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Experience Baja California’s Secret Sardine Run

Hidden deep in the heart of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula lies a magical place. An incredible area tucked away on the Pacific Ocean far away from all the hustle and bustle of the packed tourist resorts and big cities in the south. Imagine visiting a bay filled with such abundant life that it has become an inside secret for pro photographers and Nat Geo explorers. An area that one of the worlds few grey whale populations call home every winter. Picture a beautiful bay surrounded by small mountainous islands above the waterline and packed with makos, blue sharks, sail fish, dolphins, sea lions, whales, 1000’s of sea birds and so much more. This is Bahia Magdalena. And it gets even better…Every autumn giant bait balls congregate miles off shore from the bay creating one of this planets most amazing spectacles, and well kept secrets – the Striped Marlin migration. These super fish, some of the fastest and most agile in the ocean, work together pushing the bait balls to the surface before shooting into them to hunt. Imagine being in the water with upwards of 30+ striped marlin around you at once, accepting you into their community as they work together with sea lions, whales, and others to hunt the bait balls. This is Baja Californias secret sardine run.

Join Dive Ninjas for a very special series of expeditions to explore this breathtaking area of Bahia Magdalena.

This is a special limited offer trip with only 5 spaces available on each one of the expeditions. We recommend that you act fast as this trip will sell out quick. Scroll down for more details on the trip, then register online now to secure your space. Feel free to contact us at [email protected] or +1-973-619-9007 with any questions or to reserve your space today.

Striped marlin chasing bait balls in Bahia Magdalena Mexico

The Expedition

Ever looked at images online from pro photographers & marine researchers and thought, ‘wow I wish I could experience that’? Well, this is your chance. Our exclusive partnership allows you, the guest, to be part of critical ocean research being done on these amazing creatures – the striped marlin – as well as the numerous other species that call this area home. You will be able to partake surveying activities alongside an esteemed team of ocean warriors. Enlightening presentations will be given throughout the trip teaching us about these amazing super fish. This is your chance to help make a difference and protect our oceans while bearing witness to one of the greatest natural phenomenons on earth with your own eyes.

Our expedition will begin at the Dive Ninja Expeditions HQ in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. From here we will journey 5 hours north along the beautiful rocky mountains of the Sierra de la Laguna and through the cactus filled deserts of Baja California Sur to our base camp in a small fishing town on the shores of Bahia Magdalena. We’ll check into our hotel and have our first presentation of the trip followed by a delicious dinner at one of the local restaurants. The next 3 days we’ll be up early for a full day on the water searching for bait balls and striped marlin so we can get as much time as possible in the water with them. While out on the ocean we’ll also be looking for whales and the other incredible inhabitants of the waters here. We’ve seen humpbacks, grey whales, fin whales, makos, sailfish, tuna, and so much more.  On the last day we’ll head in a little early taking a detour through the local mangroves to visit the natural sand dunes for our expedition closing picnic on the dunes. The mangrove and dune eco systems here are vastly important to the local area. So much so, that they have recently been deemed a protected area by the Mexican government. We’ll spend one last night in this gorgeous area before heading back to Cabo after breakfast the next morning.

The days out on the water are full on. We head out with a local fishing captain who has made the change from commercial fishing to eco tourism. This ninja is amazing and shares a passion for the ocean unlike many we’ve met. We’ve even seen him jump in the water in his jeans to check out the action. Each trip will have  expert ninja guides working alongside the captain to keep everyone safe & informed while enjoying this wonder of nature. We’ll spend each of the ocean days out searching for different bait balls and getting in the bright blue waters with them to freedive, swim, and snorkel. The action is unreal and hard to really put to words. Seeing tons of these huge striped marlin herding the bait balls and working along side groups of sea lions to hunt together is awe inspiring. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled to the blue as we’ve seen all sorts of random pelagics come in to see what’s going on.

Get Involved

Striped Marlin, or Kajikia audax, are a magnificent apex predator that inhabit the waters off the coast of Baja California. Easily identified by their elongated bills (or noses) and brightly striped bodies, these fish are astounding swimmers built for speed and are mesmerizing to see in the open ocean.

Unfortunately, they are fished commercially and also for sport, with an estimated 12,000 caught annually through recreational fishing activities near Cabo San Lucas alone. The IUCN Red List classifies the striped marlin as “near threatened” and in a state of population decline, meaning that this species may become threatened or endangered in the near future without the intervention of conservation efforts. Overfishing, both commercially and recreationally, are contributing to this serious issue.

Not only will your trip with us bring you face to face in the water with these amazing fish, but you will also have the opportunity to get directly involved with research activities that will help us better understand their migration and biology. Your assistance during these expeditions will directly contribute towards conservation efforts to protect these remarkable creatures. Research activities will include surveys of the abundance & diversity of animals around the study area, including marlin, sea lions, dolphins, and more! You will also collect a suite of important environmental data to help us understand the types of conditions these animals are found in, including water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity.

But, one of the biggest gaps in knowledge that this project hopes to fill is where and when striped marlin reproduce. It is currently thought that they migrate South in the summer months to spawn. This is particularly problematic because this is when many fishing tournaments occur where anglers are targeting the largest marlin they can catch, which may be females on the verge of spawning. Some of these tournaments are “catch and release” and claim no harm to the individual fish caught, but this is very likely untrue. Previous research has shown that catch & release programs do not help, with the data showing that 100% of those bleeding from their gills and 63% of those hooked deeply die within 5 days of being released. Join us next autumn for not only the experience of a lifetime, but to help protect these incredible animals.

Nakawe Project & Dive Ninja Expeditions Striped Marlin tours
Freedive with striped marlin in mexico

Available Expedition Dates

Below you will find the current available dates for our Striped Marlin Expeditions. Please contact us or click Book Now to reserve a date.

What’s The Cost?

30% of profits from these expeditions are being donated to help fund local research & conservation efforts to protect the striped marlin of Baja! This is a special limited offer series of citizen science expeditions. Each expedition is built for a more intimate experience with a maximum capacity of only 5 guests per trip with specialized ninja guides. The expedition package price is $2200 for the 5 day expedition. All prices are per person and on shared double occupancy basis. If you are traveling solo, no problem! We will match you with another solo ninja guest of the same gender. Or if you prefer your own private room a single supplement upgrade is also available for an additional fee.

What’s Included

The trip price includes all in-water activities, citizen science research activities, presentations throughout the week, transfers from Dive Ninja HQ* to our base camp and return transport to Cabo, 4 nights accommodation in a local hotel on a shared double occupancy basis, a light breakfast on in-water days, lunch, snacks, & soft drinks onboard the boat, dune picnic, and park fees.

What’s Not Included

The price does not include flights, transfers from/to airport to/from Dive Ninjas HQ, rental equipment, Crew Gratuity (10%-15% of trip price is customary but is at your discretion), local dinners, or credit card processing fees.

Anything Else?

Please note that this expedition is not scuba diving based. All the action takes place at the surface so there is no need for scuba equipment. Plus the area is so remote that the nearest place to fill tanks is over 3 hours dive away. Additionally, to better preserve the natural behaviors of these animals it is best done as a soft interaction without bubbles and heavy equipment. You do not need to be scuba certified to join these expeditions, but you do need to know how to swim well and be comfortable swimming in the open ocean (20+ miles offshore).

swim with striped marlin in mexico
Striped Marlin expedition with Dive Ninja Expeditions & Nakawe Project
Dive with striped marlin in mexico

Flights & Pre-Trip Activities Information

This trip departs from, and returns to, our headquarters in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The nearest airport is Los Cabos International (also known as San Jose del Cabo International Airport – airport code SJD). Guests also have the option to fly into La Paz International Airport (airport code LAP) and we can pick you up at the airport or in town on our way to Bahia Magdalena. Both airports are serviced daily with domestic & international flights. We recommend arriving a day early to give you some time to relax and a little padding in case of any travel delays. Easy flights to both airports can be found from many international and national airports, although Cabo has far more flights and options as it is a much larger airport. From the US flights are pretty cheap – especially from the west coast and southwest US. From Europe flights are very affordable and include usually a layover in the US or Mexico City. If transiting through the US please check in advance to see if you will need a US transit visa.

Since you will be visiting us at our Ninja HQ in Cabo there are numerous options to add on local diving and activities in Los Cabos and the surrounding areas before and after your expedition. November is one of our favorite months for diving in Cabo as the water is super warm, clear and blue. Plus we start to see our humpback whale friends as they return to the area for the winter season.  Give us a shout and we can set up add-on packages to extend your trip to Baja.

Expedition Quick Facts:

Location: Bahia Magdalena, BCS MX
Arrive: Dive Ninjas HQ, Cabo San Lucas at 9.30am
Return: Dive Ninjas HQ, Cabo San Lucas at 1pm
Duration: 5 Days, 4 nights
Activity Days: 3 sunrise to sunset
Nearest Airport: Los Cabos International (SJD)
Trip Cost: $2200 USD
Min Deposit to Reserve: 30%