Tiburón Island is the largest island in Mexico and in the Gulf of California and the largest island in Mexico, with an area of 1,201 sq km. It is part of the chain of islands known as the Midriff Islands or Islas Grandes.
The island is located in the northwestern part of Mexico, specifically in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez). The island is part of the state of Sonora and lies just off the eastern coast of the Baja California Peninsula.
Tiburón Island is part of the state of Sonora, as well as the municipality of Hermosillo, and is located at approximately the same latitude as the city of Hermosillo. It is located along the eastern shore of the Gulf of California, opposite Isla Ángel de la Guarda.
The island has a prominent mountain system of volcanic origin. Tiburon Island is characterized by its rugged terrain, arid climate, and diverse ecosystem. The island features a mix of desert landscapes, rocky coastlines, and mountainous regions.
The island is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including endemic species that can only be found on the island. Tiburon Island has been designated as a natural reserve known as the “Tiburon Island Natural Protected Area”.
It was made a nature reserve in 1963 by President Adolfo López Mateos. Tiburón is Spanish for a shark. Although the Seri name was first recorded by Alphonse Pinart in 1879, its etymology is unknown.
This designation is aimed at preserving the island’s unique and fragile ecosystem. The reserve is managed by Mexican authorities to ensure the conservation of its biodiversity and to protect the habitat of various plant and animal species.
Tiburon Island has been inhabited by various indigenous groups for centuries. The Seri people, an indigenous ethnic group, have a historical connection to the island. They have relied on the island’s resources and the surrounding sea for their livelihoods.
Tiburón Island is part of the traditional homeland of some bands (or clans) of the Seri people, probably for many centuries. The island has played a role in the Seri people’s traditional practices, including fishing, gathering, and crafting.
Over time, Tiburon Island has gained attention not only for its ecological importance but also for its cultural value. The island serves as a reminder of the rich history and relationship between humans and the environment.
Efforts to balance conservation and sustainable development on the island continue to be important in order to preserve its natural beauty and cultural heritage for future generations.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, a small hunting and fishing camp on the northern end of the island was operated by Jesus Olivas, a resident of Hermosillo. He constructed several buildings, a dock, and an airstrip near the historic Seri encampment at Tecomate.
The camp was popular with American visitors to the area.
The remains of the structures and airstrip are still in place. The airstrip was rendered unusable by the Mexican military around 1995 in an attempt to keep it from being used by smugglers who were active in the area at the time.
In 1975, the Mexican government, under a decree issued by President Echeverría, granted the Seri people formal recognition and bestowed communal property rights upon them in relation to Tiburón Island.
The island is uninhabited (except for Mexican military encampments on the eastern and southern shores of the island) and is administered as an ecological preserve by the Seri tribal government in conjunction with the federal government.
Bighorn sheep were introduced to the island in the 1980s; hunting is managed by the tribal government in coordination with Mexican federal authorities. It is also home to a subspecies of Coyote that is found nowhere but on the island.
In 2012, a television episode of Survivorman Ten Days (Les Stroud) was filmed on Tiburón Island.
The Tiburón Island tragedy occurred in 1905 involving a group of men, including Jack Hoffman, who embarked on an ill-fated expedition to Tiburón Island. The expedition was marked by a series of unfortunate events, dehydration, and lack of supplies.
The group set out on their journey from places like Bisbee and Nogales.
They headed to Tiburón Island in search of adventure, opportunities, and perhaps treasure. As they traveled through the desert terrain of Sonora, they faced extreme challenges due to the scarcity of water, high temperatures, and harsh conditions.
Several members of the group became severely dehydrated, and despite their efforts to find water and survive, they struggled to sustain themselves. The group eventually became separated, and some members were lost during the journey.
The tragedy reached its peak when Jack Hoffman’s companion, Grindell, left to find help but never returned. Dave Ingraham, another member of the group, became too weak to continue and was left behind by Hoffman.
Hoffman managed to make his way to safety in Guaymas, several months after the expedition began.
The Tiburón Island tragedy serves as a sobering reminder of the challenges and dangers posed by harsh desert environments, especially when individuals are ill-prepared and lack essential resources for survival.
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 kilometers to the south.
The distance from Punta Chueca to Punta Tormenta, the nearest point on the island, is 3 kilometers.
The channel between the mainland and the island is called Canal del Infiernillo (“Hell’s Channel”), because of the strong tidal currents and shoal water that occur there which can make navigation challenging.
Two permits are required for day hiking and overnight stays on the island: one from the Seri Governor’s office in Punta Chueca and another from the ISLAS office in Bahía de Kino.
You can dial 078 from any phone, where you can find free information about tourist attractions, airports, travel agencies, car rental companies, embassies and consulates, fairs and exhibitions, hotels, hospitals, financial services, migratory and other issues.
Or dial the toll-free (in Mexico) number 01-800-006-8839.
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MORE EMERGENCY NUMBERS:
General Information: 040 (not free)
National Emergency Service: 911