
- One night hotel in LaPaz
- All taxes and permits
- International and domestic flights
- Private transfers request
- Meals and hotel which are included
- Gratuities to the crew
- Personal dive gear – wetsuit, Mask, fins and snorkel
What more can We tell you?
At 8:30am — a full hour ahead of everyone else — we will be crusing past the opening of Magdalena Bay, our captain will already be receiving bait ball positioning from fishing vessels returning from their night’s work — they are our the best source of information. Once we have a destination, the skipper revs the engine as we speed ahead over the calm blue waters as we head out for the day.
Finding the Sardines
Frigate bird formations over the water give us the exact location of the sardine bait balls. The closer the birds hover over the water and the tighter their formations are as they dive, the closer we are to the action. Once alongside a sardine ball, we reach for our fins, masks, snorkels, and cameras. Sitting on the edge of the boat, you are ready to jump into the fray — where there are sardines, there are likely Marlins too!
The sardine run is an exhilarating experience, and it is one that is not to be missed. Once in the water, hundreds of sardines will suddenly surround you, the sunbeams reflected off their silvery scales, they circle in a tight ball, but their defense makes them an easy target for the marlins, seals, and whales. Usually there are dozens of marlins will darting in and out of the ball, hunting their prey. Sometimes we even get to see them work together to corral the sardines and push them towards the surface, making them easier targets.
Up Close Experience
We will be far enough away to avoid interrupting the natural order of things, but still in the middle of the kleidescope — without notice, the marlins may start swimming in patterns that are unrecognizable to anyone but them.
The quickly sardine ball will change formation in a feudal attempt to fend off the predators. This means a constantly dynamic experience. At one time the ball may be long, deep, and tightly wound, whereas at another point it may be loose and shallow. Throughout these changes, we will be surrounded by lively, beautiful images, as light constantly shifts its reflection off the millions of scales present in the sardine ball.
A marlin will hit one fish at a time with its long bill in order to injure it and and move it away from the ball. As the other sardines run away, the marlin will eat the fish its prey. The sardine run is both a treasure to the eyes as well as a challenge to the body, as we will constantly try to keep up with the action around us as the marlins enjoy their full day of feasting.
Whales and Seals
Marlins are not the only animals drawn to the sardines. On this trip, we will also be treated to California seals who are competing with the marlins for food.
Orcas are also present in the area, and we have even had an experience where we swam with a transient pod of 6 orcas for two and a half hours! He witnessed the adults sharing food with their young, and it seemed as if the orcas were inviting him to observe their lives. Although less likely than seeing seals and orcas, Bryde’s whales, with lengths up to 30 or 40 feet, may also arrive from time to time to get their share. All of a sudden, a bright day just underneath the ocean surface can grow darker as the shadows of the whales show up quietly and unannounced. When whales appear, the seals and marlins make way for these larger creatures to feed. We will work to find the best angles and keep up with the action, whether the sardine ball we encounter is static or moving.