Sea of Cortez Kayaking Trip with Mar y Aventuras – Part 1

A sea kayaking trip is a great way to discover the landscapes and wildlife of the Sea of Cortez. Located on the western edge of Mexico between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico where the desert tumbles into the sea, the Sea of Cortez offers a variety of sea life from the blue footed boobies to blue whales.

We spent 6 nights beach camping with Mar y Aventuras’ 9 day Baja Coast and Islands Loreto to La Paz trip. Although this small group trip, 12 guests, is primarily a kayaking trip you also have the opportunity to snorkel, hike, fish or simply relax on the beach.

While the guides follow a general itinerary from Loreto to La Paz, every trip is unique depending on the weather conditions and desires of the guests. In this 5 part series I detail our trip itinerary and activities in late April of 2021. The last post will cover more on activities, camp life, logistics and a review of Mar y Aventuras.

Red Line – Travel by Panga
Purple Line – Travel by Kayak

Day 1 – April 17

Arrival and 5pm Meeting at the Pool at Hotel Oasis in Loreto, Mexico

The only event on day 1’s itinerary is the 5pm meeting. Guests are expected to make their flight arrangements and get to Hotel Oasis on their own.

We arrived at the sleepy little Loreto International Airport at 1:00PM from Phoenix.  Our flight was about 20 minutes early and there were no other flights at the airport. Even with the new Covid health screening – you can fill out a paper form or do an on-line application – the line at immigration went relatively quickly and the baggage was out soon after. We did have to wait for a taxi into town, probably because the flight was early and the taxi drivers weren’t expecting arrivals so soon. The official taxi was $21USD for two.

Arriving at the Hotel Oasis before the 3pm check-in time we could check-in but our room wasn’t ready. We had lunch at the restaurant while we waited.

Before the 5pm meeting we took a walk to the grocery store, 10 minutes from the hotel.

5PM Meeting

A friendly, easy going meeting, Carlos the head guide introduces himself and has each of us do the same and give a short summary of our kayaking experience and what we particularly wanted from the trip. Our group included an extended-family of 5, all adults, parents in their 60s, children in their late 20s to 30s; 2 guys in their 50s primarily interested in fishing, a solo guy in his mid-60s, a recently engaged couple, the woman mid-30s, guy late 50s and Don and I. Most everyone had some paddling experience if not specific kayaking experience.

One guest asked straight away if everyone was vaccinated for Covid. Everyone answered without hesitation. 8 of us were fully vaccinated. The other four had just the first shot. The crew had been tested the day before but were not vaccinated.

Carlos was eager to answer all questions but was not heavy on specific information and said that this is a laid back trip and folks can do what they please. He explained that with a support boat following us at all times guests have the option to paddle as much or little as they like. When someone doesn’t feel like kayaking, the kayak can be placed on the support boat the guest can ride in the panga (support boat)  instead of paddling.

Other information included the new Covid protocols – daily temperature check, masks to be worn when social distancing was not possible and meals to be plated individually in the kitchen instead of the usual buffet.

The plan for the following morning was to meet for breakfast at the hotel at 8 and then meet in front of the hotel with our luggage at 9. On the way to the marina we would stop at the park headquarters for those who wanted fishing licenses and the grocery store to pick up beverages, including alcohol – only water is provided – and snacks.

This meeting is also when rental equipment is handed out and paid for, i.e., wetsuits, snorkel gear and sleeping bags.

Dinner was on our own.

Day 2 – April 18

Getting to Camp, Orientation, First Paddle

Camped at Playa Punta Arena on Isla Danzante in Loreto State Park

Getting to Camp

Our first day on the water is really an orientation to the next 6 days. Because 3 of the guests missed their flight to Loreto on Saturday the Sunday start was slower than normal. Still, it was a pleasant day and an easy introduction to the kayak adventure.

The morning started with 8AM breakfast at the hotel. Because of Covid the regular buffet was replaced with a choice of egg options or pancakes, coffee and juice.

After breakfast the group met at 9 in front of the hotel. On the way to the marina we stopped at park headquarters to get fishing licenses for those who wanted to fish and at the grocery store for liquor, other beverages and snack. One guy also walked to a nearby sporting goods store for fishing line and lures.

A short 25k van ride brought us to the marina where we loaded our gear on to the panga for the trip. This is the boat we would use for the entire trip when we weren’t paddling. Beer and drinks are kept under your seat and out of the sun until iced. Because of limited space in the ice chest, only the next day’s drinks are put on ice.

Passing by impressive yachts and other rigs with the mountains of the Baja Peninsula in the background it was a pretty, yet short boat ride to the first campsite on Danzante Island. This is a closer spot than on the normal itinerary as we were waiting for 3 more guests who were to arrive later that day.

Camp Orientation

On the island we helped unload our gear and were given a tour of the camp. The mess tent was already set up as was a shade lean-to with a long table and plastic chairs for the dining area. We were first shown the toilet system, a proper portable toilet basin set up in the bushes. Toilet paper is provided. We were told to be wary of scorpions and rattlesnakes though we saw neither the entire trip.

Next was the tent demonstration. You are to set up your own 3-man tent, an easy set-up despite the need to dig in wooden anchors at each corner.

A large, orange cooler of fresh water is always available to refill individual water bottles.

The shower is a 5 gallon black bag on a pole with a gravity fed spray nozzle.

Lunch, served at the table under the lean-to, was plated spaghetti with meat sauce and a fresh salad of greens, chopped veg and apples. Dessert was fresh papaya and lemon cookies.

After lunch we had some free time while we waited for the other guests to arrive. Some fished, others snorkeled, rested or chatted in the shade of the lean-to. During these hours the sun is the most intense.

First Paddle

Once the delayed guests arrived we were given a detailed demonstration of the kayaking equipment, how to put on a spray skirt, how to get in and out of the kayak, how to paddle, how to adjust and operate the rudder. This trip is beginner friendly especially for the fit and those who have other water sports experience.

In the late afternoon we set off to test our kayaking skills. A lovely time of day on the water we headed into the wind. The water was relatively calm at first but then became choppy. The highlight was the nesting pelicans with a smattering of cormorants on tiny rock islands. As the sun lowers the glow on the surrounding hills softens. The landscape here is brown, lacking green vegetation and the broad range of colors seen in other desert landscapes. (This would change is subsequent days.) Still it’s delightful to be out on the water. The sun was hot but the water just the right temperature to keep you cool. Paddled 1.5 hours.

Once back on shore we cleaned up before happy hour.

Happy Hour – Margaritas and ceviche, made with the trigger fish caught that afternoon, were served. Conversation flows freely. Although most of us are fully vaccinated, with all of us sitting at the same table drinking and laughing this is not social distancing at its best.

Dinner is a yellow fin tuna caught just the day before in a spicy Mediterranean sauce with green olives served with rice, vegetables and corn and flour tortillas. Dessert is a guava candy. Near the end of dinner Carlos gives a briefing for the next day.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Sea of Cortez page.

April 2021