Tito gives a little whoop as his friends help him, already strapped into his diving gear, slide from the boat into the smooth, cyan water off Cabo Pulmo, Mexico.
“I feel closer to what I am in the water,” he tells me later.
Tito, who grew up swimming, kayaking, fishing, and surfing in the bays of the Sea of Cortez, has had little occasion to feel close to the ocean—or to himself—since being paralyzed in a car accident five years ago.
Twenty-four-year-old Tito, whose full name is Roberto Alejandro Ramírez Rivas, is a native of La Paz, the state capital of Baja California Sur, Mexico—a long, narrow peninsula draped in tranquil beaches and bright island cliffs, glinting with schools of dolphin and fish, rafts of sea lions, and migrating blue whales. (Travel to the Sea of Cortez on a National Geographic expedition.)
Its stunning marine landscapes and global value as a “natural laboratory” even earned this stretch of the Gulf of California recognition from UNESCO. Though ecotourism is on the rise here, the city of La Paz remains somewhat off the path beaten by tourists who flock to Cabo San Lucas, two hours down the coast. (See National Geographic scientists swim with sea lions in the Bahía de La…