Magazine article Sunset

Beautiful Espiritu Santo: Explore Baja's Newest Island Preserve

Magazine article Sunset

Beautiful Espiritu Santo: Explore Baja's Newest Island Preserve

Article excerpt

Paddle a sea kayak off Baja California's Isla Espiritu Santo, and you'll glide beneath high volcanic cliffs and along white-sand beaches. Elegant frigate birds soar high overhead, sea lions bark from their crowded rock perches, and schools of angelfish swarm beneath your bow. On occasion, you'll even see dolphins and whales breaching the ocean surface.

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Time itself seems to have overlooked this desert island in the Sea of Cortez--Mexico's version of the Galapagos and one of its newest nature preserves. Situated 18 miles north of La Paz, cove-pocked Espiritu Santo can easily be visited on a daylong snorkeling or kayaking trip.

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The Sea of Cortez is home to one-third of the world's whale and dolphin species and more than 500 species of fish. Its islands provide habitat for more than 200 bird species and host breeding colonies of sea lions and turtles. Espiritu Santo is especially rich, with rare cactus, plants, and wildlife, like the blacktailed jack rabbit, which lives only here.

Last year, with the help of $3.3 million in funding from the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, and a Mexican group known as FUNDEA, the Mexican government acquired the 23,383-acre island complex surrounding Espiritu Santo and protecting it within a larger marine conservation area.

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A number of outfitters offer one-day snorkeling or kayaking trips (also overnight excursions) suitable for beginners. One-day snorkeling outings anchor off a rocky sea lion colony and bird rookery. …

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