Isla Danzante

After an evening spent at one of the most easily identifiable campsites in the Sea of Cortez it was time to start our journey south. Initially we headed north along the shores of Isla Carmen as we wanted to cross to the northern end of Isla Danzante.
The views towards the hills of Isla Carmen were spectacular, as we started the crossing another kayak group left the larger island heading west. Our paths seemed to be parallel to each other but we were clearly heading to a similar point.

Isla Carmen
Heading north along the west coast of Isla Carmen. We were getting ready to cross to the northern end of Isla Danzante.

Eventually our paths crossed and we stopped for a talk with the group who were out of Loreto. It turned out they would be the only group we spoke to whilst on the water in the next 10 days. Baja might be a popular kayaking destination but you rarely encounter other groups.

Isla Dazante
Rachel paddling past one of the attractive beaches on the west coast Isla Dazante. There were a number of suitable places to stop, which offered the opportunity to some superb swimming.

The decision to paddle along the wext coast of Isla Danzante was based upon the fact that on every other visit to the area we had paddled the west coast. It was great to get a different perspective on a dramatic Mexican island. Rising to a maximum height of 1050 metres, the island is home to 16 different types of reptiles, including a number of snakes. Not being a fan of such things I enjoyed my time of the beach and snorkeling but resisted the temptation to wander around inland.

Isla Danzante
Crossing from Isla Danzante towards Punta Candeleros. This point marked the start of our journey south along the Baja coast.

Leaving Isla Danzante we passed on the inside of a number of small islands before reaching the headland of Punta Candeleros. In many ways this was quite a significant milestone as we would be following the Baja coast, in a southerly direction from there.
It was a really warm day so it is a relief to round the point and land on pebble beach, which we remembered from a previous visit. There was plenty of shelter from the midday sun.

Baja, Mexico
A delightful beach with some very welcome shade. 2 years ago we had watched whales breaching whilst sitting on this beach.

The afternoon paddle was relatively short and we were fortunate enough to have a light following breeze speeding us on our way. Camp for the evening was on the large beach of Playa Triunfo, perhaps better known as ‘donkey poo’ beach. We camped on the northern end of the beach, where there was plenty of evidence of visits by our four legged friends!

It was a perfect place to sit and sip our evening tequila after a memorable day on the water, which included paddling along the shores of Isla Danzante one of the more special places in this unique area.

Punta Baja

It’s a long way from La Paz to Loreto, could be the opening line of a badly written country song. In fact, it’s the reality of the shuttle north. Nearly 5 hours of driving through the Mexican desert, found us on the beach at Puerto Escondido, surrounded by piles of kit. Our destination for the day was Punta Baja, only just over 6 miles away so we were in no rush.
The sea kayaks we had hired, from Mar Y Aventuras in La Paz, simply swallowed our equipment food and water. We were carrying at least 30 litres of water each in addition to fruit juices and Sprite. Kayaking in a desert is thirsty work.
In less time than anticipated, we were floating the kayaks away from the beach, prior to jumping in and heading to the east. As we left the shelter of the bay we were greeted by Mobula Rays jumping, surely one of the most magical sights for the cockpit of a kayak. Dolphins swam past heading north whilst the bird life was something special.

Baja, Mexico
Looking east towards Isla Danzante, a delightful island which lies between the coast just south of Loreto and Isla Carmen.

There was a slight northerly swell running, something I couldn’t remember experiencing in Baja before. Perhaps an indication of stronger winds further into the Gulf of California. Our aim was to pass through the narrow gap to the north of Isla Danzante.
The kayaks would float through the gap as long as there was nobody in them, so we split. 2 people opting to float and walk whilst 3 of us chose the longer and lumpier paddle to the north. The paddle was entertaining but the floaters were quicker!

Isla Danzante
Crossing towards Isla Danaznte. Within the firts 30 minutes we had already seen Mobula Rays and dolphins

Ahead lay Isla Carmen, the largest of the islands in the Loreto area and an essential part of the National Park. We had our wristbands and our booking for the campsite at Punta Baja. Without doubt one of the most recognisable locations in the Sea of Cortez, it’s the palm trees, which give a clue to its identity.

Punta Baja
Arriving at Punta Baja. It is one of the most perfect locations for a camp site, a great place to spend an evening.

As we were relatively late in the season daylight saving time had come into force, the extra hour of daylight in the evening allowing us to adopt a more relaxed approach to the proceedings. There was no need to multi task. There was time to savour the Tequila before starting on the evening meal.

Punta Baja
These were our neighbours for the evening. Brown Pelicans and their amazing powers of flight provide endless hours of enjoyment.

A superb first day, with a feeling that things could only get better over the next 10 days although we were aware that it might be difficult to beat the campsite as a location. We had been here before and all the memories were good ones, this time shouldn’t be any different.

Punta Baja
The tents are in place as the sunset sets behind the mountains of the Baja Peninsula. Its for moments like these that we go sea kayaking.

2014 highlights

There have been a number kayaking highlights over the last 12 months and it is always a pleasure to look back over the year.
Probably the best one day paddle was when we were staying on Lihou in June and paddled around Guernsey as well as managing to fit in lunch on Herm.  The weather couldn’t have been better, the 12 members of the group were all pretty strong paddlers and the 25 nautical miles just flew past.
 
 Approaching the east coast of Jethou.  Herm is the land furthest away in the picture
 On the return leg to Lihou.  Heading down the west coast of Guernsey, Kim is just offshore from Cobo.
My favourite open crossing of the year was returning from Sark to Jersey at the end of July with some members of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club.  Due to flight timings we had to leave Sark a bit earlier, in the tidal sequence, than we would do normally but there seemed to be a small window of opportunity so we took it and it was ideal. Close to 13 nautical miles in 2 hours 45 minutes, I think I will probably use that departure time again.
Leaving Sark on the Sunday morning.  All of the anchored craft on the left of the picture indicate Dixcart, where we started.
 
 We did have a bit of company in the middle of the crossing which encouraged us to paddle a bit quicker.
Probably the best paddling event, and I have to admit some bias here, was the Jersey Sea Kayaking Symposium, held in May.  After a gap of 4 years I was encouraged to run another event but this time the structure was different.  It was based at the Highlands Hotel on the south west corner of the Island and attracted over 100 people to Jersey for a weeks kayaking.  Apart from the pleasure of the week the legacy is that the Canoe Club has been able to purchase 8 sea kayaks to place on the west of Greenland for paddlers to use in the coming years.
The view from the hotel lounge  There were views of both the south and west coast of the Island
These are the cliffs just underneath the hotel and they proved to be a popular with most of the participants.
My most memorable overnight paddle was the 10 days we spent in Baja.  It is difficult to describe just how special a destination the area is.  Remote beaches, stunning scenery, superb weather, incredible wildlife, the list just goes on and on.  We will miss out on not visiting the area in 2015 as we are heading north to use the Canoe Club kayaks in Greenland next summer.
Clear water, sandy beaches, hot weather – Baja
Some great scenery.  Along one stretch of coast the cliffs were over 1,000 feet high.
There have only been two paddling disappointments this year:
1.) I didn’t go to the Ecrehous enough, although the visits I did do were as enjoyable as ever.
2.) I lost my luggage en route to a canoeing trip in Sweden so spent time hanging around Stockholm airport rather than canoeing through Swedish forests.
 Arriving at the Ecrehous in August.  Always a treat.
Looking north from the bench in September.
 Storm clouds over Karlstad in Sweden.  We spent 3 days in Karlstad and Stockholm looking for luggage, which meant that we missed our 7 day open canoe trip

So all in all another excellent year on the water.  Looking forward to 2015

Memories of warmer days

As the rain beats down on the windows and the wind starts to increase towards its predicted 55 knots is not too hard for thoughts to start to drift back towards the warmer days of summer.  Good memories and its only 4 days until the evenings to start to pull out.
 Agnes heading along the west coast of Ile de Brehat.  Waterproofs still on but it was the first weekend in May so still plenty of time to warm up.
 The west coast of Comino.  Mediterranean paddling is always a treat.
 Dawn in Baja.  The classic Mexican campsite.  The start of another great day in the Sea of Cortez
 Fascinating geology
 Always a favourite, the Ecrehous never fail to impress but it wasn’t quite as pleasant a couple of weeks ago.
 Passing Gorselands on the south coast of Jersey.  A slightly different view of the cliffs to that a couple of winters ago
 The Hanois, off south west Guernsey, I don’t think I had ever paddled out there when it was this calm.
 Approaching Jethou, off the east coast of Guernsey.  I think this day was probably my favourite Channel Island paddle of the year.
Sark never fails to deliver.  A pleasant way to spend a weekend in July.

Some more aerial photographs

Looking out of the aircraft window is one of the real pleasures of traveling.  I can never understand people who sit by the window and then close the blinds.   Passing over some great sea kayaking waters and providing inspiration for future paddling trips.
 The east coast of Baja, Mexico.  Heading home after 10 days of great sea kayaking
 Take off from Ilulissat, on the west coast of Greenland.  This is one of the most spectacular views from an aircraft window anywhere.
 Threading our way through some large cumulonimbus clouds over the northern French Alps.
 The tip of the Cherbourg Peninsula.  This is a common view when sitting on the right hand side of the aircraft on the flight from Jersey to Gatwick.
 If sitting on the left hand side of the aircraft from Jersey to London, instead of France you are likely to see Alderney and the smaller islands.  The small island is Burhou, which operates as a bird reserve.
 Flying over southern Sark, on a day with a significant swell running.  It would have been an entertaining day to paddle through the reefs.
Final descent into Hong Kong.  We didn’t manage any sea kayaking but had a great day stand up paddleboarding.

Baja final day

We were due to be picked up, just after lunch, at Punta Coyote, which meant that we could have a pretty easy morning.  As it was we were still away at the usual time of just gone 08.00.  It’s pretty difficult to have a lie in with these temperatures.
As it was a relatively short distance we had time to stop a couple of times and relax before our pick up. Gradually preparing ourselves for a more structured way of life.
Baja is a truly special place and although there are plans for developments in certain areas it is still possible to find solitude when traveling through the area by sea kayak.  Living in Europe it can seem that the logistics of visiting the area are pretty challenging, which at times they can be but the reality is that the experience is well worth the effort.  Start planning your winter sea kayaking trip now.
 Although we had the luxury of a late start we were still up before sunrise.  This has to be one of my favourite times of the day.  The island is Isla San Francisco, which we visited the day before.
 Heading south past the stripped cliffs.
 
 We had plenty of time so we pulled ashore on this long beach which was backed by some fairly tall sand dunes.
 We had plenty of time to explore the surrounding area, some of the cactus were surprisingly tall.
 Kate studying the remains of a turtle we discovered on the beach.
 Back in La Paz it was time celebrate another great trip in Baja.

Isla San Francisco

There are some places, which you have kayaked to, that leave you with vivid memories.  Isla San Francisco is one of those places, as you paddle into the lagoon you are reminded of what a dramatic location it is.
A crystal clear, horseshoe shaped bay with steeply rising hillsides on two sides create this distinctive feature of Isla San Francisco.  There were a number of yachts at anchor in the bay including ones from Switzerland and Hawaii, demonstrating the attraction of this area for mariners from far and wide.
We spent several hours sheltering in the shade of our simple construction before heading across to mainland for our final campsite, Arroyo Verde, before being picked up the following lunch time.
 Paddling along the eastern shore of Isla San Francisco, this section of coast always reminds me of the sphinx, in Egypt.
 If anyone was to write a book on the great lighthouses of Baja, it would be quite a slim volume, when compared to north west Europe.  This one overlooks the channel between Isla San Francisco and Isla San Jose, to the north.
 
The inevitable shot of the kayak pulled ashore on a tropical beach.
Shade is at a premium on Isla San Francisco so the more technical amongst the group managed to construct this effective shelter.
 
 Getting ready to leave, we were aiming to camp at the base of the mountains in the distance.

Looking north across the inland area of Isla San Francisco.  We had crossed earlier from Isla San Jose in the distance
Looking across towards the entrance to the lagoon, the mountains of Baja are behind.
 Kate crossing the channel towards the mainland, amazingly a light north easterly wind picked up and we completed the crossing at speeds between 4 and 5 knots.

Nicky and Tracey taking full advantage of the conditions on the crossing.  It was not hard to imagine what conditions could be like in this area in a strong northerly blow.

Our last beach, easy landing and camping.  Off the point there was some of the best snorkeling that we experienced on the whole trip.  It was here that Kate almost stepped on a rattle snake!

 Our last sunset of the trip.  Looking back towards Isla San Francisco.

Mangroves

There is something very special about kayaking through mangroves.  Living in Jersey it’s not something that I get to do that often so we were eager to visit this special corner of Baja, repeating a section of the journey from the year before.
Entry into the mangroves wasn’t that easy because of the outgoing tide but the ability to increase the amount of power into the forward stroke and a knowledge of ferry gliding ensured that we were able to overcome the power of the current, allowing us access to the serenity of the mangrove swamp.
What was immediately noticeable was the silence, there was some noise from the numerous birds in the area but almost nothing else, as we drifted through the narrow channels.
We spent a couple of hours in this rather special place before commencing the crossing to Isla San Francisco.  Sadly we knew that this was going to be our last full day on the water.
 Before we left the camp Kate had time for a bit of beach art.  There were hundreds of these huge shells littering the beach.
 Alex entering the mangroves, the current is flowing from left to right with deceptive speed.
 Paddling along the main channel.
 Looking back to the north.  This gives some idea of the width of the main channel
 Entering one of the narrower side channels.  Apart from the drip of water off the paddles there was almost total silence.
 Tracey reaching the end of a minor channel.
 Nicky heading out of the mangroves.  Our next destination is Isla San Francisco which is clearly visible over the top of the shingle bank.
 Crossing to Isla San Francisco.

Headlands and Islands

Offshore Isla San Jose was clearly visible, although we hadn’t decided whether to cross the channel to explore this island.  What was the real surprise of today was the size of the cliffs just to the south of Punta el Cerro.  It was only when we were sitting underneath the cliffs that we fully appreciated the scale.
The crossing to Isla San Jose was enhanced by the antics of a large number of dolphins, they circled around us with some jumping out of the water in what seemed like pure pleasure.
Isla San Jose is a delightful island which merits further exploration, over two visits the whole of the west coast has been paddled and it would be great to get onto the east coast.  The reason we had headed out was to paddle through the mangrove swamp at the southern tip of the island which is a unique environment.
A glass of wine and a stunning sunset finished off a memorable day. 
 
 Heading south past Los Dolores.  A green oasis along an arid section of coastline.
 Cliffs to the south of Punta el Cerro.  It hadn’t really occurred to us but these are higher than anything in England and Wales, being over 1,000 feet high places.  Quite dramatic.
 Nicky under the cliffs of the mainland, prior to crossing to Isla San Jose
 The lighthouse at Punta San Ysidro on Isla San Jose.  There were some abandoned slat mines inland in this area
 Kate paddling around the edge of Punta San Ysidro.  Mainlan Baja is visible behind.
 
 This is just a great campsite.  We stopped here last year as well.   The views are superb.  It is also pretty close to the mangrove swamps for the following morning.
 
 Late evening glow on the cliffs of mainland Baja.

Heading south

It was an early start and for the majority of the day we were running due south, past one significant feature after another.  It was one of those days when everything merges together.  Apart from the stunning scenery there were two memorable events, firstly we saw a coyote running along a beach, over the years I have heard them on numerous occasions but this was the only one I had ever seen.  The second was a group of sea kayakers going past, after 2 trips to Baja theses are the only paddlers that I have seen on the water.  Their only comment was “do you have a guide?”  When we said no they carried on without another word, very strange.
24 nautical miles were covered during the day, finishing with a very pleasant campsite.  It is days like this which make Baja such a special place.
 
 Nicky leaving Punta Ballena in the early morning calm.  Dramatic geology always enhances the kayaking experience.
 A physical geographer’s dream, there were numerous examples of caves, arches and stacks.
 Normal Baja coastal scenery, one dramatic headland after another.
 It was easier to anchor the kayaks at Ensenada Timbabichi than land on the rocks.  The group behind are the only other kayakers that we saw on the water.
A panorama of the area inland from Ensenada Timbabichi
 Kate measuring up to a cactus.
 Tracey coming into land at Punta la Laguna.
 A perfect place to spend an evening.  Looking south from Punta la Laguna.