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Isla Carmen Exploratory Sea Kayaking


Cliffs of red-hued basalt rising sharply out of the sea and the bold
outlines of towering cacti provide the backdrop for paddling sea kayaks 60
miles on this exploratory 10-day circumnavigation of Baja California's Isla
Carmen, the largest island in Loreto Bay National Marine Park in the Gulf
of California.  "Although tour groups visit the southern tip of Carmen, the
rest of the island remains mostly wild and untouched," says Sea Kayak
Adventures president Terry Prichard.  "Plus, the marine life blows people
away  over 280 species of reef fishes, as well as dolphins, sea lions, and
five of the big whale species ply the surrounding waters."  You can be
among the few to paddle along Carmen's rocky shore through crystal-clear
water with sandy beaches, reefs, and sea caves (including Cueva Blanca,
where kayakers can explore the cave's deepest recesses). Here you'll
snorkel with brilliant king angelfish and lobster, watch plunge-diving
blue-footed booties, and search for 90-ton blue whales  the world's largest
animal.  Pause midway at Salinas Bay to visit an abandoned 19th century
salt mine and coral chapel. Afterwards, swim with dolphins in the bay's
72-degree water.  A two-day paddle rounding the island's remote north shore
leads to Balandra Bay, where you can hike an arroyo into the island's
desert interior past saguaro-like cardon cactus and wild figs in the
company of desert iguanas and big-horned sheep.  From your tented camps in
sheltered coves, watch vermillion skies as they illuminate the banded
layers of the Sierra de la Giganta range, the plume of a whale lingering in
the still air, and leaping manta rays flopping back into the glassy water
as guides dish out margaritas and tasty chili relleno.

Outfitter: Sea Kayak Adventures, 800-616-1943,
When to go: April.  Difficulty: Moderate.  The price of $1695 per person
includes two nights in Loreto; all meals; all camping and kayaking
equipment; naturalist guides; and airport transfers.  Airfare is not
included.  SKA donates a small portion of your trip cost to wildlife
conservation groups in Baja.

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