Paddle Power

For Baja’s Sea Kayak Adventures, carbon-neutral means smoother sailing

By: By Mark Chesnut

The Details

Sea Kayak Adventures

The company’s offerings in 2009 include the Sea of Cortez Islands Quick Adventure, which begins at $995 and includes four days of sea kayaking and three nights of camping, plus two nights in a hotel with pool.

The Sea of Cortez Islands and Magdalena Bay Whale Watching Combo remains its most popular tour. Available in February and March (when gray whales give birth), this eight-day program starts at $1,330 and includes five days of kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, with four nights of camping, and one day of gray whale watching. The 10-day program, starting at $1,795, also includes two nights at a whale-watching base camp.

The 12-day Isla Carmen Circumnavigation program includes 10 days of kayaking, two nights in a hotel and all sleeping and camping gear, as well as the services of a naturalist guide. Priced at $1,695, it is available only once a year, in April, when the water is calm.

Adventures in B.C.

Sea Kayak Adventures offers more itineraries north of the border
By Skye Mayring

Not only does Sea Kayak Adventures get up-close to the wonders of Baja, the tour operator also takes clients to some of British Columbia’s most scenic spots.

On the six-day Wilderness Islands Sea Kayak Tour, clients will explore the islands and passages of Queen Charlotte Strait. On an average day, they will kayak for an average of two hours in the morning (after breakfast), stop for lunch on the beach and kayak another two hours after lunch. Dinners are served at one of the four different camps visited along the way. Clients can expect to see humpback and minke whales, seals, sea otters, porpoises and bald eagles while paddling around the remote island chain and through the intricate channels that make up God's Pocket Provincial Marine Park and Queen Charlotte Strait. The price for the Wilderness Islands excursion is approximately $1,500, and it is available for August 2009 bookings.

According to the company, Johnstone Strait is the "best place in the world to observe wild orcas." So, it seems only natural that the six-day Johnstone Strait tour remains a popular offering for the 16-year old tour operator. The expedition departs from Telegraph Cove to Robson Bight Orca Preserve, located in the middle of orca territory off northern Vancouver Island. Four days will be dedicated to kayaking, whale-watching, hiking and creating dialogue about the surrounding wilderness.

The tour costs approximately $1,400, and it is available for July and August bookings.

On both itineraries, youth ages 14-17 receive a 10 percent discount.

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Scroll down to read about Sea Kayaking Adventures' tours of British Columbia

Green. Eco-friendly. Carbon-neutral. These terms are thrown around all the time in today’s evolving travel industry, but what exactly do these buzz words mean for travelers, and how does one small tour operator make its own footprint even smaller?

This year, Canada-based tour operator, Sea Kayak Adventures, announced that it is the first sea-kayaking and whale-watching company operating in Loreto, Baja California Sur, to become certified as a carbon-neutral company. In other words, the company — which has been in business since 1993 — now plans to offset 100 percent of the energy used in all of its tour operations, from now on.

A kayaker in Baja // (c) Mexico Tourism Board
A kayaker in Baja

To achieve this goal, the company partnered with NativeEnergy, an organization that aims to combat global warming through the support of Native American, farmer-owned and charitable renewable energy projects.

"We’d read about NativeEnergy in several magazines and looked it up online and on Al Gore’s Web site," said Nancy Mertz, co-owner of Sea Kayak Adventures. "We liked what we saw, and that a river-rafting company in the U.S. had done it. We chose to do it without really researching any other entity, and decided we could pay what it took to [obtain carbon-neutral status]."

The company also decided to make the change without raising its rates or altering its existing operations.

To offset its own carbon output, Sea Kayak Adventures now pays to support two different projects: the Schrack Family Farm methane project, which recovers waste heat to reduce the need for oil-fired water heating, and the Farmer-Owned Distributed Wind Turbines project, which funds the sale and installation of wind turbines to help farmers reduce their long-term electricity needs and lower their energy costs.

In other words, these two projects help to create less carbon output, and in turn, Sea Kayak Adventures’ contributions to both projects reduce its own environmental footprint. So while the tour operator’s customers may not notice any difference, the global environment should ideally enjoy the benefits.

Sea Kayak Adventures may also benefit from its environmentally conscious reputation. The company’s carbon-neutral policy is a "vitally important" selling point, according to Diane Bunting, a yoga and meditation instructor in Dig Harbor, Wash., who organizes yoga-kayak excursions to Baja California.

"For me doing a yoga-kayak trip, one of the things that is of great interest to me is that each tour benefits all beings, not just humanity," she said.

Bunting said that being eco-friendly is a plus for the people she’s taken on trips.

"There’s a lot of social consciousness, and I appreciate that," she said. "Knowing the people that have been on the last three trips, I think being carbon-neutral would definitely be a selling point for them."

Mertz said that, as far as she knows, Sea Kayak Adventures is the first kayaking operator to become carbon-neutral.

"We wanted to be the first sea kayak operator to do so," she said, "and I think we are. We strongly believe in it, and we want to keep being a trendsetter — for example, we were the first sea-kayak company in Baja to develop and start using a porta-potty made specifically to fit into a double-touring kayak. Now, it is required by the national park there."