Thursday, March 6, 2014

Whale-watching, sea kayaking trip in Mexico makes for a great winter or spring vacation

Now this is living! Sea kayaking on Isla del Carmen. We snorkeled here, too. 
Danielle Rodier of New York City took some great photos and video on our trip. 
Light winds made for easy going paddling between the islands. We were lucky! 
Wendy counted more than 61 bird species on our trip, including a peregrine falcon on the last day.  

We saw lots of tropical fish ... never saw a sea turtle, tho ... 
Hi all,
Wendy and I have been overdue for a vacation, so at the Idaho Rivers United fund-raiser/auction in December, we bought a 10-day whale-watching, sea kayaking trip from ROW Adventures and booked it for late February. It turned out to be a home-run vacation for sure. We highly recommend it! 

ROW Adventures is based in Coeur d'Alene. They do Idaho raft trips and all kinds of cool stuff all over the world. Wendy and I know the owner, Peter Grubb. We like their style of trip, focusing on adventure, comfort, a strong component of education and interpretation, and most of all, fun! 

The trip was based out of Loreto on the east coast of the Baja California Sur peninsula. Loreto is just a two-hour flight directly south from LAX. It's located on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, known as the "World's Aquarium," and it's a two-hour drive from Magdalena Bay, where we did the whale-watching adventure with gray whales. 
Sea of Cortez is on the right side of the map; Pacific Coast and Magdalena Bay on the left ... 
The weather was fab - 85 degrees almost every day, and during our sea kayak adventure, the winds were light and calm, making for easy-going paddling in the gorgeous Sea of Cortez. 

Our trip started with whale-watching. ROW Adventures put us up at the Mission Hotel in Loreto (very nice digs), and then a van picked up our group of eight people for the two-hour ride over the mountains to Magdalena Bay. We brought packs with our clothes for the next three days, and ROW provided all of the camping equipment, food and guides. 

At the bay, we grabbed some life jackets from an outfitter and jumped into a 20-foot white fiberglass boat with padded seats. A local man guided the boat and knew how to get close to the gray whales. At this time of year, the female gray whales have had their babies, and they're hanging out in the bay, allowing the calves to grow and learn the ropes before swimming to the Gulf of Alaska for the summer. The whales are very social ... we had no idea we'd be able to touch them, scratch their bellies and get so close! It was a hoot! 

Over three days, we had multiple two-hour whale-watching sessions. On the second day, we had our best session with multiple female gray whales sidling up to our boat with their youngsters, coming up for pets, and smiling at us, showing us their big tails and the whole deal. It was such a treat! 

The base camp for the whale-watching trip was located on a sandy spit of land between the bay and the Pacific Ocean. It was an easy hike over to the ocean to look at desert plants and hike the sandy dunes next to the sea. Plus you could walk along the ocean and check out the sea shells and enjoy the soothing feeling of the salt water sifting through your toes. Each spacious tent had two cots in it, and single people could request their own tents, if they wanted them. 

On Day 3, we left the whale-watching camp, drove back to Loreto, and stayed at the Mission for a night before the sea kayaking adventure started the next day. I woke up that day with a big knot in my stomach from god knows what. "Montezuma's Revenge" kicked in, and I had a bad case of diarrhea that left me weak, dehydrated and unable to attend our farewell lunch. I went to the medical clinic in Loreto, got some drugs, and slept it off. If I was going to get sick, at least it hit me at a time when I was close to civilization. 

The next day, I needed to sleep and recover. That illness hit me like a ton of bricks. Couldn't eat anything for 1.5 days, but I felt better that evening and started to gain some strength. ROW Adventures has a motor boat that accompanies the sea kayak trip, so they were able to come get me on the morning of Day 2, so Wendy and I could rejoin the trip. 

On the extra day in Loreto, Wendy went out to see blue whales, sea lions and dolphins with a group she ran across at the harbor. She got some killer video of about 200 dolphins leaping about on the boat wakes, close ups of sea lions and blue whales. It was an awesome day for her in the Sea of Cortez. Fortunately, she got some video so I could enjoy it, too!

Our sea-kayaking trip was just as wonderful, if not more because we got to explore the islands in the Sea of Cortez, go snorkeling every day, and enjoy beautiful weather. We visited two islands as part of our journey. The secret coves and caves we visited along the way were very cool. The water is turquoise and gin-clear, so it's like you're paddling with a glass-bottomed boat. Most of us paddled two-person kayaks, which handled very easily, and with smooth fiberglass bottoms, they were sleek and fast. Our support guide went ahead of us during the day in the motor boat, set up lunch at our lunch stops, and set up tents and the kitchen area before we arrived. Very cool. 
We did some neat side hikes from lunch or camp. 
Tarantula seen on one of our side hikes.
See the sea shell fossil in the rocks? 
We saw some blue whales as part of that journey, and we also saw dolphins multiple times along the way. Now I know why they call the Sea of Cortez "the World's Aquarium." What a treat to visit that wonderful place. 

For more information, see ROW Adventures web site on the sea kayak trips. You can add on the whale-watching adventure too. 


1 comment:

Miss Merle said...

Wooo hooooo it was a great trip Steve!