Isla Tiburón is in the Sea of Cortez offshore of the state of Sonora in Mexico. The island was established as a refuge to protect large game animals from the dangers of poaching and overhunting that they were facing on the mainland.
In the 1960s, the Mexican Marines who had bases on the island prevented the Seri Indians from landing or hunting on the island although the island had always been Seri territory.
By the 1970s, the rights of the Seri were recognized. Today, the Indians don't hunt on the islands, and instead permits are auctioned off to wealthy Americans and the proceeds are split. Half is allocated to the Seri, the remainder is used to finance conservation efforts. If you are interested in hunting, save your pesos: permits typically sell for ~US$75,000.
Tiburón Island used to be populated by the Seri Indian tribe, but they have been relocated to the mainland. Today only about 2000 Seri survive in a small village, Punta Chueca about 32 km (20 miles) north of Bahia Kino.
The coastline is a combination of sandy beach, gravel shore and low cliffs. There are many secluded coves on the island. The interior of the island is mostly mountainous. The Sierra Menor is a prominent mountain system of volcanic origin. Low resolution topographic maps are available (topo lines drawn at 100m increments).
Flora and fauna
Many birds nest on Isla Tiburón in the spring of the year. While it is possible to visit during nesting season please be especially careful to avoid disrupting the birds.
A desert climate. The island is part of the Sonoran desert. Winter temperatures are nearly ideal, while summer can be deadly. Strong winter winds can be a concern in December and January. Late winter to early spring is probably the ideal time of year to visit.
This is the hard part, you must first obtain a permit, and then arrange a boat from mainland Sonora. The channel between the mainland and the island is called Canal del Infiernillo ('Tiny Hell's Channel') because of the strong tidal currents and shoal water that occur there which can make navigation challenging. 3-m (10-foot) waves and strong winds are not uncommon. Be sure to hire a seaworthy fishing boat for the crossing. The crossing takes about 5 hours in rough seas, considerably less when waters are calm.
The island can be reached from Punta Chueca, which is the nearest community inhabited by members of the Seri tribe, and from Bahía de Kino, a non-Seri community 34 km (21 miles) to the south. The distance from Punta Chueca to Punta Tormenta, the nearest point on the island, is 3 km (1.9 miles).
Fees and permits
Permits are required to visit the island. They are available in Bahia Kino (viejo kino) near the waterfront in the park service's small office building. Permits cost US$4 per day/person. They can also be obtained in Punta Chueca.
Federal officials have constructed and maintain about 160 km (100 miles) of dirt roads for conservation efforts. There are no public vehicles allowed on the island. All transport is done either by kayak, panga, or on foot.
The waters around Isla Tiburón are especially rich. In fact the most obvious sign of human activity you'll see during your visit are the shrimp vessels and small fishing pangas working the waters just off the island during the night and early morning. Most campers have no problem catching enough fish to make ceviche or fish tacos.
Bring plenty of water: plan on 4 L (1 US gallon) a day per person. There is no reliable source of freshwater on the island. You may find some in the arroyos after a rain, but you shouldn't count on it.
There is no organized lodging anywhere on the island. Instead all visitors must camp. There are no designated campsites, but there are many coves and beaches that make fine campsites.