Although I have never used SCUBA gear other than in a pool,  I have done some pretty good diving.  By using a good facemask, snorkel and fins,  you can see some pretty interesting sea life.  The majority of diving with scuba gear is done in shallow water around 10 ft.  The only places I have dove have been in Mexico.   The first place I went to was in a small fishing village called Des Emboque.   Then every time after that it has been diving in Rocky Point.  Both locations are in the Sea of Cortez.  Diving in the areas I have seen the following:

Stingray  -  Depending on the time of year you go you can see hundreds of young stingray.
Octopus -  The only octopus I have been have been very small.
Starfish   -  Starfish in the Sea of Cortez do not look like the type you would normally think of.  They are called Brittle Stars          and have much longer skinnier arms compared to normal Starfish
Sgt. Majors - These fish can be found in extremely large schools.
Reef Shark - While in Des Emboque I did come across a reef shark that was about a foot and a half long.

All the pictures on this page were taken with a disposable under water camera from Kodak.

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Sting Ray hiding in sand.

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Can you see the Puffer Fish in this picture?

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Swimming with a Sting Ray.

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