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Baja Gray Whale Safari


Go eye-to-eye with a 30-ton gray whale and its calf as they swim up
alongside your boat on the wild western coast of Baja, Mexico.  On Sea
Kayak Adventure's three-day whale safari you'll spend several hours each
day in a motorized skiff getting close to the whales, dolphins, and sea
turtles that cruise along the bathwater-warm waterways of Baja California's
Magdalena Bay, home to the highest concentration of nursing gray whales in
North America.  Next, you'll paddle a sea kayak into a labyrinth of
mangrove channels, past cacophonous heron rookeries and mudflats teeming
with migrant shorebirds.  Then it's back on land to trek through the
rolling sand dunes  pausing for whalebones, rare seashells, and sea lion
colonies  to watch spouting grays as the sun sinks into the Pacific
Ocean.  "It's a magical place," says Jad Davenport, a travel photographer
from Denver and SKA client who compares Mag Bay's primeval landscape to
Namiba's Skeleton Coast.  At camp, biologist guides dish out tasty chili
relleno, margaritas, and educational factoids on whale natural
history.  Nights are spent in comfortable tents on a sandy barrier island,
where the hollow sounds of whales breathing lull you to sleep.  The payoff
for coming on this trip, says Terry Prichard, the outfitter's founder, "is
a rare glimpse at the longest mammal migration on the planet."  From
January to March, more than 20,000 California gray whales arrive at this
remote coast to mate and calve after a 10,000-mile round-trip journey from
the icy waters of the Bering Sea.  "Seeing the once-endangered leviathans
up close is a humbling experience," claims Prichard.

Outfitter: Sea Kayak Adventures, 800-616-1943,
When to go: January-March (the February 17 departure offers daily yoga
sessions).  Difficulty: Moderate.  The price of $895 per person includes
two nights in Loreto; all meals; all camping and kayaking equipment;
guides; and airport transfers.  Airfare is not included.  SKA donates a
small portion of your trip cost to wildlife conservation groups in Baja.

Afterward, go snorkeling through brilliant turquoise water in the Bay of
Loreto National Marine Park in the Sea of Cortez ($95).  Better yet, the
outfitter offers four- and six-day paddling excursions in the Park starting
at $975.

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