Loreto, Mexico

Photo: gotoloreto.com
Photo: gotoloreto.com

After passing beaches, mangroves, and rocky islets, you rest your paddle across your legs and pause to take in the view. Without any clouds in the sky, the sun is bright and warm above you. Turquoise water is below your red kayak. The shadows of two graceful manta rays briefly darken the clear water. Massive rock formations jut out from the shore of Isla Monserrat ahead of you. A flock of brown pelicans is keeping an eye on your movements. While dolphins play in the waves farther offshore. It’s a perfect day to be out on the water.

You’re kayaking in Loreto Bay National Marine Park. Mexico’s largest marine reserve, located in Baja California, was created in 1996. It protects more than 2,000 square kilometers of land and water in the Gulf of California. The rocky Sierra de la Giganta range borders it to the west. Five deserted, volcanic islands sit in the bay. Commercial fishing is banned. So the wild and marine life flourish.

During the winter, whales—including gray whales and enormous blue whales—play in the warm water during their migration. Huge Humboldt squids, nesting leatherback sea turtles, and loud sea lions call the area home. Local fishermen live off their catches that include dorado and roosterfish, mojarra and grouper, and shrimp and crayfish. But it’s the birds, the ospreys and the yellow-legged gulls, who think they rule the park.

You’ve spent the last few days kayaking through this beautiful area. You stopped on the islands to hike among the cacti and take photos of the contrast between the arid land, the pure white beaches, and the ever-changing blue water. You paddled into the salt marshes and the estuaries. You waved to passing boats. You stared, fascinated, at the interesting animals. Then you watched the rocks change colors as the sun set each evening. It doesn’t get more beautiful or more peaceful than this.

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