Baja California, Mexico (Part 1 of 3)


In February 2015, I joined a fantastic photo tour of Baja California organized and managed by Jim Cline. The top 3 tour highlights were the boulderfields of Cataviña, grey whales in the Guerrero Negro lagoon, and the beautiful town of San Ignacio. The tour was unique in the sense it covered landscapes (Cataviña), wildlife (Guererro Negro) and Jim had conducted the tour close to ten times and he planned and executed the tour flawlessly. I highly recommend his tours.

The tour started in San Diego on the 24th with the first stop at Cataviña that night. We reached the town of Guerrero Negro the next day where we stayed for three nights. We did whale photography up close in 25-foot skiffs skippered by experienced whale guides. We drove to San Ignacio, 90 minutes away, on the 28th afternoon where we spent two nights. We photographed the old buildings, the people, the beautiful mission, and the freshwater lagoon surrounded by palm trees. On March 2, we drove back to Cataviña, a 4.5-hour drive. We spent the night there and returned to San Diego next day afternoon. We covered about 1100 miles during the one-week trip.

This post covers days 1 and 2 of the trip. Part 2 covers days 3 thru 5 (Guererro Negro) and Part 3 covers days 6 thru 8 (San Ignacio & return to San Diego).

Baja California Trip Map

Feb 24 (Day 1)

Jim collected the six tour participants and depart San Diego bright and early at around 0700.  After crossing the border stopped to obtain our Tourist Cards (cost approx. $25 U.S.).  We then continued south to Catavina (6 1/2 hours), stopping for lunch at Mama Espinosa’s – a well-known Baja seafood restaurant in the town of El Rosario on the way. The first stop after lunch was at the Catavina Boulderfields in the afternoon.

When you enter Cataviña, you would probably think that you were on another planet. The thousands of magnificent, building-sized boulders and gigantic rock formations will absolutely blow you away. This area is known as Baja’s rock garden, and you will certainly know why. We photographed the boulders and the surrounding cacti until just after sunset.

In overall appearance, Cardón cacti resemble the related saguaro found in Arizona, but differ in being more heavily branched and having branching nearer the base of the stem, fewer ribs on the stems, and blossoms located lower along the stem. An average mature cardon may reach a height of 30 ft, but individuals as tall as 60 ft are known. It is a slow-growing plant with a lifespan measured in hundreds of years.

Boulderfield @ Dawn
Nikon D7100 80mm f11 1/125sec ISO 100
Cataviña – Boulders & Cardón cactus (29°45’05.0″N 114°44’42.7″W)
Nikon D610 48mm f16 1/80sec ISO 100
A Cholla cactus at Sunset
Nikon D610 98mm f16 1/320sec ISO 200
Boulders & Cardón cactus @ Sunset
Nikon D610 100mm f18 1/15sec ISO 100

After sunset we checked into Hotel Mision Catavina, small and elegant and had a terrific dinner.

Feb 25 (Day 2)

We got up early and drove back to the Boulderfield for a sunrise shoot. Weather was awesome as usual. We walked around the boulders and grabbed some terrific shots.

Boulderfield at Dawn
Nikon D7100 80mm f11 1/125sec ISO 100
Boulders & cacti @ Sunrise
Nikon D610 32mm f22 1/13sec ISO 100
Well Balanced Boulder
Nikon D610 24mm f16 1/6sec ISO 100
Nikon D610 62mm f11 1/30sec ISO 100

We returned to the hotel just before 9 for breakfast. At around 1000, some of us walked around the hotel as there were terrific opportunities to photograph the desert. There was an auto junkyard across the street from the hotel. Although the light was harsh, I got some good images.

Old Truck Opposite the Hotel (29°43’47.2″N 114°43’07.2″W)
Nikon D610 62mm f11 1/80sec ISO 400
Old Colorful Car
Nikon D610 38mm f1 1/80 ISO 400

We checked out of the hotel at around 1030 and continued driving south for about 3 hrs to our destination, Guerrero Negro. Along the way we stopped at two places to photograph cacti unique to the area.

A Cardón cactus
Nikon D610 52mm f13 1/250sec ISO 200
Cardon up close
Nikon D610 100mm f5.6 1/800sec ISO 200

Boojum trees are native to the Baja California peninsula and parts of the Sonoran Desert. The plants are part of rocky hillsides and alluvial plains where water is rare, and temperatures may be extreme. Some grow vertically while others grow as an arc.

Incredibly majestic and beautiful, the Century Plant is a large evergreen perennial forming handsome rosettes of thick, spiny edged, blue-green leaves. Plants that are over 10 years old are topped with a magnificent flower stalk that can easily reach 15′ and bears large yellow flowers.

Mature Century Plant
Nikon D610 70mm f11 1/400sec 200 ISO
A Pair of Century Plants
Nikon D610 48mm f11 1/320sec ISO 200
Century Plant framed by a Boojum Tree
Nikon D610 50mm f18 1/80sec ISO 200

We reached the town of Guerrero Negro at around 1400 and checked into Hotel Los Caracoles right in time for a late lunch and a three-night stay. In the afternoon, we ventured out to photograph busy ospreys bringing dinner from the nearby lagoon. We saw an osprey leave the nest, catch a fish, fly around the nest with the fish about 45 minutes later but decided to land on top a telephone pole a few hundred feet away from the nest and eat the dinner.

Osprey Geting Ready To Get Dinner
Nikon D7100 360mm f8 1/1250sec ISO 360
Osprey Bringing Dinner
Nikon D7100 400mm f8 1/1000sec ISO 1000
Osprey @ Dinner
Nikon D7100 400mm f6.3 1/1000sec ISO 1600

Click here to view Part 2 of the 3-part blog of my trip to Baja, California in Mexico.

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