For the adventurous: Kayaking in the Sea of Cortes

SAN FRANCISCO -- Adventurous clients who want to explore the Baja California wilderness from the seat of a kayak can take advantage of an array of programs in 1999.

kayaking A number of tour operators are offering sea-kayaking trips focusing on the natural wonders of the Sea of Cortes and the Pacific Coast lagoons of Baja California.

While an interest in nature and soft-adventure activities is a must, participants need not have experience sea kayaking since the programs are staffed with guides who provide instruction.

The tours feature safari-style base camps on secluded beaches, with two-person tents for accommodations. Trip guides lead participants on excursions, provide insight into the flora and fauna of the region and prepare all meals.

The Sea of Cortes, tucked between the Baja California peninsula and Mexico's mainland, is often referred to as Mexico's Galapagos. Home to a number of uninhabited islands and an abundance of wildlife, the area's natural highlights include whales, dolphins, seabirds, sea lions, cacti, wildflowers and unspoiled beaches.

On the Pacific side of the Baja California peninsula, the main attraction is the California gray whales, which migrate annually from the waters of Alaska to the lagoons of Baja to breed. The whales mainly are observed from small motorized skiffs that take small groups into the lagoons.

The Pacific area also contains a variety of other ecological lures, including birds, sea turtles, mangrove-lined estuaries, sand dunes and desert plants.

Sea kayaking is a primary focus of the trips both in the Sea of Cortes and in the Pacific- coast lagoons of Baja, but participants also can take in the natural beauty of the areas through activities such as hiking, beachcombing, snorkeling and bird-watching.

The following is a sampling of sea-kayaking programs set for Baja California in 1999:

  • Baja Expeditions, based in San Diego, is offering four sea- kayaking options. The six-night Sea Kayaking and Whale Watching trip features a base camp at Magdalena Bay, a top calving area of the California gray whale. Departures are offered in January, February and March.
  • The six-night Espiritu Santo Island program centers on the uninhabited island of the same name in the Sea of Cortes. Departures are scheduled in January and from March to May and October to December.

    The nine-day Coastal Sea Kayaking program spotlights a 65-mile stretch of coastline between Loreto and La Paz that is inaccessible by road. Departures are offered from March to May and in October and November.

    The nine-night Islands Sea Kayaking program ventures to various islands in the Sea of Cortes, including Espiritu Santo, San Jose, Santa Cruz and Santa Catalina. Departures are scheduled for March, April, October and November.

    Baja Expeditions' rates range from $1,050 to $1,425 per person, double. Baja Expeditions, Phone: (800) 843-6967, Web: www.bajaex.com

  • Oars in Angels Camp, Calif., offers two programs in 1999.
  • The six-night Sea of Cortes sea-kayaking program features a base camp at Espiritu Santo Island, with daily excursions to other nearby islands. Departures are set for March and April.

    The four- or five-night Magdalena Bay program focuses on whale watching, with opportunities to sea kayak and to participate in other activities. Departures are slated for February.

    Rates for Oars' two programs range from $1,100 to $1,150 per person, double.

    Oars, Phone: (800) 346-6277, Web: www.oars.com

  • Sea Kayak Adventures in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, created three programs for the coming year. A six- or seven-night Sea of Cortes coastal expedition ventures from the remote Bahia San Basilio to the seldom-visited coast north of Loreto. Departures are scheduled from January through April.
  • A seven-night Sea of Cortes island expedition begins south of Loreto and travels to the islands of Carmen and Danzante. Departures are scheduled from February through April.

    The six- or seven-night Baja's Pacific Lagoon Wilderness itinerary spotlights the California gray whale and the abundance of other wildlife in the area.

    Although many operators run whale-watching excursions in skiffs, Sea Kayak Adventures runs its tours in a remote section of Magdalena Bay to avoid the motorized boat activity in the lagoon. Departures are offered from January to March.

    Sea Kayak Adventures' rates range from $925 to $1,040 per person, double.

    Sea Kayak Adventures, Phone: (800) 616-1943, Web: www.seakayakadventures.com

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