THE water glitters, the engine cuts out and the chatter falls silent.
We gasp as a humpback whale rises from the Sea of Cortez, off Cabo, Mexico. The sight is exhilarating — terrifying, even.
Then a smaller hump appears. The proud mum is showing her baby the ropes.
Awestruck, we watch them dive gracefully back into the depths. The whole group is left grinning.
When the boat’s engine finally starts back up, I know I will never forget this.
The view of Cabo from the sea shows off everything great about this place, at the most southerly point of the Baja California Sur to the west of mainland Mexico.
Don’t miss El Arco, the famous rock arch leaning over the sea, pleasingly described by our guide Beth as like a dragon drinking from the ocean.
There is an enticing long, white beach dotted with bars and the harbour at the end is the beating heart of the resort.
It is January when I visit and even now the place is buzzing. Jet skis skim the waves in 27C heat, while lively restaurants are packed with American tourists and Mexicans enjoying a cool beer in the shade.
Captain Tony’s seems as good a spot as any to soak up the atmosphere in the marina and the food there is my first true taste of Mexico.
I order a molcajete, an enormous bowl made from local volcanic rock that is said to soak up the flavours of everything served in it.
Inside is chicken with a rich, smoky tomato sauce featuring heaps of paprika, onion and chilli, to be scooped up with nachos.
All of a sudden I am not looking forward to hitting the beach in my bikini . . .
If you like street food, taco stalls are ten-a-penny in nearby Todos Santos, an arty little place decorated with the Day of the Dead paper flags and home to the famous Hotel California (although it is a myth that The Eagles ever stayed there).
Meat eaters should seek out a barbacoa taco with juicy pulled lamb for the equivalent of £1.20. You will not regret it.
Aside from the food, what really sets Cabo apart is its breathtaking natural wildlife, which will surprise you at every turn.
Locals do not seem fazed as a hungry sea lion hops on to the back of a little fishing boat like a friendly Labrador.
And it is not unusual to see an iguana just waddle off into the sea to cool off as you sunbathe on the sand.
To get even closer to the action, I recommend a boat tour to the secluded islands of Espiritu Santos, off the coast of La Paz.
An hour’s drive along cactus-lined roads from Cabo, and a further hour sailing the boundless blue (while sinking a mimosa or four), there you will reach the second-largest sea-lion colony in the world.
Lolling on the rocks, tame enough to swim with, the sea lions are enough to take your breath away . . . literally.
Their pungent smell hits you like a wall — and you will want to steer clear of territorial males.
Snorkelling round the colony is like something from Finding Nemo.
But if you don’t fancy a swim, you will come across some of the world’s best beaches on the voyage — and have them more or less to yourself.
If you haven’t yet hit the margaritas, Cabo is home to the highest zip line in Mexico.
I surprise myself by agreeing to test it out — strapped in tight — to plummet a kilometre over a dizzying canyon in Miraflores at speeds of up to 40mph.
I stagger off at the other end with shaking knees, feeling completely alive.
For a good middle ground between idleness and thrill-seeking, take an electric bike for a spin along the Pacific coastline.
Try not to laugh out loud like a child as you whizz along, dodging cacti.
If the excitement gets too much, make the most of the incredible weather by the pool back in Cabo, which is lively and luxurious with four pools to choose from.
If you are looking for peace and quiet, head to the beach just a few steps away.
When you are done with the all-inclusive cocktails and people-watching, rooms at the Riu Palace Baja California are absolute oases.
Mine had a huge oval tub in the middle of the room, a rainfall shower and the biggest bed I had ever set eyes upon. Beyond the rooms, the hotel has loads to offer — five restaurants, an outdoor bar and a huge entertainment area.
But for a night on the tiles, Cabo comes into its own. This is where Americans take Spring Break, after all.
Start somewhere civilised such as Vas que Vuelas, a bar dedicated to mezcal — like a smoky, very strong tequila.
From there, Cabo is your oyster, with offerings from the mad open-air club La Vaquita to the eye-popping, multi-storey mayhem of El Squid Roe.
Cabo offers an incredible first taste of Mexico, with amazing nature, glorious weather and an infectious party atmosphere.
Where better to nurse a tequila hangover than on those beautiful white beaches?
GETTING/STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 4H Riu Palace Baja California in Cabo is from £1,153pp based on two sharing. Price includes return flights from Gatwick departing November 4 and transfers. Find out more at tui.co.uk.
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