Friday, November 18, 2016

Baja: Nature's Classroom - A Family Adventure

Taking part in citizen science - working with baby sea turtles is a highlight for the whole family!
How much fun can you have in six days in Baja? Swimming with whale sharks and sea lions, surfing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding, galloping on horseback, margarita mixing and cooking lessons, and releasing baby sea turtles to their ocean wild and free...and so much more! When I had the chance to have my guys (big and small) tag along with me to visit our partners, Todos Santos Eco Adventures, in Baja California Sur last month, we jumped at our good fortune! What’s a few days out of the first grade when our seven-year-old son, Cam, would be spending a week in nature’s classroom? Let me just say, this trip was a memory maker. The best part, upon return I asked Cam “At what part of the trip did you feel best?” and his reply was “When we were all together – the whole time!” Makes a mom’s heart melt.

I don’t know what your definition of an adventure vacation is but mine is being present in the moment and open to an extraordinary experience – nowadays, this can be as thrilling as high-adrenaline activities and every bit as life changing. Every activity we enjoyed was adventurous in terms of the physical, but to me, so many other moments were equally as stimulating, right down to laying on the beach after dinner, looking up and marveling at one shooting star after another jet across the twinkling sky (to the point at which Cam asked if he really had to make a wish on every one, as he’d run out!).

On a journey with Todos Santos Eco Adventures, come prepared and open to experience the beauty and diversity of Baja California Sur in a unique and remarkable way. Here are a few snapshots to give a taste of the many highlights from our trip.The first half of the vacation was in Todos Santos on the Pacific with the second part glamping on an island in the Sea of Cortez.

Who can say 'no' to baby sea turtles? We were met at the airport and set off straight to the beach – immediately immersed in our Baja experience. After a great introduction by the good folks at the Asupmatoma Organization focused on the conservation of sea turtles, we were digging up a nest in a protected corral. Suddenly, they came out like turtle popcorn! Our experience was part of a citizen science project and we were responsible for sorting, counting and tracking data. The grand finale being the release to the ocean. What a sight to see as those little guys made a mad dash to the water. We’re rooting for them!

Horse-back riding is a must in Todos Santos. Kaia Thomson's horses are beautiful animals and incredibly well-trained with a horse for every ability. Kaia herself is a wonderful person with so much to share and a naturalist in her own right - it was a sincere pleasure to ride with her. You can walk through palm forest or you can gallop along the 70 miles of coastline ahead of you - spectacular! For those non-riders in a group (such as my husband, Alex, and son, Cameron) they were happy to play with a football on the same beach and then swim in the pool at our home at Los Colibris Casitas.

All thumbs up for Taco Georges fish tacos! As Bryan from TOSEA says, "this taco joint on the side of the road is a celebration of Baja California Sur’s great contribution to Mexican cuisine – the fish taco! George buys his fish from the local fishermen at Punta Lobos and is proud to be serving a Todos Santos-sourced meal. This is a must for lunch while in town!" We couldn't agree more. 

Not being able to stay out of the water too long, we were back in for surf lessons. Even though we didn't make it out to the bigger waves - we had a blast! Cerritos Beach is perfect for surfers of all abilities. See our recent blog post for more details. 

Visitors who choose not to jump on the board can enjoy a beach chair in the shade with a good book, grab a boogie board or swim, or hang out at the Cerritos Beach Club! 

Our home in Todos Santos, Los Colibris Casitas is a wonderful oasis to retreat to at the end of a day of adventure. Winding walkways through beautiful gardens lead you to the private casitas on the property. With a configuration of seven rooms, sleeping up to 16 people, there are lovely little private terraces and spaces for everyone. Iker's Colibris cafe (breakfasts there being Cam's highlight meals through the trip), a plunge pool and hot tub, and even a movie room with large projector (ideal for Star Wars next door, while Alex and I enjoyed margarita making and a cooking class) made it perfect! Speaking of which, if you haven't already, you should have a read of our post on cooking adventures! 

What awaited next far exceeded our expectations - glamping at Camp Cecil on a private beach on Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez. This place was unreal. The perfect place to escape and live at your own pace for a few days. The staff here were incredible, a true family. As we arrived, other guests were leaving, and when I saw the woman crying as she said goodbye, I knew we were in for a real treat! The food was out of this world - chefs Ivan and Giovanni made it all so fresh and delicious.

There are seven walk-in safari style tents at Camp Cecil with one king/two twin beds possible. Real beds!!! Each tent can comfortably fit one extra cot and two of the tents are family size to fit two extra cots. There is nothing like waking up to a view directly to the water! The camp has two sun showers and composting toilets. One big tent in the middle serves as the dining area, bar, and lounge. A small library and games are available, too. There is also great hiking available right from camp. 

Ok, so you have no idea how many photos I took of just the water itself! It was insanely clear and a gorgeous temperature. When we weren't off on an activity, we took advantage of snorkeling right off the beach, and taking out the kayaks and stand up paddle boards available at camp. It was pretty amazing to paddle out a very short way and then sit on the board watching the sea turtles swimming all around. When simply chilling on the beach or taking a swim, we were entertained by a lone sea lion who was friendly with us. I think Cam spent at least seven hours a day in the water! It was so inviting - impossible to stay out of!

Swimming with sea lions is an incredibly happy experience. Especially the sea lion pups at the permanent colony at Los Islotes off the tip of Isla Espiritu Santo. Without a waterproof camera, we couldn't capture the hilarity but, trust me, these pups are seriously funny. The most surprising moment of our trip came while we were goofing off and trying to impress the sea lions with our underwater acrobatics. Cam was "arfing" back and forth with one sweet pup when suddenly we were dive bombed by a pelican - a crazy thing to be so close to. Clearly the pelicans like to have a feast below the surface as we enjoyed incredible snorkeling among the tropical fish around the island. 

One bay over from camp is a very active rookery of magnificent frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. Most people don't realize the diversity of birdlife in Baja! This is a wonderful kayaking trip setting off from camp. For those who don't wish to kayak as much, a cruise over on a panga is easy.

And just like that, we were in the water with whale sharks. And, let me clarify, these are sharks not whales.....but, big huge sharks. And beautiful, one of the most magnificent creatures I've encountered. To look at this picture and see my son Cam's face right there swimming along side is amazing to me, his dad, and him! What fortune and another great opportunity for teaching about conservation of our waters and realities of climate change. The Sea of Cortez is home to 39% of the world´s total number of marine mammal species, a third of the world´s marine cetacean species, and 891 fish species. We ended up seeing six whale sharks that day - awesome!

We were creative with the shells we collected on the beach - our version of beach graffiti! 

This was just a taste of the fun in the sun we had in Baja with our partners and friends at Todos Santos Eco Adventures. Baja California Sur is a destination for everyone. It's safe, easy to get to, an incredible value, and full of surprises. I can say without hesitation that this is a destination for families or couples, or solo travelers! There is so much more to do - we'll just have to return. None of the fun or inspiring conversation and activities could have been possible without the guidance and expertise of our guides. I can't speak highly enough of each one of them. 

Please don't hesitate to contact me or Bryan with any questions or interest in a Baja adventure! 

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