February 10, 2007

New Loreto Bay pamphlet and free DVD

A couple of weeks ago I received a pamphlet from Loreto Bay:

Get a free DVD with information on the Loreto Bay project - call now!

It includes a few pages with information on the project, an offer for a free DVD, and a new URL to their web site: www.discoverloretobay.com. I scanned the pamphlet and published the pages below. It's nice to see their marketing efforts are not slowing down.

Envelope Outer Cover - Address erased to protect the innocent View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
Envelope Back Cover View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
Agua Viva and free DVD View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
I was disapointed with this false advertising: the picture on top is the Camino Real Hotel. It has been recently purchased by the Loreto Bay Co. and has been renamed the "Inn at Loreto Bay". It was in fact built years ago, way before the Loreto Bay project started. With so much progress on their construction efforts, it's sad to see such a slimy page, with this picture prominently displayed showing the one building Loreto Bay hasn't really built.
View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
More of the Camino Real Hotel (sorry, "Inn at Loreto Bay") and a few nice words on sustainability. View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
Envelope Outer cover View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
A cute kid will always sell. Purple flowers can't go wrong. View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
Footsteps in the sand - sign me up! View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
A bit of info on the history of Loreto View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
A phone number, a web site and a free DVD. Plus you can see where Loreto is located. I'm impressed, these people are pros. View Larger (800 pixels wide) View Huge (2500 pixels wide)
Posted by emmanuel at 10:44 PM | Comments (1)

February 6, 2007

Scuba Diving in Loreto

Janelle and I started Scuba Diving about 5 years ago. We got certified in Monterey, California - it was really cold and all we saw was one crab.


Janelle's hair flows in the water during one of our dives

Since then we've had dozens of dives in the Sea of Cortez. Our first dive after certification was in La Paz, a town a few hours south of Loreto, and the current capital of Baja California Sur (BCS). The water temperature was 86 F and the visibility was over 60 feet. There were literally thousands of fish of different colors and type swimming around. We even saw three huge manta-rays! It was truly magical.

The Scuba diving in Loreto is just as great, but better. When scuba diving in La Paz there is typically a long boat ride that can be as "short" as two hours, but most of the time is as long as four! In Loreto, there are a few islands that are very close to town, and in less than 30 minutes you'll find yourself in the water.

I found a great article that describes diving in Loreto, and here's an excerpt:

Fully loaded with wetsuits, fins, tanks and dive gear, the panga backed slowly off the beach, leaving behind the rows of palapas and warm colored buildings of El Camino Real. Baja�s version of door-to-door service. As we headed out into the Sea of Cortez, we discussed various dive options: Coronado Island to the north had a colony of sea lions we might dive with, along with some good wall dives. Danzante Island to the south would offer us better visibility, but noteworthy sea life was less predictable. I voted for animal contact, so we motored toward the small, round island of Coronado (crown).

As we made our crossing, Victor told us of his encounters from more than 1000 dives in the Sea of Cortez: a school of shy hammerhead sharks, collections of mantas, groups of sea lions, even an occasional whale. Within twenty miles of Loreto lie the islands of Monserrate, Santa Catalina, Coronado, Danzante, and Carmen. He described kayaking excursions that paddle from Loreto to La Paz, camping on islands and enjoying fresh seafood. One could spend weeks here diving one cove after another, or spend a year and experience the change of sea life as the water temperature warms from the spring cool of 65� up to 85� in the summer and fall.

Thirty minutes later, we were hugging the dramatic shoreline of Coronado. Lava rock spires, polished smooth by sea, jutted out of the sea, while stunning gray rock formations melded into the burnt-sienna desert scape dotted with Baja�s signature plants. For both visual beauty and animal contact, Victor recommended two novice-to-intermediate dive sites. The first would be Piedra Blanca � �white rock�, named for the year round snow cover courtesy the local pelicans and sea gulls. The lava rock forms a finger ridge that extends a few hundred yards offshore as it descends to 80 feet.

I you are in Loreto and you're interested in diving, check out the Dolphin Dive Center. They have packages for beginners and advanced divers, check out this page for more details: http://www.dolphindivebaja.com/ratesservices.htm. There's also a restaurant they opened not long ago, great for those Margaritas after the dive. Tell Bruce we sent you and he might give you a free one (or not).

I copy the full article below; there's additional info on the town but after the first couple paragraphs, it becomes all about the diving. Just writing this up made me long for Loreto and some fun scuba diving!

WILD Loreto - Small Town. Grand Adventure
More Than Meets The Eye, By Rob Dunton, Link

After clocking over 2500 miles around the Baja Peninsula last year in my aged Ford Explorer, one town stood out: Loreto. Small and quaint with its historic heart intact, this seaside community of 10,000 has one of the best locations in Baja. Parked on the Sea of Cortez, with half a dozen islands beckoning off her shores, Loreto sits nestled near the base of the red Sierra de la Gigante mountains.

When I heard Baja Traveler Magazine was focusing their next issue on Baja Sur and that their cover would be shot in Loreto, I contacted the editor and pitched an article on adventure activities in the area.

Alternatives abound: diving with sea lions and manta rays in Loreto�s National Marine Park (founded in 1996). Petting whales in Magdelena Bay. Sport fishing for marlin or yellowtail or tracking Big Horn sheep. Kayaking and camping on nearby islands. Visiting historic missions, horse-back riding, mountain biking, viewing ancient cave paintings, golf, tennis� the more I researched, the more I realized my planned four-day weekend would only serve as an introduction to this natural playground.

Renewed interest in Loreto was recently stimulated by the recent addition of weekly flights from San Diego on AeroMexico. What had taken me a leisurely week of driving last year, now took less than two hours. My girlfriend Priscilla and I left San Diego midday on Thursday and would return on Sunday. On our way down, the plane flew above the scenic coastline of the Sea of Cortez much of way, landing at a cozy palm-thatched airport near the coast.

In selecting a place to stay, we opted for the coast instead of in town. Relaxing on the sandy shores of the Sea of Cortez just sounded �right� for this trip, so we reserved a spot at the El Camino Real resort in Nopol�, five miles south of Loreto.

Nopol�

As our shuttle pulled off Highway 1, it was clear that Nopol� is still in the infancy of its development. Though the gracious meridians were planted with stately palm trees and vibrant bougainvillea, the streets were framed with acres of undeveloped land, a few houses, and a golf course. Images of early Palm Springs, Las Vegas or Scottsdale sprung to mind. What had those upmarket areas looked like when they were first developed? Then I imagined them situated on the ocean � what would these lots be worth in 10 years! I was stunned to hear home lots within 1000 yards of the water were still going for as low as $5,000.

The style of El Camino Real melds contemporary geometric shapes with pueblo architectural accents. When we entered the lobby, we found the entire ocean-facing side had been left open to the elements. We were wowed by sensational views of the ocean, islands and pools.

Though El Camino Real is surrounded by an 18-hole golf course, palm trees and zen-like cactus gardens, it is still only an island of civilization in otherwise unaltered landscape. Pelicans fish in the shallow waters in front of the hotel as though the complex didn�t exist. Sea lions swim regularly near the small lagoon that flows beneath the resorts trademark arching bridges. Occasionally people can see the spout of a pilot or blue whale swimming offshore.

We adjusted our watches an hour ahead to match the local time, settled into our bayview room, than headed to the beach to take in the sunset.

The next morning, the chill of dawn warmed as the sun rose over the Sea of Cortez and the jagged mountains on Isla Carmen. The world was bathed in lavender and orange. Calm water lapped on the beach. Families were still asleep. Sun worshipers would trickle down to the pools with the mid-morning heat. All was silent except for the flutter of wings as a flock of 30 pelicans took flight, glided, than dove headfirst into the bay. Splash! The lucky ones tilted their beaks to gulp down a morning meal.

The rest bowed their heads and waited for another sortie. Every two to three minutes, the cycle repeated: float, fly, dive and eat � from dawn until dark, these graceful hunters worked tirelessly to feed themselves.

Writing beneath one of twenty palm-woven palapas that line the beach, I was grateful not to have to work this hard for my keep.

Diving/Isla Coronado

I had called in advance to arrange a day of scuba diving in the neighboring islands. I pulled out Arturo�s Sport Fishing and Eco-Tours business card from my last trip, checked their website, and contacted their office to make arrangements. Conveniently, they had a small shop on the beach at El Camino Real, and would send a boat to pick us up. They suggested mule rides, mountain bike trips and kayaking tours to fill our other days, but time wasn�t available on this trip.

After a filling breakfast buffet of made-to-order omelets, pancakes and an wide array of fresh-squeezed juices, Priscilla and I strolled fifty yards to Arturo�s shack perched on the beach. Thirty minutes after selecting snorkeling gear for Priscilla, and radioing the main office, a blue and white open bow panga (appropriately named Arturo) pulled up on the beach.

Victor Vargas, our divemaster for the day, introduced himself. He had a sturdy frame, an easy smile, and air of comfort around the water. He was accompanied by two support crew to drive the boat and care for the passengers. Victor made sure the equipment he�d brought was to our satisfaction, checked my dive certification card, than invited us aboard.

Fully loaded with wetsuits, fins, tanks and dive gear, the panga backed slowly off the beach, leaving behind the rows of palapas and warm colored buildings of El Camino Real. Baja�s version of door-to-door service. As we headed out into the Sea of Cortez, we discussed various dive options: Coronado Island to the north had a colony of sea lions we might dive with, along with some good wall dives. Danzante Island to the south would offer us better visibility, but noteworthy sea life was less predictable. I voted for animal contact, so we motored toward the small, round island of Coronado (crown).

As we made our crossing, Victor told us of his encounters from more than 1000 dives in the Sea of Cortez: a school of shy hammerhead sharks, collections of mantas, groups of sea lions, even an occasional whale. Within twenty miles of Loreto lie the islands of Monserrate, Santa Catalina, Coronado, Danzante, and Carmen. He described kayaking excursions that paddle from Loreto to La Paz, camping on islands and enjoying fresh seafood. One could spend weeks here diving one cove after another, or spend a year and experience the change of sea life as the water temperature warms from the spring cool of 65� up to 85� in the summer and fall.

Thirty minutes later, we were hugging the dramatic shoreline of Coronado. Lava rock spires, polished smooth by sea, jutted out of the sea, while stunning gray rock formations melded into the burnt-sienna desert scape dotted with Baja�s signature plants. For both visual beauty and animal contact, Victor recommended two novice-to-intermediate dive sites. The first would be Piedra Blanca � �white rock�, named for the year round snow cover courtesy the local pelicans and sea gulls. The lava rock forms a finger ridge that extends a few hundred yards offshore as it descends to 80 feet.

Victor and I were the only divers on the boat. After donning our gear, checking our air fills and functionality of our regulators, we flipped backwards out of the panga. It felt great to be back in the water. Floating on the surface, we gave each other the OK sign, then dropped into the emerald depths.

The water was a tad chilly at 66�, but with a double-layer wetsuit on, it was comfortable enough. We glided along the ridge and found schools of yellow and black barberfish, mammoth parrotfish, and Angel fish in their eternal pairs. Large sea scallops where anchored to the rock face, their shells open to absorb passing nutrients. Moving at imperceptibly slow speeds, a variety of multicolored starfish and sea stars contrasted with a variety of bright green, red and yellow soft coral, anemones, and gorgonian fans.

After a 45-minute dive, we surfaced. Our seasoned panga capitan had been trailing our bubbles, and was waiting for us. Back on board, we circled the island for a mid-day break at a sheltered beach. On the way we passed local fisherman in other pangas, sight seers and kayakers. As we approached the west side of the island, the rocky coast gave way to white sand turning the waters Caribbean blue. We passed a secluded bay with four small sail boats and a group of 20-or-so campers from the National Outdoor Leadership School. Five hundred yards further, three palapas graced an expansive beach. A pair of red and yellow kayaks were pulled up on the sand. Three other pangas were beached on shore. Two families with their kids barbequed lunch on a makeshift grill.

Priscilla and I took a hike on an annotated nature trail, stunned at the vast array of plants that thrived in the harsh desert climate. We climbed sand dunes to take pictures of the unique melding of rugged, rocky desert and pristine tropical water that Baja offers. We snorkeled at nearby reef, helped a beached puffer fish find its way back to the sea, then flopped onto the sand for a nap in the mild, springtime sun.

It was time for our second dive. We headed to La Lobera on the southeast side of the island. The rock formations above and below the waterline were picturesque, and eight mature sea lions relaxed on the rocky promontory. We dropped below the surface, and zigzagged in and out of tiny inlets and caverns, examining an array of soft coral and sea fans. A grouper the size of a small dog loped by, giving us the eye. We coasted along a sheer wall, heading deeper� 50, 60, then 80 feet down.

As the water grew colder, rare black coral trees sprouted along the wall�s face. When our tanks hit half empty, we circled back, past a moray eel peering out of a crevasse. I spotted a docile family of spiny lobsters and kicked toward them, only to find a collection of empty shells sloughed off by their former owners. Turning around, I discovered two sea lions had decided to join us. They looped around us like a pair of puppies in a blur of excitement. Suddenly they stopped to make eye contract, then flipped like underwater trapeze artists, and with three subtle kicks, were gone.

Back on the boat, we headed toward the small marina in Loreto. As we plied the waters, a fin whale spouted a large blast of mist in the distance, a kind of farewell from the animal kingdom beneath the sea.

Loreto

Priscilla had never seen Loreto before, never eaten a fish taco in Baja, nor wandered through a mission. I had pointed out the tower of the Misi�n Nuestra Se�ora de Loreto from the boat, and as soon as we hit land, we headed toward it. Flanked by a historic museum, plaza, city hall and the Posada de las Flores hotel, the mission is the cornerstone of the historic hub of Loreto. We explored this quaint section as we meandered toward McLulu�s taco stand for lunch. Owner Lourdes "LuLu" Armend�riz is always on hand with a generous smile and a wide variety of fish, chorizo and other tasty fare.

After consuming a hearty helping of eight tacos, we shopped the curio stands along a graceful walkway shaded with arches of sculpted ficus. Casa de la Abuela, located in a 200-year old adobe house, sold an eclectic collection of goods: hand embroidered shirts, fresh vanilla extract, leather goods, brightly painted ceramics, dried puffer fish, shells and wood carvings. We passed a sign calling the area the Silver Desert, with half a dozen stores full of beautiful hand-crafted silver jewelry. We ran into Gena Lee Nolin, the Baywatch star who was being photographed for the cover of Baja Traveler�s next issue, along with her friend Becky and photographer.

We joined them and rambled from store to store, trying on leather coats, silver necklaces and earrings, examining marble chess sets, and other handicrafts. We snacked on cookies and cream ice cream from a small gelataria, and licked our bowls clean on their shaded patio.

As evening neared, we hired a taxi to take us back to the hotel ($15) in time for dinner. The cab was a well-worn, dusty station wagon. As we climbed in, a sense of d�j� vu hit three of us as we remembered fighting over the fold-up seat in the back. �Who ever thought about seat belts back then?!,� exclaimed Gena. For our entertainment, the driver turned on his tape player. The soundtrack to Jane Fonda�s aerobics video came on. Next played the Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication, followed by Top of the World by The Carpenters. We laughed at this unusual mix, sang what words we knew, and recollected our childhood rides in family station wagons. We found ourselves at El Camino Real in no time.

San Javier Mission/Cave Painting

The 32 km drive through the Sierra de la Gigante mountains to Misi�n de San Francisco Javier gave us a taste of Baja�s rugged side. The passage was a winding dirt and gravel road that snakes through tight gorges of red stone, offering heartstopping views of oases thick with palms below and bird�s eye vistas of the Sea of Cortez.

Jagged, serpentine peaks are dotted with enormous card�n cactus, ocotillo, thornscrub and paloverde. It is a slow, dusty, bouncy ride, and the switchbacks made us queasy, but the immersion into old Baja, it is well worth it. I couldn�t help thinking why anyone would build a mission so far from the sea or primary roads and trails. Almost two hours by car � it would be a heck of a trek by foot or mule.

When we finally arrived in the small pueblo of San Javier, there were four large SUVs with stacks of mountain bikes strapped to their roofs. As many as 20 riders had taken a more adventurous and arduous approach and biked to the Mission, and were preparing to be shuttled home.

San Javier rests in a small valley oasis, surrounded by mountains on all sides. The small town that lines the road has a few charming thatched cottages, the rentable bungalows of Casa de Ana intermixed with ramshackle abodes and struggling rancheros. Local residents wandered about from home to church to yard to field. This historic church had become a backdrop, part of their everyday world.

We explored the church constructed of cut lava stone and rock. We were told that it was originally built without mortar and that it was the only fully intact mission. Chickens flitted about as neighborhood dogs and cats wandered freely. Pigs and goats in nearby pens could be heard. Small fields with green rows of an unknown crop, a palm grove and large olive trees were fed by a small creek. The simple life in this insulated outpost remains much the same as it did for the early Jesuits in the 1600s and the Cochim�es Indians before them: eking out a living from the soil.

We headed back as dusk was approaching. Layer upon layer of the Gigantes� ridges changed with the fading light from rust to orange, brown to purple.

Posted by emmanuel at 4:34 PM | Comments (0)

February 3, 2007

Loreto Bay now renting vacation homes

Loreto Bay has started its rental program - here are some details:

I took a screenshot of the current rental rates
Let's see how these rates change in the next few years

Mexico Vacation Home Rentals, Link

Beginning in February of 2007, North America's largest sustainable resort development will offer beachfront vacation home rentals for 3, 6, 9, and 12 month lengths. The home owners participating in Loreto Bay Vacation Home Rentals have furnished their homes in selected fixtures, appliances and furnishings that blend the ambience of traditional Mexican architecture, modern luxuries and the wonderful indoor/outdoor living opportunity that are only possible in Baja.

Home Types

There are three floor plans to choose from one, two or three bedroom all fully furnished with a living room, dining area and full kitchen ranging in size from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet.

In-home features:

- In-house safe
- Two telephones
- Two TVs with satellite
- DVD player with movies provided
- Wireless internet access
- CD alarm clock
- Roof top balcony with a patio table with chairs

For more information on Loreto Bay rentals, point your browser to:

http://www.loretobay.com/vacation-homes/

When we start building our house there's a strong chance we'll rent from Loreto Bay. Although prices are a bit high, the houses and condos are beautiful and we won't have to worry about Internet, phone and Satellite TV connectivity.

Posted by emmanuel at 5:58 PM | Comments (0)