Paddling through Paradise

Pacific Paddling with Whales
Page 4 of 5   |  

Baja's Pacific coast is home to a series of lagoons sheltered from the open sea by barrier islands. These sandy islands protect the lagoons from ocean currents, creating a fascinating environment of twisting, mangrove-lined estuaries, sand dunes, and blooming desert plants.

Each winter, hundreds of gray whales travel over 6,000 miles from Alaskan feeding grounds to mate and bear young in these protected waters. Once hunted by humans to the edge of extinction, California Gray Whales have staged a remarkable comeback. From January through March, the whales and their calves are the main attraction in this region for kayakers and tour boats.

"Kayakers have a remarkable opportunity to observe gentle gray whales close up without intruding," says Terry Prichard, who operates naturalist-guided sea kayaking excursions. "With luck, we can witness courtship and calving."

From base camp on a secluded barrier island, kayakers can venture in search for whales in the lagoon and birds among the mangroves. Often, they see whales from their tents, and can hear their breathing when lying in bed at night.

In addition to whales, the lagoon is home to dolphins, sea lions, pelicans, and thousands of shorebirds. There is a profusion of birds—ibises, six species of herons, and the rare mangrove warbler. Miles of uninhabited beaches littered with shells are a beachcomber's paradise.

"It's a wilderness—a very pristine, unique environment," says Prichard. "If you enjoy nature, paddling in Baja's western lagoons is a must."

Paddling Baja offers kayakers a perfect opportunity to explore two dramatically diverse environments: the unique flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert and the abundant marine life of the Sea of Cortez. One hundred and twenty species of cactus are found on the Baja peninsula. Blue-footed boobies, high flying frigate-birds, osprey, and squadrons of pelicans soar above on the lookout for fish. Opportunities for encounters with playful dolphins as well as fin and blue whales—the largest mammals on earth—await patient paddlers.

Special thanks to Sea Kayak Adventures for this information.

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


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »