The sun rose in pink-colored hues over the tiny fishing village of Los Frailes, just as a squadron of local pangueros rounded the corner from Parque Nacional Cabo Pulmo to welcome us to another day of adventure aboard the National Geographic Venture. A breakfast of salsa roja chilaquiles kickstarted us into our first snorkel of the voyage—and what a place to do it!

Cabo Pulmo National Park is a jewel of the global “Marine Protected Area” project, a stunning example of how an aquatic community can rebound and thrive if it is freed from extractive pressures and given the time it needs to heal. Once nearly-barren from decades of overexploitation, this 27-square-mile piece of piscine paradise had been set aside as a no-take marine reserve since 1995, thanks to the dedicated efforts and oversight of Cabo Pulmo’s ocean-minded community of residents and expats.

The park—which also oversees the northern-most coral reefs of the Pacific Coast of North America and only reef-building coral community in Baja California—has seen its ecosystem rebound almost beyond comprehension, with a biomass surging over 400% in the past 30 years. We spent the morning snorkeling along these as-near-to-pristine reefs, encountering full “emergen-sea rooms” of yellowtail surgeonfishes, resplendent dent wrasses, parrotfishes, moorish idols, pufferfishes, damselfishes, bennies, hawkfishes, groupers and countless tropically influenced swimmers, all communing around corals, sea fans and sponges. Open-ocean passers-by of green, trevally and blue jacks swam by as pompano and cornetfishes chased closely behind.

Though the water was chopped by the wind and relatively cool with the approaching winter, we explored throughout the morning until hands were thoroughly pruned and hot showers were extra-appreciated. Chicken tortas powered us into an afternoon of cruising, whale-watching, and learning from National Geographic Exporter John Francis about sustainable tourism. An evening of presentations about the park featuring dive footage from the day left our memory-bellies full for the tomorrow’s final full day of expedition fun. One could say we had experienced Cabo Pulmo-nary Resuscitation… Onward!