SCUBA Travel

Baja California Divers Guide

Meet the Authors: Michael and Lauren Farley

Baja California Divers Guide

When Michael Farley was managing a chain of dive stores in southern California in the early 1970's, many people came into the shops asking for information on Baja California diving. There was at that time nothing published on the subject. In 1977 he and his wife, Lauren, decided to take an extended journey to the Baja Peninsula, together with their inflatable boat, compressor, dive tanks and Nikonos photo gear. After a year of diving and travels in Baja, which included living on islands with fisherman up and down both sides of the Peninsula, they returned to California intending to produce a small pamphlet for use at the dive stores. However, the vast amount of information and photos that they had compiled led to the publication of their first book in 1978, entitled Diving Mexico's Baja. They updated this several times, changing the title to Baja California Divers Guide.

The book was the first published on SCUBA diving in Baja California waters, and was a compilation of their actual, logged dives. As such, it became the bible and reference book for many years. Lauren and Michael were pioneers in the field, producing photographs in the days of disposable flash bulbs that you had to carefully capture in a plastic bag after each photo in order not to pollute the ocean; diving in pristine sites that very few if any divers had ever seen; discovering new dive sites by tagging along with shark fishermen on their daily net checks; and recommending conservation practices such as not anchoring on coral reefs, and "taking only photos and memories" from the ocean instead of living shells and game.

From thousands of hours underwater Michael perhaps remembers most fondly a dive off the waters of San Jose del Cabo on a film trip with Howard Hall and Marty Snyderman near Gorda Banks Reef. "A 50 foot-plus whale shark appeared out of the depths and came towards us. At that time, we were one of a handful of people that had ever seen a whale shark underwater. It stopped abruptly in the water, and allowed me to approach it, exploring the entire length of its body. While I was hanging on to its first dorsal fin, it began swimming slowly, and I was surprised that instead of being brushed off by the water pressure, I was actually almost suctioned to the whale shark by the low pressure area of its movement with the water. I swam forward along its body, towards the head, got near the eyes and noticed that instead of cartilaginous membranes closing over the eyes like most sharks, it in fact retracts and extends its eyeball in its socket. I found this fascinating and most likely was the very first person to actually observe this phenomenon up close. It left me with a sense of wonder, that this huge creature actually let me interact with it and in fact initiated the contact...they are in fact so powerful that one has a profound experience of one's own insignificance and at the same time an extreme appreciation for all of those sea creatures that we still know very little about."

Lauren Farley's most memorable dive was off the Marisla Seamount near La Paz, where instead of just observing the large schools of hammerhead sharks at the base of the sea mount, she actually swam straight into the school with her buddy, Patti Whitfield, where she reports that it was "like being invisible inside the school with huge, undulating prehistoric looking creatures moving in rhythm all around you, and there were so many that they looked like minnows as you looked up at the surface. A feeling of being in a large primordial bowl of soup outside of time."

Michael's worst diving experience was when filming squid on a night dive with Howard Hall off Catalina Island for the TV show Wild Kingdom...."I was in charge of lighting, I told the topside assistant that I would swim to the bottom at 120 feet, and then he could send the light bar and cable down, so I would be in position for Howard to descend and begin filming the squid laying eggs. I looked up and saw the light bar coming down, moved in position underneath it to steady it, but unbeknownst to me along with the light bar came down 300 feet of electrical cable, which promptly pinned me to the bottom. I was at first terrified and unable to move, as I lay underneath a spaghetti like mass of cable that had enveloped me completely. I tried to disentagle myself, only making things worse; then I thought about cutting it off of me with my dive knife, only to remind myself that cutting electrical cable underwater does not reflect clear thinking as the lites were on and the cable was fully charged with 120 volts; so I just laid there for a few minutes, to calm myself down, and realized the best course of action was to lie calmly on the bottom and wait for my buddy, Howard to show up. Which he did, in what seemed an eternity, but which was probably only 5 minutes. Needless to say he set his camera down, looked at me, realized the gravity of the situation, and spent the rest of the dive disentangling me. We then both had to recompress before surfacing....and we both had a few choice words for the topside "crew", but obviously, all is well that ends well."

The Farleys lived in Southern California from 1978 to 1988. They led and organised SCUBA diving tours aboard the Don Jose Boat owned by Baja Expeditions and based in La Paz, Mexico. During this time they created and operated their own publishing company, called Marcor Publishing, and produced and sold: Baja California Divers Guide; Divers Guide to Underwater Mexico; Scuba Equipment Care and Maintenance; California Dive Boat Guide; Howard Hall's guide to Successful Underwater Photography; and California Marine Life. They obtained a photography contract to produce a tourism slide library for the country of Belize, and spent one year photographing and exploring Belize, both underwater and topside. Michael Farley worked as divemaster on a boat in the Bahamas on a treasure salvage operation funded by the Mobius Society, that used prominent psychics to find treasure, during the winter of 1986. He also worked with numerous companies on underwater films and documentaries.

Living in Calistoga, California from 1988-1997 they continued managing sales of their books and leading custom tours to Baja. They built a house in the wine country, started a home-wine making coop, and made award-winning wine under the label "Toll Creek Vineyard." Michael managed a wild African animal ranch called Safari West in Santa Rosa, California. In 1997 they began work on Danzante RESORT.

After diving in many spots around the world for both business and pleasure, working on documentaries about sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, whales, etc, Michael and Lauren now enjoy running the eco-resort where they can introduce other people to the treasures of Baja California waters, "where you never know what you will see...from a 250 pound marlin circling you, to hundreds of manta rays leaping out of the water, or a golden sea horse swaying in the surge simply wrapped around a piece of sea weed".


You can obtain a copy of Baja California Divers Guide from Amazon.com.

For more information on the Danzante resort contact [email protected].