Island Paddling in Southern Baja

Exploring Los Islotes

The following day we paddle north around a pelican-smothered headland. Just off the main island, the islets of Gallo and Gallina appear pink and red with a few cardon cacti surviving in the rich guano. Cardon (P. Pringlei) is the most common of the 120 species of cactus in Baja. Great blue herons claim them as nesting sites, leaving the smaller "organ-pipe" cacti for the great egrets.

At the tide line red-billed birds with black and white plumage, American oystercatchers, hunt for shellfish and crabs among the seaweed. Gulls bob on the surface and shriek when thieving frigate birds approach.

Though the wildlife is abundant and variegated, a common survival theme connects all of the species: the ability to subsist with very little or no fresh water. Fresh water is a precious resource on the island for us as well, and we bring all we can portage. What we bring is for internal use only; washing is done in the sea.

We camp at the back of another deep bay on the second night. The area is deserted, but a large lean-to made from palm leaves provides welcome shade from the afternoon sun. In the heat of the summer, temperatures on Espiritu Santo have been recorded as high as 112 degrees Fahrenheit. Structures such as this provide an invaluable respite from the glare of the sun on such days.

Serenity of Los Islotes

In the morning we set off for Los Islotes. Some 500 meters off the northern cape, these two purple outcrops look like they've been put together for a movie set. Both offer 20-meter-high cliffs. The western islet is about 100 paces long; the eastern is a bit smaller and has a sea arch cut through the middle. Swells from the open sea crest and rush through the narrow passage. We watch the surges and decide to skip paddling through it.

Between the two islets is a wave-splashed rock shelf, upon which a colony of California sea lions are barking and otherwise carrying on. Two tourist boats are anchored just off the shelf, and people are scuba diving and snorkeling. The young sea lions are ecstatic, playing with their guests at every opportunity.

Article copyright © Rick Hudson. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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