kayaking Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja

Twice before I tried & failed to get to this idyllic island.

Finally made it Feb. 1-4th, 2006. 🙂

I was a client with the BOA company out of La Paz. 14 clients, 2 guides, 2 boat captain/cooks setting off on a 4-day kayak tour to Isla Espiritu Santo from La Paz, Baja, California.

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The boat trip to the north end of the island was my least favourite leg. It can be noisy & choppy. Sit in the back for the most comfortable possible ride.

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I was surprised to see that high cliffs surround most of the island. This face they call the “Cathedral”.

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You could kayak 4.5mi from the mainland (in the distance) across the San Lorenzo channel to the island >> but it can be dangerous if the wind kicks up when you are half way across. Crosses like this one have been erected by fishermen in many of the bays.

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We needed 2 boats to transport the 18 people, food & gear. One skiff we kept. The other headed back to the mainland.

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Manuel grew up in the Baja, one of the top kayak guides in the region. He dreams of kayaking 800mi or more >> the length of the Sea of Cortes.

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Ah! Los Islotes. These are tiny islands off the north tip. We started with the highlight of the entire tour >> snorkeling with sea lions! It was awesome.

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Juveniles like to play with snorkelers. One even hugged some of our group & “kissed” them on the mask. Amazing! They are prone to nipping at the divers too, playfully in almost every case. Big bulls & older females can be aggressive. You cannot get too close to the islets.

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Most snorkelers wear wet suits as the waters are still a bit chilly in winter.

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The food on the BOA tour was super. Our chef “Big Al” had been with the company for over 10-years.

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Cook stove.
Cook stove.

First night we camped at Ensenada beach. I immediately took off down the Ensenada Grande hiking trail, 6km return to cross the island. VERY RUGGED. I ran out of daylight.

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The harsh desert is beautiful & intimidating.

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Wild fig trees were my favourite plant. They grow in cracks cold enough to generate some drops of moisture.

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Every kayak tour paddles a mangrove swamp >> a fascinating, under-appreciated ecosystem.

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White sand. Bright kayaks & tents. Beautiful.

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The Park guards checked in with us twice. They looked to be doing a good job protecting the island.

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Day 2 – setting out in typical, perfect weather. Mornings are calm. Afternoons usually bring north winds during the winter.

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Permanent camp of Mar Y Aventuras (Sea and Adventures) – KayakBaja.com – the main competitor for BOA. Both companies seem to do an excellent job, offering similar itineraries.

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Our BOA camp on the other side of the same beach.

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This view gives you a good perspective on beach life. Foreground is a big tarp >> providing essential shade.

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Happy Hour! We had Pina Colada or Margaritas every night. Non-stop beer & wine too. Whoo Hoo!

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The biggest concern for many kayakers are the toilet facilities. This is the ladies pee tent. Men need “scan for whales” below the tide line.

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The second toilet is marked by the blue bag: toilet paper & disinfectant alcohol gel. If the bag is visible >> the toilet is vacant.

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Here is the loo for #2. It worked quite well, actually. All human waste is carried off the island. It was declared a Nature Conservancy in 2003.

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Off on the skiff for another session of snorkelling. Typically we took the boat to the nearest good coral.

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At each beach I took a hike into the hills. There are few trails, however. And plenty of loose scree.

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There are a couple of sources of fresh water on the islands including this well at Candelero beach. Do not count on it, however! Carry enough water to get you through.

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Gorgeous desert colours late in the day.

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Seems the bizarre rock formations are carved by wind, not water.

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On this hike we saw bats starting their evening feed.

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Another amazing Baja sunset.

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Isla Espiritu Santo is wonderful.

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Millions of oyster shells are heaped in middens on these islands. The Spanish enslaved pearl divers for decades >> until European disease killed them.

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Gear provided by BOA was excellent & up-to-date.

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The most popular walks take you atop coastal cliffs for magnificient sea views.

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Sea turtle rock painting.

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Wear long pants when hiking in Baja. Almost everything tries to stick you!

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This is the life. 🙂

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Leah from Vancouver, our second guide. She learned the kayak “eskimo roll” during our tour!

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The company provides both single & double kayaks for the group to share. If you prefer a single you might want to INSIST and get it in writing in advance of the tour. (We did not have enough singles on our tour.)

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I trolled a trout lure from a hand reel behind my kayak. Nada! Not even a bite.

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It’s essential to stay hydrated in your kayak. Safety first.

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The water is incredibly clear. But in the heat of summer it is clearer yet. The best months for scuba divers are July & August.

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Our hand washing station. Fresh water, pump-operated, is in the bucket.

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Life is good under the big tarp.

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Our cooks caught some fish. The rest was delivered by local fishermen: mackerel & bonita.

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Rocky beaches are infested with a “sea cockroach” (isopod). They do not bother humans & keep the rocks spotless.

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Tidal lagoon.

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Cliff vista.

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Our guides coming in from another session of eskimo rolling.

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I will never forget the Baja sunsets.

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Of the 14 clients in our group, everyone left the tour happy. One even decided to sign-up for a second BOA tour: 7-days circumnavigating the entire island.

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Hope you can make it to Baja … SOON.

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Our last day kayaking we had a second encounter with dolphins. One kayak got quite close.
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My best kayak trip. So far. 🙂

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Published by

Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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