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Bahía San Gabriel is a stunning bay located at the south end of Isla Espiritu Santo, a world-renowned island off the coast of La Paz, Mexico. This bay has a rich history of cultured pearls that dates to the 1600s and perhaps even earlier. In the early 1900s the pearl beds were essentially re-discovered and determined to have some of the best pearl oysters in the world.
The largest pearl in the collection of the royal jewels in the Tower of London, is said to have come from this very bay. The Nobel prize-winning author, John Steinbeck, wrote a novelette about this area entitled, “The Pearl.”
During the very early 1900s, the demand for pearls was high, and the discovery of the oyster beds in Bahía San Gabriel led to a thriving pearl industry on the island. Local fishermen would dive into the bay to collect the oysters, which were then processed to extract the pearls. This industry was a significant source of income for the local community, and the pearls produced in Bahía San Gabriel were highly prized for their quality and beauty.
Unfortunately, the civil war in Mexico drove the pearl operators to Tahiti in 1917 and then on to Australia by 1921. Today, visitors to Bahía San Gabriel can learn about the history of the island's pearl industry, and see the footings of the pearl operations, which have now been taken over by frigate birds as their own rookery.
Recently, Conanp, Mexico’s environmental protection agency, declared that visitors were no longer permitted to get close to the remains of the pearl processing operation so as not to disturb frigate nesting. Licensed vessels may visit this incredibly beautiful bay and watch the frigates via binoculars from a measured distance offshore. In addition to its pearl history, San Gabriel Bay is simply one of the most beautiful beaches and bays in the entire world.