Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Kayak Glamping with TOSEA on Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California Sur

Kayak camping is the perfect merger of sea kayaking and backpacking, both active adventures which I enjoy. I’ve kayak camped around Washington’s San Juan Islands, BC’s Gulf Islands and the islands of down-east Maine. But I've never kayak camped like I did this past March in Baja! I turned 40 in January and to celebrate, I took a “working” holiday with friends, testing out Todos Santos Eco Adventures' new migratory kayak glamping itinerary around Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez. Tough work but someone had to put this new adventure to the test!

Here are my Top Five Memories from our kayaking adventure on Espiritu Santo:

A curious/devious sea lion. Photo: Colin Ruggiero 
1) Swimming and snorkeling with sea lions: The Galapagos doesn’t have the market cornered on this exuberant underwater experience! Just a short boat ride on the north side from any campsite on the west side of Isla Espiritu Santo is the permanent sea lion colony occupying the rocky islets known as Los Islotes. As we donned our wetsuits in the boat, cacophony of lazy sea lions on the shore serenaded us while we watched their brethren dart, twirl and corkscrew under and below our boat. It reminded me of a dog, barking and running to and fro, imploring it's owner to come and play. Before we jumped into the crystal clear water to join the fun, our guide Bernardo warned us to keep our hands to ourselves as curious/devious sea lions were known to give playful nip to people who tried to touch them. It was good advice! We spent the next hour exploring the beautiful underwater world of these marine acrobats. The younger sea lions we're definitely curious and seemed to relish showing off their underwater acrobatic skills as they swam circles around us, almost as if to say, “Can you do this move?! I didn't think so!” Without a doubt, one of the highlights of our stay on Espiritu Santo.

Contemplating manta rays
2) The hikes and Manta Magic: One late afternoon, we hiked from our idyllic beach camp up the small canyon behind the beach to the plateau and across the island for a peek at the eastern shoreline. The hike wasn’t far, only a little over a mile each way, but required a fair bit of rock scrambling which made for a good adventure. The eastern shore of the island is marked by dramatic, sheer cliffs, dropping several hundred feet to the sea below. From our vertigo-inducing perch atop these tumbling sheer cliffs, our guides Sergio and Bernardo spotted a massive school of manta rays - 60+ strong - in the sea far below us. We all sat on the cliff edge watching this mass of mantas move together as if they were just one organism, the silence broken only by the - slap! - of a ray breaching and slapping against the surface of the water.

3) The food! In all my previous kayak camping excursions, I was the cook. And while I take pride in my camp cuisine (I make a mean pesto pasta!), it pales in comparison to the deliciousness Chef Ivan whipped up in his bush/beach kitchen. Just a sampling of the menu:
Dinner! Fresh mahi mahi. Photo: Mark Sissons
Lunch: Freshly caught (that very morning!) mahi-mahi ceviche with homemade creamy picante and mayonnaise (yes, mayo, trust me!) and a grilled romaine salad with tomatoes, olives and peppers.
Starter: Chile poblano corn chowder made with heavy cream, fresh cheese and onion. 
Dinner: Barbecued fresh shrimp ala Mexicana marinated in cilantro, onion garlic and tomatoes, served over rice.
Dessert: “Drunk pears!" Pears marinated in mescal. Dessert and a night cap in one!  
4) The beach campsites. The gently inclined western side of Isla Espiritu Santo is like a spread hand, with the pinkish-colored rocky peninsulas like the fingers, separated by long, shallow bays with pinch-you-it’s-so-perfect turquoise water and white sand beaches. These idyllic beaches were where we pitched our super spacious Colossus tents. In this case, a picture is worth a thousand of my words:

Our ultra-idyllic kayak glamping home. Photo: Crystal Vilks. 

5) The daily sunset happy hour. I've experienced many epic sundowner spots while on safari in Africa and like any Africa-phile, I'm somewhat of a sundowner conossiour (rough life I know). And Baja sundowners on the beach with one of Chef Ivan's freshly made happy hour cocktails is now firmly at the top of my epic sundowner list! Feet in the soft sand, the sound of the gentle lapping of the sea and a margarita with freshly squeezed lime juice and local mescal - Baja sundowner magic!

Sundowners Baja style. Photo: Crystal Viks

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