Thursday, November 01, 2012

Kayaking Baja

Horrendous bugs, oppressive heat, scorching sun, and six days accumulation of sun screen, insect repellent, salt, and sand. But if you let those things discourage you you're missing a real treat.

The negatives pale in comparison to the positives. Beautiful clear sunny skies, calm blue water, lovely beaches, great snorkeling, dolphins, whales, colorful tropical fish ...

We arranged our trip through Baja Kayak Adventures. We discovered the company on a previous trip to Baja and found out they were connected to Silva Bay Kayak Adventures who we later did a trip with from Gabriola Island in BC. This was the first time we'd done a trip with them in Baja. We were lucky to get one of the same guides we'd had in BC - Joel, who is from Mexico. Joel was very low key, and because it was a private trip he left it up to us where we went and what we did.

After all the crazy weather we'd had, including a hurricane, we were a little concerned with what it would be like for our trip. We lucked out - it was beautiful and calm the whole six days. A little warmer than average, but we could live with that.

We started just south of Puerto Escondido (south of Loreto), crossed to Danzante Island, and then over to Carmen Island. Both crossings went smoothly in the calm water. map of points (point 4 is the furthest we reached, the others are our campsites)

The mosquitos and flies were worst the first night. After that they eased up and we managed to keep them under control with insect repellent. Still, by the end of the six days I estimated 100 bites from my ankles to my knees. Thankfully, most of the bites didn't bother me too much. Apparently the bugs aren't normally so bad, but the recent rains have brought them out.

The first day as we were eating lunch a big group of dolphins swam by quite close to shore - a delight to watch, as always.

We snorkeled every day, sometimes several times a day, partly just to cool off. The water was warm but it was still cooler than the sun! It was great snorkeling and fun to explore the different bays and rocky points.

One night a noise woke me and a few minutes later it was repeated. In the morning Joel asked me if I had heard the whale. It must have come in quite close to shore and the sound we heard was it breathing. Pretty cool to have a whale visit in the night.

Crossing one sandy bay I saw a dark patch on the bottom. There were lots of dark patches of rock or seaweed, but this one seemed different. I circled back in the kayak, trying to keep my eyes fixed on it. The water was very clear, but 30 or 40 feet deep so it was still hard to see. My feeling was right - it was a sea turtle swimming along the bottom. It didn't seem to be aware of me, or if it was, it didn't get spooked and it swam quite leisurely. I called to Shelley but she was quite far ahead and by the time she paddled back to me I had lost it in deeper water. Afterwards, I dawdled across the bay hoping to see another turtle. Instead I counted 10 sting rays swimming along the bottom, silhouetted against the white sand bottom.

We saw a few more sea turtles along the way, but just glimpses of them when they came up to breathe and then disappeared again.

Another morning at sunrise Shelley opened the tent door to grab her shirt hanging on the outside of the tent to dry. She was startled when a huge insect entered the tent. My immediate response was "cool!" I reassured Shelley that it was safe and wouldn't bite. It was a large praying mantis. I've seen small ones before, but this one was about 2 inches long. I grabbed my camera. It was still very early and quite dark so I managed to get it to climb on my hand so I could take it outside where there was a bit more light. After some photos I carried it away from the beach and up the arroyo to where there was some vegetation. I took a few more photos in the more natural setting - it blended in well. Praying mantises are fascinating creatures. They are hunters and unlike most insects they can turn their heads. It was a little eerie when it turned its head and tracked me with its huge eyes.

There were a variety of birds along the way, turkey vultures, osprey, herons, egrets, oystercatchers, kingfishers, ravens, cormorants, gulls, and more. And of course tons of fish in the water. At one point I was taking photos of a great blue heron and I happened to glance down into the water below my kayak. There was a big school of king angelfish right underneath me. These are quite common, but usually just one or two at a time. The big group was beautiful to see.

When I was a kid I could sit and watch the flames of a campfire for hours. (And come home saturated with the smell of wood smoke.) I don't make many campfires these days. On this kind of trip it's the water and the reflections that fascinate me. The ocean varied from blue to turquoise to green and from transparent to black. Reflections of the red rock added even more colors to the mix. And as you can see from the photos we also had some colorful sunrises and sunsets.

click to view photos (75)Untitled

See also Shelley's posts: Paddling the South IslandsSalt Mining and Big Horn Sheep, and Snorkelling Photos

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