100 images Created 22 Feb 2013
Kayaking the Sea of Cortez, Mexico
After many years of feeling like an amphibian kayaking in Southeast Alaska, one of the wettest places on earth, I was ready to shed my impervious layers and head south to the other end of the rain gauge, to one of the driest places on earth, the Baja Peninsula in Mexico; but the Sea of Cortez that it encloses, like Southeast Alaska is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. The humpback whales of Alaska had held me captive in Southeast Alaska for nearly twenty years, despite the often inhospitable weather. I had gazed longingly towards the balmy dry conditions of Baja for many years and in 1999 I was finally enticed by the desire to kayak with other species of whales and dolphins, as the Sea of Cortez is one of the world’s hotspots for cetaceans. It is one of the world’s youngest seas but it has evolved into one of the richest marine habitats on earth, supporting a food chain productive enough to satisfy the biggest of appetites. There are few places on earth that attract so many different species of whales and dolphins, including the largest of them all, the blue whale. The fertility of the sea blooms in stark contrast to the harsh, arid landscape of the Baja Peninsula. I chose to kayak down a particularly dramatic stretch of coastline fringing the aptly named Sierra de la Giganta ( Mountain of the Giants ). I was used to being surrounded by mountains towering above me in Alaska but here the massive blocks and craggy spires impose their stature by being stripped of the more familiar snow, ice, verdant forest, and smothering clouds. I started my journey at Loreto and paddled as far south as La Paz, exploring all of the offshore islands along the way, and then back again. Not long after leaving Loreto I experienced prolonged periods of solitude paddling along the deserted coastline that I hadn’t even experienced in Alaska before. It took a while to adapt to paddling in the constant glare of the scorching sun but at least the sea conditions were generally very calm although on a few occasions I was caught by the dreaded “La Coromuel”, a powerful offshore wind that sometimes commences abruptly shortly after dusk, transforming a millpond into a maelstrom in a matter of minutes. It was like being suddenly transported back to the inclement weather and sea conditions of Alaska, getting chilled and battling in the encroaching darkness to avoid being swept out to sea. But fortunately for the majority of the time I was either skimming across azure tranquillity in the day or gliding through a canopy of sparkling stars in the empty darkness of night, trailing the luminosity of phosphorescent algae in my wake like the tail of a comet. It was a fantastic trip with some memorable encounters and experiences that I will describe with the individual photos in the gallery.