Isla Partida

Kayaking the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax
  |  Gorp.com

The eastern side of Partida is composed of sheer, dark cliffs. At least one cobble landing breaks up the four-mile stretch. Refracting waves can be quite strong along and around the northern extremity of Partida.

Los Islotes, two small, steep islets north of Partida, become visible at mile 17. A lattice light tower sits on the flattened top of the larger islet to the west. Boats ferry snorkelers and divers out to the islets, giving clumsily outfitted humans the chance to swim, swerve and roll around underwater with the far more agile sea lions that live on Los Islotes. Kayakers are at a disadvantage, since making a landing on the rocks that are the sea lions' home is prohibited. Plunging overboard from a dive boat, anchored offshore, is easier and less disruptive. If you do head out to the islets just to paddle, remain at last 75 feet offshore, and be wary of aggressive males (sea lions, not sailboaters) during the MayAugust breeding season.

Cliffs continue around the northern point of Partida, until near mile 13 where one enters the first of 13 coves. Embudo is a tiny, shallow cove with glowing, aqua waters and a sand beach, most of which is taken up by fish-camp apparatus: drying lines, boxes, a single shack, makeshift storage bins hiding under rock overhangs. Only the fishermen themselves were missing when I pulled into Embudo. A few names and drawings etched into a half-hidden rock made the cove seem particularly private; my partner and I quickly paddled away to find a campsite where we would be less intrusive.

The coloration of the bluffs past Embudo varies from blond sandstone striped with red and green to tan and orange bluff topped by crumbly black rocks. Small sea caves and arches also vary the steep shoreline. A small islet sits offshore, just before the entrance of Ensenada Grande, a large, three-lobed cove at mile 19. Each of the three lobes is backed by a fine-sand beach, and your choice of a campsite may depend on where the day's yachts have anchored.

Exploring on land in this cove and the many that follow, you may notice some of the wildlife that inhabits Espmritu Santo and Partida. In addition to a large variety of sea- and shorebirds, there are twenty species of reptiles and amphibians, and six of mammals. The mammals are particularly curious: there is a black-tailed jackrabbit, endemic to Espmritu Santo, as well as one species of ground squirrel, two of mice, one of rat, and a ring-tailed cat that is a skinny relative of the raccoon. A ring-tailed cat tried to make off with our cooking pot one night while we were camping in Ensenada Grande. After a startled yip and a scuttle for the flashlight, we scared the animal off and sat back down around our campfire, laughing at the ring-tail's audacity. We were even more startled the second time, when it returned to try to retake the pot right in front of our eyes.

A small, unnamed, two-lobed inlet is just south of Ensenada Grande. Just past it is a long, broad cove, El Cardonal, which penetrates deeply into Partida, nearly cleaving it in two. At the back of Cardonal are two beaches: a better sand one to the north separates a jutting hill from a mangrove-backed beach to the south. A lagoon and a level valley sit at the back of this long cove and make for good inland exploring.

Cardonalcito,"Little Cardonal," is a particularly scenic cove at mile 23. A sand beach at the back of the small cove is flanked by tall, cactus-studded red-rock bluffs; the Baja image of desert looming so close to the sea is typified here. Behind the beach, a short, level trail leads to an old well. The water can be used for portable showers, but bring your own bucket.

Caleta Partida is accessible again at mile 24, this time from the western side, and it forms the southern boundary of Isla Partida.


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