Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The wild and magical side of Baja

Spring, 2008
Screaming northwesterly winds drive huge waves onto a California sea lion colony at Los Islotes, just a taste of how wild things can get in the Baja!

A waxing moon setting over the Pacific Ocean from Bahia Magdalena.

A nearly full moon rising over cardon cactus on Isla Catalina.

Sunset on organ pipe cactus from the Gulf of California.

Hazy sunset on the lower Baja Peninsula around La Fortuna.

Patterns in the sand dunes at sand dollar beach on Isla Magdalena.

The sun peeking past the "trunk" of elephant rock on Isla Catalina.

Gulls on cardon cactus at sunrise at the arroyo on Isla San Esteban.

The beautiful sandstone cliffs at Punta Colorado (Red Point) on Isla San Jose in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez).
I have traveled to this part of the world for over 30 years now and I still am in awe at the beauty and dichotomy of this magical place called Baja. With the Sonoran desert nudging the Gulf of California it is the absolute best of both worlds. There are still places to discover, hidden coves to explore, mountains to climb, and islands to land upon. The ecosystems here are tough, used to huge temperature swings daily as well as throughout the year. The very fragility and tenuous nature of life here is what makes the place one of my favorite spots on the planet to return to as the photographic possibilities seem endless. I would love to share the experience with you, please join me On March 28, 2009 for a remarkable journey into the Baja. Details can be found at www.expeditions.com

Monday, September 15, 2008

Things to do in the Baja

February, March, and April 2008

Manuelito, Manuel Vasquez, and Linda Burback with bottlenose dolphins near Puerto Escondido.
So with so much wild beauty where the Sonoran Desert meets the Gulf of California, just what is there to do in this magical place called Baja? To show us how to enjoy the water undersea specialist Carlos Navarro gets chummy with a California sea lion at Los Islotes Islets in the Bay of La Paz.

Exploring caves by Zodiac at Isla San Pedro Martir, the most isolated island in the entire Gulf of Califonia (Sea of Cortez.)

Even the groupers think they can fly during elegant tern nesting times on Isla Rasa in the upper Gulf of California. Actually, this leopard grouper is leaping out of the water for the exact same prey that has the terns diving into the water; sardines!

National Geographic Traveler photo editor Dan Westergren contemplates sunset over the Baja Peninsula from on top Isla Catalina in the lower Gulf of California.

Expedition Leader Sue Perin surveys the National Geographic Sea Bird from Isla Monserrate.

Early morning photo sessions on Isla San Esteban in the midriff region of the Gulf.

Kayaker Jan Mitchell in Puerto Don Juan near Bahia de los Angeles.

Walking the docks in the sleepy French-influenced port town of Santa Rosalia.

So much of the Baja Peninsula is still wild and remote. The offshore islands are yet untouched and untramelled. The magic lingers everywhere...

And then comes a dose of reality (below).

Please visit http://www.wildlifeimages.net/to see more of my photos.

Baja: Just an illusion?

Winter, 2008
So has Baja become just an illusion after all? Has it lost it's charm and beauty, it's sense of wildness? To travel to the once-sleepy area of Cabo san Lucas is truly a rude awakening. The famous finisterra ("Land's End") arches at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula seem difficult to place at the end of one of the most rugged areas in all of North America. It is as if the area has gone through a time warp into the 21st century...and even beyond! It is not the change that I bemoan so much, as change seems inevitable, but it seems to me to be the rate of that change; unchecked, unheralded, unprecedented.

I first visited here in 1981 and slept on the very beach that this hotel is being built upon. The construction is absolutely out of control, the devastation to the area is absolutely irrational. Do we really need another hotel, set of condos, or golf course so close to the ocean? Where will all the fresh water for these projects come from? How will we handle the waste? Is this the final destiny for all the wild and beautiful places whose only crime is to be located too close to civilization?

History is bound to repeat itself here; on August 31, 1967 hurricane Katrina made landfall on the southern tip of the peninsula, sinking 60 ships and later leaving 2500 homeless after it partially destroyed the city of San Felipe in the northern part of the Baja Peninsula. On September 22, 2003 hurricane Marty made landfall near San Jose del Cabo. A total of 4000 houses were destroyed and five deaths were reported. What will be the impact of the next hurricane to make landfall in the Cabo area? It is not really a question of "If", but only "When". Do we ever really learn from these events?

The harbor itself has been dredged out and expanded to hold literally thousands of vessels large and small. Each morning hundreds of fishing boats disgorge from the small mouth of the harbor and race at full speed towards offshore fishing grounds in search of billfish and dorados to quench the seemingly unending need to show mastery and dominion over cold blooded fish.

And as if to add insult to injury Cabo san Lucas now plays host to large cruise ships who disgorge hundreds of touristas onto the scene. To a casual observer like myself I can only say that I am so happy to have known this area in earlier times, before the madness and mayhem. I have to wonder what John Steinbeck might write about this area today...

For my part I could skip the area all together, but I suppose that it absolutely drives home this point; there are no sacred places left in this part of the world. if you are going to get out and enjoy what is wild and wonderful about the Baja Peninsula then do it now, before the whole thing goes the way of the Cabos. My friends, THESE are the good 'ol days in Baja...enjoy them while you can!