Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A little sand, a little sea

The best of the Baja

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IT wasn't much of a slip, just a slight wobble on loose sand. But it was enough to keep my hiking companion from making the leap across a fathomless gorge on the wind-whipped cliffs of the Sea of Cortez.

No matter -- the view from her side was just as awesome as it was from my tiny perch high above the crashing waves. Watching a line of bright red kayaks paddling across the turquoise cover, the seaside cliff walk showcases the best of the Baja.

We chose this tour by Baja Outback because we wanted some exercise to work off the week's splurge on fish tacos and beer but we also wanted to mix it up. A little water, a little sand, and we got lots of both.

Picked up in a Hummer (why do these gas-guzzling machines, derided at home, seem so cool in the desert?), we headed for Santa Maria Bay. After a quick but thorough lesson from our engaging guide Marcos, we set off in our kayaks.

He entertained us with local stories and facts but also let us drink in the beauty of the region. After a tricky and not so perfect landing in a tiny cove, we hiked upwards and were introduced to the vast variety of cacti that grow here.

They were everywhere underfoot once we knew what to look for: baby-sized tufts of spines; spindly ones that smell like eucalyptus when you scratch the stems; and others battling to bear flowers in the arid climate.

A few hundred metres higher and we were rewarded by an outstanding natural sight -- a cavelike fissure in the rocks worn smooth through wind and time.

Large blue-coloured crabs scuttled about trying to evade the spray crashing up from far below. Inside the "cave" was a tiny graveyard where the crustaceans left their outgrown shells. Here you could also see the passage of time in the coloured layers of rock.

After a careful clamber down, it was back into the kayaks for the last leg of the trip to Chileno Bay, a broad swath of sand and an outcropping of rocks where fish congregate. Snorkelling here is interesting and safe, if you don't count the occasional jellyfish sting.

Five hours later, we had barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in Los Cabos. And it's no wonder -- the region stretches over 50 kilometres from Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip to the unspoiled beaches of the East Cape.

It's where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, so water sports are abundant: big game fishing, sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling and kayaking. Off the water, you can explore the outback on ATVs, bikes and horseback, or play a round of golf on world-class courses designed by Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent.

While much of the Pacific coastline is still undeveloped, a paved highway provides easy access and sightseeing, including frequent grey whale sightings during their winter migration. One of the most popular trips takes you to the artsy town of Todos Santos, home to the Hotel California made famous in the Eagles song.

And in a nod to the more commercialized activities of mainland Mexico and the U.S., there are two dolphin encounter centres in Los Cabos.

A large pool is at the marina in Cabo San Lucas and a new lagoon-like facility has been built into the marina at San Jose del Cabo.

At both, you can learn to train the inquisitive creatures and swim alongside them.

Through simple pleasures or full-on activity, Los Cabos is an outdoor adventurer's dream.

-- Postmedia News

IF YOU GO

Baja Outback: bajaoutback.com

Baja Discover: Contact Juan Gurrola at juangurrola, dolphindiscovery.com/los--cabos

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2012 D3

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