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World Heritage Islands and Cave Paintings
The Natural History of Baja is a special trip featuring two of Baja’s World Heritage areas: the Islands of the Gulf, and the giant mysterious Rock Paintings of the Sierra San Francisco. Kayak to the islands for 5 days, camping under a panoramas of stars. Ride a mule or hike for 5 more days, immersed in a traditional ranching culture and its landscape, including 10,000+ year old rock art with mysterious origins.
In between, explore Loreto for a day, including a guided estuary bird walk. Ride a private van to San Ignacio, past Baja’s most recent eruption, the Tres Virgines volcano. Stay beside San Ignacio’s fresh water oasis, then continue into the Sierra San Francisco, into some of Baja’s most rugged terrain.
This trip unites the unique talents of naturalist Andrew Emlen; local guide, fisherman and free diver Marcos Simental, and Baja mountain native Ramon Arce to bring you an unforgettable experience–The best of Baja’s land & sea, by kayak and mule.
Your journey begins on the water with Andrew and Marcos, where you will delve into the flora and fauna of the National Marine Park of the Bay of Loreto. UNESCO calls this the richest and most varied of any island-sea property on the World Heritage list. March is prime time to encounter blue, fin, and potentially humpback whales in the Loreto National Marine Park.
This trip brings some extras, such as a spotting scope and more field guides. Double kayaks also make good platforms from which to film, photograph and observe wildlife, so we will have one or two of those.
Catch your breath for a day in Loreto, the site of the very first California mission (including “Baja” and the present-day US state of California). Andrew will lead the group on a morning bird walk in Loreto’s estuary. The next day, head north to San Ignacio, visit the mission and its well-labeled garden of native plants, and the town square lined with huge trees. Camp by the freshwater lagoon to an amusing chorus of coots and bullfrogs. Walk in the morning along the lagoon to pick out some different species, including the Baja endemic Belding’s Yellowthroat.
Transition back in time as you drive into the Sierra San Francisco. According to UNESCO’s website, “From c. 100 B.C. to A.D. 1300, the Sierra de San Francisco (in the El Vizcaino reserve, in Baja California) was home to a people who have now disappeared but who left one of the most outstanding collections of rock paintings in the world.”
Meet your cowboy guides who, along with Andrew and Ramon, will take you deep into the canyon and to the painted caves. The way is rough and steep but the mules are sure-footed. Cave paintings are accessible only by foot, which does require a moderate degree of fitness and confidence on loose terrain along sometimes steep canyon walls. Hiking the entire trip is also an option for the fit.
Honestly, we never intended to offer mule trips, but we went ourselves to tick it off the bucket list, and were absolutely enthralled, not just by the cave art and the birds, but even more by the ranch culture that has survived relatively unchanged for hundreds of years in this rugged land. We went with the legendary Trudi Angell, of Saddling South, with whom we are contracting to provide this trip. (If you can’t make this combo but want to ride another time, we highly recommend her trips!)