Los Frailes/Cabo Pulmo (November 2002)
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Villa Los Frailes, 7 nights
Diving with Pepe's Dive Center
Hanging out with amigos

By: Scott Roberts

This was our second trip to the area having been there just last year in December.  For a detailed review of the last trip, and a more comprehensive report, go here.  This time we were spending our entire stay at Villa Los Frailes, so we were able to explore the area around Los Frailes a little bit more.  We flew down non-stop from Seattle on frequent flyer miles.  If you can upgrade to non-stop for a reasonable price I would highly suggest it.  Having your baggage checked through in customs is kind of a pain.

Last time we were there, the area was recovering from a large Hurricane and the travel industry was reeling from the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  This time, things were a lot different.  The customs lines were very long, and there were just more people everywhere.  The good thing about the East Cape is that there are never a ton of people there.  It's very secluded, and is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle.  We had six people in our group this time, so we rented a jeep and a four door pickup.  We were able to get a slightly better rate by negotiating at baggage claim, but not nearly as good as last time.  We stopped by the supermarket for supplies and headed off to Villa Los Frailes.  There is a good breakdown of groceries and provisioning at this web site.  After all that reading, we decided to save a little time by just hitting the one stop supermarket on the east side of the highway just before San Jose Del Cabo.  The roads were much better than last time.  The dirt roads had severe washboards, but there were very few gaps or potholes.  The jeep was a great ride, but it was a little dusty on the East Cape roads.  I would recommend getting a rental that has windows.

After the long bumpy ride, we were greeted by Ramón at Villa Los Frailes.  Again, details about the villa can be found on last year's report, so I won't go over it again, but I will tell you what is different.  This year, the CD player didn't work, but this has been replaced by a DVD/CD/MP3 player.  There is also a catalog of MP3 CD's with everything from Bob Marley and Poncho Sanchez to G Love and Special Sauce for your listening pleasure.  Directions for operating the DVD player through the stereo are included inside the MP3 CD case for the technically challenged.  The beer fridge was on the fritz, so we had to stuff all of the beers in the main fridge.  We learned later that there is also a fridge in the garage.  One of the outboard motors was in the garage, but if you need two motor boats, just let Ramón know.  They usually keep one as a backup and he can set it up if you need it.  In addition to the boats, the kayaks, and the windsurfers, they now have a tri-maran sailboat.  This could be a lot of fun for semi-experienced sailors.  The hot tub and pool were both working well during our stay.  The Bar-B-Q is still a little difficult to figure out, but I think I have it down now.  The auto ignition doesn't work, so use the lighter in the kitchen.  The trick is to turn the gas for the far right burner on high first.  Close the lid for about 30 seconds.  Open it up and light this burner.  Once you get that one lit, turn the gas on for the other burners.  They should light right up.  If you turn all the burners on at once, it doesn't work very well for lighting.  If you still have problems, ask Ramón.  He can get it up and running.

Everything else in the Villa was in good shape and things seemed to be much like last year.  The big difference was the water temperature.  It was a bit chilly (74 degrees?) in December of 2001.  This year, it was about 81 degrees.  You really didn't even need a shorty to dive.  The underwater visibility was much better and the seas were calmer as well.  It was just a little warm at night for us Seattleites, but the weather was absolutely perfect.

We did a lot of lounging this year, but we also got in some good diving and snorkeling as well.  We took the aluminum boat to Mermaid Bay (Playa La Serrita ).  This bay was about a 15 minute boat ride from the villa.  There weren't as many schools of fish as last year, but it was still pretty good snorkeling.  We also rented some tanks and did a shore dive.  Visibility was about 45 ft.  It cleared up to about 60 ft as you rounded the corner.  Water temperature was probably about 82 degrees.  It was perfect with a 3mm shorty, but you could get by with nothing.

We also took a few trips by boat from the villa to the is a sea lion colony.  Visibility was great here, ranging from 40 to 70 ft.  The sea lions were a bit lazy.  It seems to depend on what time of day you are visiting.  They were still a blast.  Watch out for small irritating jelly fish floating near the surface.  The stings are very mild, but still an inconvenience.

In addition to diving on our own, there are three dive shops in Cabo Pulmo that you can choose from if guided diving is more your cup of tea.  All the diving is from pangas which are basic fiberglass boats with outboard motors.  This year we dove with Pepe's Dive Center, which has a covered Panga to shade you from the sun.  Pepe, Marine and Thierry are all very patient and can speak English very well.  My buddy was a little freaked out on his first dive because it had been a while and the seas were rougher than he was used to.  Marine did a great job of working with him at his own pace so that he eventually became comfortable and was able to enjoy the dive.  At the same time, Pepe dove with the rest of the group.  Our first dive was at El Bajos.  The diving was much the same as last year, but the seas were much more calm.  Schooling Jacks, porcuipine puffers, and Pargos everywhere.  We encountered a school of yellow snappers near the end of the dive which provided a good photo opportunity.  The visibility was about 65 ft with 82 degree water temperature.  We hit the beach for snacks and a short surface interval.  The next dive was at the neighboring reef to El Bajo, Los Meros.  It was very similar to El Bajo.

My last dive with Pepe's was the highlight.  I did a night dive at El Bajo.  Pepe's boat captain was unavailable, but Marine from Pepe's was able to arrange for us to tag along with the boat from Cabo Pulmo Divers.  Pepe's really went out of their way to make sure I could get in a night dive before I left.  The currents were strong, but it was well worth the effort.  It is truly amazing how different this reef is at night.  We viewed lobster, small crabs, stingray and a huge school of jacks.  The best part of the dive was the beautiful orange cup coral.  It was more spectacular than the cup coral at Town Pier in Bonaire which is admired by many divers who travel to this more popular destination.

Other than diving and snorkeling, we hung out at the villa a lot.  We took a trip in to San Jose Del Cabo just to walk around and look for art.  There wasn't as much good stuff this year.  We did do a night on the town in Cabo Pulmo.  We ate and drank at Tito's.  The food at Tito's is very good, and reasonably priced.  Once again we went down to the fishing encampment in Los Frailes to try to buy some tuna or dolphin (Mahi Mahi).  I think we were a little early, showing up at about 2pm.  I would try 3:30pm, because all we were able to get was some snapper.  The price wasn't nearly as good as last year either.

One day I decided to take the sailboat out for a little sail.  I wasn't too comfortable with the thing, so I really didn't go anywhere, and then I chickened out because I didn't want to get stuck at sea.  Maybe next time.  From that point forward, my nickname became El Capitan.  I'm sure everybody was impressed with my polished sailing skills.

On my last day there, I was walking the beach trying to take pictures of birds.  A dark shadow was following a pelican that I was sneaking up on.  Up pops the head of a huge sea turtle.  This was only about 50 yards from the villa.  It's a sandy bottom in front of the villa, so maybe the turtle was looking to nest.  Interesting, and something to look for next time.

Pepe's Places

I was able to take a tour of the small houses that Pepe manages in Cabo Pulmo.  They aren't on the beach, and they don't compare to Villa Los Frailes, but they are in good condition and would be great choice for the more budget conscious traveler.  They are also centrally located in Cabo Pulmo.

Visit Pepe's web site for more details

Once again, Villa Los Frailes was a lot of fun.  It is truly a unique setting on miles of deserted beach.  There is nobody around, but there is excellent diving and snorkeling around the corner that you can access with your own boat.  It's just a matter of time before more people start discovering the East Cape.  Enjoy it while it still relatively unknown.

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