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Exhilerating paddling; amazing places.
We aim for the places nobody else goes, or the times when nobody else dares. This is a very flexible route, as the islands offer many options. While all five islands in the Loreto National Marine Park can be respectable locations for Challenge paddling on the right day, the islands of Monserrate and Santa Catalina are classic targets because they are so remote. We still try to pick the calm months to head for these.
The crossing to Isla Monserrate is 9-10nm, and from there to Santa Catalina is 12-14nm. They are crossings well worth doing. Not only for the unique places they get us and the feeling of accomplishment, but also for developing that sense of being at peace on the sea. We can take care of our needs out there by jumping in the warm water when necessary, by rafting up for support, by staying hydrated and fed, by taking short breaks every hour, and by traveling together for ease of communication and assistance. Conversation happens, games happen, meditation happens, singing occasionally bursts forth, and through all of this, the landscape gradually changes. A distant island slides under your bow and you step out onto a beach of a different nature.
A two-mile wide sandstone beach welcomes the valiant paddler to the north end of Monserrat. Two miles offshore from here lie a pair of flat islands surrounded by a complete exclusion zone for fishing of any kind. The snorkeling is superb. The northwest point of the island also provides excellent snorkeling. The geology of the island has remarkable variety including colorful volcanic breccia, and marine sediments with fossils high up in the hills, as well as the golden sandstone.
Santa Catalina is very different, being granite. Endemic plants like the giant barrel cactus grow here. The island is also famous for its rattle-less rattlesnakes. Less known but more commonly seen, are the endemic Santa Catalina side-blotch lizards, which have lost their side-blotches. Cardon cacti sprout their arms curiously lower than cardon on other islands. This most remote island in the Loreto National Marine Park enjoys the highest level of protection, requiring a separate permitting process to visit, and the strictest of Leave-No_Trace camping etiquette.
Few people ever see the remote parts of these islands, and fewer yet by kayak. All Challenge trips have a feel of exploration to them. These are places we seldom get to go ourselves, and beaches can change dramatically. For a tight group of fit, flexible, hardy kayakers, the Loreto Islands Challenge is a rare and exciting opportunity to explore some unique and special places.