If you are considering a kayaking and/or gray whale tour in sunny Baja, give us a call for friendly advice about the best trip itinerary or location to meet your needs. We are happy to answer all of your questions, and please feel free to give us a call at 1-800-616-1943 directly - we're always eager to chat about all things Baja!
1. Do you and your staff run the trip, or do you contract with another company?
We own the permits and operate the tours ourselves. Co-owners Terry Prichard and Nancy Mertz started as guides in the Baja area in the 80s, and are still very much in love with the area. One or both spend much of the season at their home base of operations in Loreto.
2. What is the minimum/maximum number of people you take on each trip? What is your participant to guide ratio?
We have the highest (that we know of) guide-to-guest ratio in the area, with a guide per every 3-4 guests. We have a minimum of 6 guests and a maximum of 13. Most of our trips have 3 guides on them, so that two can be preparing food while one is leading a hike, helping snorkelers, or giving a nature talk.
3. What experience do your guides have?
Many of our guides are marine biologists from the University of La Paz. We require very high guide qualifications and training, and require CPR, wilderness first-aid, and British Canoe Union Kayak certification (3* for trip leaders). All are bilingual, and bring "something extra" to each of the trips. On a recent early November trip, one of the guides brought his i-pad for a digital presentation of Day of the Dead, an important holiday in Mexico.
4. What equipment do you use?
All of our kayaks are Seawards. We use mostly the Seaward Southwind doubles (though a few singles are also present on each tour), which are hand-crafted for our company in Vancouver, BC (where we also run summer tours, so we are using a local company). The dry bags are provided are SealLine Baja bags by Cascade Designs.
5. Do you share camp sites with other companies?
The Loreto Bay National Marine Park Service orchestrates a lottery system for campsite selection so that private parties and outfitters alike all have equal chance at the "best" camp sites, and so that the pristine nature of the islands may be preserved. Consequently, the sites are not shared among multiple groups to reduce impact, thus one party per campsite.
6. Is there a date you would recommend, and why?
We have Baja trips available weekly from the last week of October through end of April each year. Most tour itineraries start with a travel day flying into Loreto on a Sunday and out on a Sunday, although we also offer shorter/cheaper tours flying in on a Sunday and out on a Friday. We run both self-supported tours (carrying all gear within our kayaks) and motorboat-supported - this option adds some extra luxury as the cooking gear (and real chairs!) are taken by the panga, so the kayaks are lighter.
Our February and early March tour itineraries have the added bonus of viewing the gray whales as well. We are the only Loreto kayak tour operator to our knowledge that offers the combination whale watching/kayaking tours and camping in Magdalena Bay. Hundreds of California Gray whales migrate to Magdalena Bay to give birth from early February through mid-March each year, so your chances of seeing these whales close up is 95-99%. The babies are friendly and curious about the boats and will often come right up to the sides, as depicted in this video from last year. Blue and fin whales can be glimpsed in the Sea of Cortez about a third of the time, and dolphins are seen on just about every kayak tour. A third of the world's whale species are found in the Sea of Cortez - which Jacques Cousteau dubbed "The World's Aquarium".
7. Do you provide all kayaking and camping gear, or are there items that we will need to bring?
We provide all kayaking, sleeping and camping gear. Our tours are fully-supplied and fully-catered for a "camping plus" experience. We have organized our tours so that you can arrive with just a carry-on bag of your clothing. Tents (solo guests get 2-person tents, and couples get 3-person tents), sleeping bags (with sleeping sheets), inflatable Thermarest-style air pads, and all kayak gear and instruction are included in the trip price. The only items not included would be snorkel/mask/fins and shorty wetsuits, which we have available for rent ($20/person for snorkel/mask/fins, or $10 for just fins, and $20 for wetsuit for the duration of the tour). We do recommend wetsuits for all Dec-March tours as the water averages 72 degrees F/ 22 degrees C - so highly recommended for extended snorkeling sessions. We whip up all meals from scratch on tours, including cakes baked on-site in a Dutch oven and fresh produce - our food is a trip highlight for the majority of our guests.
8. Do you provide transportation between airport and hotel? Which hotel do you contract with? And, is it possible to leave items at the hotel during the tour?
A nice man with a big smile and a sign that says "Sea Kayak Adventures" will be waiting for you at the airport to whisk you off to the hotel. We use the Hacienda Suites and sometimes the La Mision hotel. The hotel has a locked storage room to accommodate luggage while SKA guests are off kayaking.
9. Do you allow/serve alcohol on your tours?
We provide happy hour every day. One bottle of rum or tequila is provided per day, and guests are welcome to bring their own (within packing and safety limits of course). Margaritas, pina coladas, rum and mango, tequila sunrise, hot cocoa with kahlua, etc, as well as hors d'ouevres. A sample menu available upon request. We cater to special dietary needs as well.
10. What distinguishes you from other outfitters?
Sea Kayak Adventures is entering its 19th year of operations. We have thousands of happy guests, many of whom have taken multiple tours with our company - references available upon request, or on Trip Advisor. Our Awards Listings include prestigious honors like:
- 2009 Recipient of National Geographic Adventure Magazine's "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth"
- 2009 National Geographic Traveler Magazine's "50 Best Trips of a Lifetime"
- 2010 National Geographic Travel.com "Best Deals for Adventurous Travelers"
- 2011 National Geographic Traveler Magazine's "Best Whale Watching Locations"
Beyond the statistics, we have a focus on the natural history of the area and include nature walks and hikes on our trips (led and narrated by our naturalist guides) as well as a natural history library. Moreover, we are committed to respecting and helping preserve the areas in which we work. Here is our sustainability page that details some of our conservation efforts. As mentioned, our guides are highly-educated, highly-skilled, and we have a high guest/guide rate for the industry. Some are even involved with conservation work themselves. Here is a recent blog entry on a guide who saves endangered sea turtles in the off-season!
We are very committed to customer service, from the first moment of contact to the 5% discount for repeat guests on future tours. We are honored to host our guests and thrilled to help you plan your vacation. We aim to meet your needs and surpass your expectations. For example, we often have vegetarians or those with restricted diets who we are happy to accommodate. Nancy and Terry started the company because they so cherished sharing the magic of this very special place with others, and that philosophy is still the guiding star of Sea Kayak Adventures. Everyone who guides and works here does so because they love the wilderness, the kayaking, and the guests!
Please let us know if you have any additional questions. You will have a wonderful time in Baja - this is one truly special UNESCO World Heritage site. We have a DVD and brochure available as well. Just tell us where to send it! We hope to help you plan a wonderful vacation.