Shark meet

Simon Gage goes swimming with the whales and tries a little luxury in Los Cabos down Mexico Way

“As soon as you see the shark, jump in!” says a man with a worrying scar all the way up the back of his arm. We’re in the middle of a very choppy Sea of Cortes, over on the west side of Mexico, standing on a tiny boat that is bobbing recklessly about like a cork on… a very choppy sea. We’re in wet suits with goggles and snorkels and flippers and there is a huge shadow approaching the boat. “Jump!” says the man with the scar. And we do.

Quite how I’ve been persuaded to come and jump in a frothy, almost black sea with whale sharks, four metres long and counting, is anyone’s guess but however it’s happened, within seconds I’m in, coughing, not able to breathe through my snorkel and with this huge Loch Ness monster passing by. And it’s so big it takes ages to pass, just far enough away that I could touch it if I wanted. But I don’t want. I really don’t want.

Those people who think that if you want to get a bit of sun you might as well stick to Europe, or maybe the Canaries if it’s winter, are not counting on totally exhilarating experiences like this. Over in Baja California, the arm of land that continues down from regular California, just over the strip of water from where Puerto Vallarta is, you can juggle kicking back at some very fancy-pantsy hotels with swimming around with the biggest fish in the world, a plankton-eating shark whose mouth is so huge we’ve been warned not to go anywhere near the front of it. I personally don’t need to be warned twice.

CapeWEB3Or after a breakfast of huevos rancheros on the terrace of the spanking new Cape Hotel from New York group Thompson (not to be confused with the UK budget travel operation) looking out over the sea and across to the famous Arco, or Lands End, a rock formation like a gateway, how about a morning of zooming around on a boat so fast it has saddles rather than seats looking for whales? And you don’t have to look that far. They turn up alright, flapping their big old storeys-high tails and fins in the air just there. They’ll even jump right out but it’s always somehow too quick for a camera.

And then it’s back to The Cape, where the rooms are so delicious with their free-standing baths and pick-a-shower-head showers that it’s really hard to leave them, even if it’s just to sit on the swinging sofa on the balcony. But there’s an infinity pool down there with a bar in it and another salt-water lap pool and a beach where you can surf and a state-of-the-art spa carved out of the very rocks themselves and a restaurant that has somehow fused Mexican with Japanese. Why not? Even the huge, open lobby with furniture masquerading as artworks is something of a draw.

The Cape may be the newest of the swish hotels, but there’s really no shortage to choose between at Los Cabos, a resort that’s been popular with Los Angelinos for years… well, it is just two hours away. There’s the Rosewood, the most romantic of the hotels with its massive suites down little lanes with their own beaches where Bill Gates likes to go, and the One & Only, a mini-town you need a golf buggy to get around with some pretty fine dining, not that eating well is anything of a rarity around these parts: whether it’s Mexican or international cuisine you’re after, this lot know what they’re doing.

The idea of Los Cabos was cooked up by the son of a Mexican President way back when, who had Hollywood contacts and would fly the likes of Frank Sinatra down here to enjoy the almost guaranteed sunshine. Now, it’s a two-centre kind of place with the more touristy bars and clubs in Cabo San Lucas down one end and San José del Cabo at the other. San José del Cabo a tiny Mexican town, with brightly painted buildings, lots of art galleries and plenty of hanging out in squares. Most of the big fancy hotels are between those two points with plenty more coming.

But maybe the loveliest of all the hotels around here is El Ganzo, which started out as an artists’ retreat taking on paying customers just to make ends meet. Now it’s a surprisingly cool spot that seems more Shoreditch or Brooklyn than Mexico. Artists who stay are encouraged to leave mementos of their work meaning you might get a suite with a Pentel sketch of a dog on the wall while musicians get to use the recording studio stashed in a storm cellar you get to through a trap-door in the salon. They’re also encouraged to perform on the roof.

And what about that roof? An infinity pool that runs around the perimeter of the building with views out over the marina to the sea and a huge glass Jacuzzi that easily takes ten people and looks like a human aquarium when it’s populated. There’s also a beach club just over there, which they’ll run you to in a boat.

Yes, it’s a long way to come but with a little stop-off in Mexico City, which you simply have to experience at least once, this might just turn out to be the holiday of a lifetime.

Ganzo web 2

Pride Life flew first class with AeroMexico (Aeromexico.com) – which comes with flat bed, complimentary chauffeur airport transfer and concierge service at the airport – on a Dreamliner to Mexico City. There are with six departures from London Heathrow per week.

Rates at El Ganzo start at 300 US Dollars per night (Blvd. Tiburon s/n, La Playita, 23403 San José del Cabo, ElGanzo.com)
Rates at The Cape start at 380 US dollars per night (Carretera Transpeninsular Km 5 Misiones, Misiones del Cabo, 23455 Cabo San Lucas, Thompsonhotels.com/hotels/The-Cape-Los-Cabos