The sea got under my skin early in life, and my restaurants in Fiji and Noosa are testament to my love of the ocean. So, after weeks in the incredible highlands witnessing an extraordinary Easter festival, canyons where one wrong step could kill you, and a whole lot of the local brew, Lecher Geer, seeing the sea breathed fresh air into us all, and we were itching to explore the coast. Unfortunately, the sea we first saw was La Paz – American “Spring Break” heaven – and although that may be fun for drunk college kids, we were here to tell a different story, so we doused our disappointment with some delicious tequila and focused on my upcoming swim with whale sharks.
When you’re travelling you have to roll with the punches, and regrettably the whale sharks had moved on early this season. We missed them by just two weeks. Instead, we took the opportunity to dive with seals who proved themselves to be peskier than a pack of kids on a sugar high, biting the camera (and our scuba air hoses!) and tempting us across the invisible barrier that separated the safe and territorial zones of the big bull seal, who didn’t have much time for us divers.
Next stop: paradise. If you’ve watched my previous series, you’ll know I’ve been to some of the most idyllic places in the world, and Isla Espíritu Santo is right up there. It’s the 12th largest island off the Gulf of California, and has a population of millions – of species, that is – with a grand total of zero humans. A protected UNESCO “biosphere”, Isla Espíritu Santo is said to be the most intact ecosystem in the Sea of Cortez and is home to animals found nowhere else in the world, including the ground squirrel, blacktailed jackrabbit, and two types of snakes, as well as 50 species of vegetation. The sea around it is literally alive with over 500 species of marine life, many even I had never seen, but which my new friend Mario Cesar Winkler Leon knew like the back of his hand.
I enjoyed my time with Mario so much that I’ve offered to help him create a very special opportunity for tourists; a chance to experience Isla Espíritu Santo the way I did – on a fishing trip then off to enjoy a traditional Mexican meal in the hut where his family has fished for generations.
Mexican Fiesta with Peter Kuruvita airs Thursdays 7.30pm on SBS ONE.