Island Paddling in Southern Baja

Setting Out
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Pichilingue is cold before dawn... surprisingly cold. The wet sand below the high tide line chills our bare feet as we carry the kayaks down to the water's edge. To the east the sky grows increasingly bright; in a short while the sun will burst over the horizon, chasing away the damp cool of early morning.

Tranquil green waters surround us as we set out 18 miles north of the capital city of La Paz on the southeastern side of the Baja peninsula. Many of Baja's wonders are accessible only by boat, and the kayak provides the perfect vehicle for navigating this wonderfully diverse coast.

We paddle in calm seas as we head across the Canal de San Lorenzo toward the fabled Isla Espiritu Santo. There, the Sierra de la Laguna Range, which begins at the southern tip of the peninsula, appears above sea level in a series of deeply crenellated bays before finally disappearing into the Sea of Cortez.

Overhead, the predawn sky is already filled with life. As we glide out past Sea Bird Island, we marvel at the multitude of frigate birds, their M-shaped black wings slicing the air in effortless arcs. There is no wind, no ripple on the water, yet these remarkable creatures (which have the largest wingspan-to-body ratio of any bird) fly at dizzying heights without a flap.

Brown pelicans gather at the shoreline, their ancient faces and awkward postures belying their elegance in flight. Some bob offshore in small clumps, fishing in the channels as we slip past. The brown pelican is tolerant of humans. In harbors and beaches along the Sea of Cortez they are great opportunists, quick to grab a discarded fish head. You can approach within a few meters of them. Zoom lens not necessary.

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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