Access & Resources: Sea Kayaking Baja

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, January 1993
Access & Resources: Sea Kayaking Baja
By Adam Horowitz

Though it's become big business, sea kayaking off Baja isn't just another programmed trip; you get to make choices. Do you want to join a guided tour or plan a do-it-yourself adventure? Paddle the Gulf of California or the sheltered bays of the Pacific coast? Camp on a desolate beach in a wildlife sanctuary or on one favored by sun-worshiping throngs? It's all up to you.

Outfitters. Whatever your needs and style, there's no shortage of accommodating companies ready to lead the way. Here are a few to get you started. Ageya, the company that guided Tim Cahill, no longer leads scheduled trips to Baja, but Martine Springer does. She's now working for Seattle-based Sea Quest (206-378-5767), whose five- and seven-day trips to the island wildlife sanctuaries near Loreto, February through April, are among the better values on the peninsula ($599- $699). Sea Quest's status as a non-profit research organization allows it to keep prices low and to staff tours with marine biologists who double as guides.

Baja Expeditions (800-843-6967) offers two seven-day sea-kayaking trips--one on the Pacific, one in the Gulf--weekly from January through March. Beginners and cetacean lovers should try the trip to the still waters of Bahía Magdalena, winter home of the Pacific gray whale ($1,300, including airfare from Los Angeles). More-experienced paddlers may prefer the tour around Espíritu Santo ($1,350, including airfare), an uninhabited island just ten miles from La Paz. Those with a little extra time and money should consider the 12-day, 130-mile excursion in the southern Gulf offered January through April by Ecosummer Expeditions ($1,795; 800-688-8605). To avoid the redundancy of a round-trip paddle, you'll travel overland from La Paz to the put-in near Ligui and then return by sea. You'll have the prevailing winds at your back throughout and vistas of red and purple rock in the Sierra de la Gigante.

On your own. The most popular route for independent kayakers is the 84-mile stretch from Mulegé to Loreto. Most of southern Baja's gulf coast is unpopulated, making it very hard to arrange overland transportation. Both Mulegé and Loreto, however, are relatively user-friendly, so you shouldn't have much trouble arranging a ride back to your car. Once out of town, the coast is as populated by marine animals as it is uninhabited by humans. A good topographic map is a must, in addition to a road map. You can get both from the California Map Center (310-829-6277), which sells everything from an atlas of the state on down to little pocket Bajas ($6.95- $29.95). With the usual northerly winds at your back the trip shouldn't take more than six or seven days, but bring enough food and water for a week and a half in case you get stuck waiting for a storm to pass.

Readings. Don't even think about taking off for Baja without a copy of Walt Peterson's The Baja Adventure Book (Wilderness Press, $19.95), a 252-page traveler's bible brimming with sound advice on everything from anchoring sailboats to touring Spanish missions. But if you'd like a glimpse at the peninsula's grandeur before heading out, pick up Baja! (Bullfinch Press, $40), by Doug Peacock with photos by Terry Moore; it's become a fixture on the coffee tables of many veteran south-of-the-border explorers.

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