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Captain Hook’s Gallery: The Story of San Felipe’s Mothership Fleet

Captain Hook’s Gallery: The Story of San Felipe’s Mothership Fleet

Mothership 1

Imagine yourself in a placid, turquoise cove. Although the sun has barely risen, you can already feel its intense rays warming your shoulders. The small panga carrying you and a few fellow fishermen slowly drifts a couple hundred yards from the lee side of a barren desert island only seconds before all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, your rod jolts and bends practically in half and the drag on your reel begins to scream.

Your alert panga captain immediately throws the motor out of neutral and into reverse, backing the boat away from the rocks until you have a chance to regain control of the battle. After ten long minutes that seem more like an hour, your beautiful 18-pound leopard grouper finally comes to gaff. Then, when the euphoria has momentarily subsided, you realize that your first day on a multiday panga mothership trip has only just begun.

Leopard grouper in various sizes are just one of the popular gamefish species available to anglers aboard panga motherships.

The father of Baja sportfishing, Ray Cannon, once referred to the Sea of Cortez as “the great fish trap” due to the fact that for hundreds of miles this narrow sea is tightly bordered by the coasts of Mexico and Baja California, and is open at only one end. As a result, these generally warm subtropical waters provide a nearly perfect sanctuary for the propagation of numerous species of fish and other marine life.

With a line of pangas in tow, San Felipe’s motherships can fish in waters surrounding remote islands in the Sea of Cortez.

Over the course of eons, volcanic upwellings have created numerous small islands and countless concealed grottos beneath the surface that harbor a vast array of hungry fish, many of which weigh well over 100 pounds. Whether anglers are looking for huge broomtail grouper and big cabrilla, or fat yellowtail, giant Humboldt squid, and white sea bass, a trip on a panga mothership offers a chance to experience the fishing adventure of a lifetime.

Well over a half century ago, a young fisherman in San Felipe named Tony Reyes came up with a concept that would end up changing the face of sportfishing along the entire northeast coast of Baja California. Until then most local fishing operations made a business out of crowding as many sport fishermen s possible together on a small boat, a situation that often resulted in tangled lines and flared tempers.  

Motherships offer a spacious and comfortable platform for multiday fishing excursions.

But Tony dreamed of offering his clients a large, livable craft that would tow a small armada of pangas down the rugged Baja coast to fish the rich waters that surround the many rocky islands in the mid and upper Gulf of California. Anglers could fish selected coves from a small craft with no more than two or three passengers per boat, and then enjoy the luxury of returning to a hot shower, a warm meal and a good night’s sleep before doing it all again the next day. The concept of the panga mothership was born.

Shortly thereafter, Reyes acquired a partner and bought an old shrimp trawler, building expanded sleeping accommodations and installing an upgraded galley. Once they got started and anglers from north of the border began returning home with coolers full of tasty grouper, cabrilla, and pargo fillets, their passenger rosters began to fill up.

Today, after serving throngs of happy customers for decades, the unique style of fishing offered by the Tony Reyes operation remains an excellent option for multiday fishing adventures in the fish rich waters of the upper Sea of Cortez.

First time saltwater angler, Don Little, shows off a sweet 110-pound grouper that was taken near a rocky outcropping.

But make no mistake about it, these captivating journeys are not just about catching fish. Most of the areas visited are adjacent to small remote islands and rocky outcroppings that offer near perfect venues to enjoy snorkeling and kayaking amongst schools of the many subtropical fish species that thrive in the region. There are also sublime oceanic sunsets and balmy breezes to enjoy while relaxing on the upper decks of the sturdy 105-foot vessel.

Baja’s Midriff Islands offer a peaceful backdrop for a panga mothership fishing adventure.

The upper Sea of Cortez offers a serene and enchanting environment that will mesmerize anglers once they finally arrive. And for those lucky enough to be aboard a panga mothership, it quickly becomes apparent why the islands of the northern Gulf are considered to have some of the best saltwater fishing in our hemisphere. 

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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San Felipe’s South Beach Boasts Deli Delights

San Felipe’s South Beach Boasts Deli Delights

To some of the locals and expatriates, the area south of San Felipe proper is known as South Beach. This region is mainly housing developments, some more developed than others, and beaches. Lots of lovely beaches. It is lacking, however, in restaurants and markets. So I was pleasantly surprised when I recently went to KM 1 Deli & Market, a San Felipe establishment that has opened in South Beach.

KM 1 Deli & Market, a San Felipe


This delightful market and eatery is located at the entrance to La Hacienda and the 1 KM mark on Hwy 5 to Puertecitos. La Hacienda is a residential area with red-brick paved streets, a gorgeous golden sand beach, and a wonderful selection of vacation homes. How do I know? I was staying in one or the vacation homes, and the easy walk to KM1 Deli & Market was one of its more pleasurable conveniences.

KM 1 Deli & Market

The restaurant boasts a congenial  atmosphere, with  patio seating fringed by palm trees, and live music frequently featured on weekends. The menu covers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a nice selection of meats, cheeses, and breads are available from the deli. Sunday is a terrific  day to sample the specials, particularly if you like comfort food favorites like eggs Benedict and barbecue ribs. But my favorite personal favorite remains the chipotle shrimp pasta, accompanied by a dinner salad topped with delicious homemade bleu cheese dressing.


Km_2

km_4

KM 1 Deli & Market is open Thursday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and on Monday from 8 a.m. to  3:00 pm.

San Felipe is right on the Sea of Cortez, with its sparkling waters and vast white sand beaches.  Want to visit?

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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A Spontaneous Gonzaga Bay Adventure

A trip to Puertecitos turns into a food adventure at Alfonsinas in Gonzaga Bay.

 

Puertocitos

Puertecitos

I love those days when the unexpected happens and it makes for one of the best days ever…what is that saying about the best-laid plans?

We met up with our friends, Stephanie and Jesus, both chefs that live in San Felipe. Steph’s birthday was coming up in a few days and we all decided to head to Puertecitos and hang out at the hot springs. If you haven’t been there before it’s a must-do trip! Puertecitos is about 30 minutes south of San Felipe on Highway 5, a very good road. There are a few dips in the road that you can catch some air on, but other than that it’s well-traveled and well-maintained.

Thermal springs in the Sea of Cortez

Thermal springs in the Sea of Cortez

Puertecitos is home to rocky mineral hot springs. The best part is that these geothermally heated pools sit in the Sea of Cortez.  At times, it can be quite surreal to be sitting there, eye level with the sea, as the waves come washing in and cool off the water. Also it may be necessary to move, either from being too warm or too cool depending on the tide. There’s not much in Puertecitos so it’s best to bring your own drinks and food. We brought plenty of beverages but were a little light on food.

When we had finished relaxing in the hot springs and soaking up the sun, we were quite hungry. Jesus had the idea of traveling south a bit more to Gonzaga Bay. For six of us, it would be our first time going there. I was up for it and Jesus, being a chef, promised there would be delicious food once we got there -so that definitely sealed the deal.

Except for the very last two kilometers or so, the road was quite good, as the Mexican government has been working on improving road conditions. There was a military checkpoint along the way but it was no big deal and the Federales were very polite. One nice surprise was the change in scenery as we traveled south. There are many small islands in the Sea of Cortez and they provided lots of eye candy on the journey south.

Alfonsinas restaurant  in Gonzaga Bay offered up delicious fare.

Alfonsinas restaurant in Gonzaga Bay offered up delicious fare.

The trip to Gonzaga Bay was about hour, from Puertecitos, but worth the drive. The beach was pristine and we were the only ones on it, except for the seagulls and pelicans. There was even a sandbar that the tide had left completely surrounded by water. Our final destination was Alfonsina’s Restaurant and Hotel. As promised, Jesus spoke with the kitchen and arranged a family-style dinner of fresh shrimp, fish, tortillas, beans, rice and all the fixings. Add an ice-cold cerveza and it was a truly delicious meal shared by wonderful friends and family.

Alfonsinas chow made the travelers go 'wow'.

Alfonsinas fresh, tasty chow made the travelers go ‘wow’.

For most of us on the trip, it was most memorable because of the pure spontaneity of it. I personally can’t wait to go back and visit that sandbar.

Shelli Read is an owner of San Felipe Vacations. For more information, visit their website or contact randy@sanfelipevacations.com.  And to find out where to go and what to do, visit Baja.com.

San Felipe is right on the Sea of Cortez, with its sparkling waters and vast white sand beaches.  Want to visit?

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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San Felipe Spruces Up for Spring: Tourist-Friendly Changes in this Sea of Cortez Town

San Felipe Spruces Up for Spring:  Tourist-Friendly Changes in this Sea of Cortez Town

San Felipe spruces up for spring and the visitors who relish this jewel on the Sea of Cortez.

by Shelli Read

The Baja California government is working hard to complete improvements to the Malecón in San Felipe in time for the Tecate Score San Felipe 250 in March. As San Felipe spruces up for spring, this friendly town is a-bustle with activity and positive energy!

For cities along the coast in Mexico, the Malecón is the name used for the promenade along the waterfront. It is a vibrant place and the heart and soul of the community where friends and families gather.  It’s no different in San Felipe, and it’s the place to go to people watch, hang out at the beach, eat at restaurants, or shop. And recently, the state government of northern Baja has funded an improvement project in San Felipe to widen and beautify the Malecón. The hope is to have it complete for the Tecate Score San Felipe 250 in March and the work on it is going at a steady rate. For San Felipe restaurants and other businesses, the improvements mean a better and cleaner look to the downtown area plus increased foot traffic.

The Malecon is the main focus of tourist activities, including restaurants, events and shops.

Additionally, with the recent improvements finished on Highway 5 from Mexicali to San Felipe, visitors will have an even better experience for all the events and activities coming up soon like: Carnaval on February 8-12, the Paella Festival on March 2, the Tecate Score San Felipe 250 from March 8-10, and the San Felipe Blues and Arts Fiesta on March 22 and 23.

Shelli Read is an owner of San Felipe Vacations. For more information, visit their website or contact randy@sanfelipevacations.com.  And to find out where to go and what to do, visit Baja.com.

San Felipe is right on the Sea of Cortez, with its sparkling waters and vast white sand beaches.  Want to visit?

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411.

 

 

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Parade of Lights Dazzles in San Felipe

Everyone is Invited to Join the 17th Annual South Campos Parade of Lights

By Jack E. George

Parade of Lights

If you are looking for a fun-packed holiday evening in the Mexicali or San Felipe areas, mark December 28 on your calendar. This is the date of the 17th Annual South Campos Parade of Lights, that takes place in and around San Felipe (part of the Mexicali municipality). If you have never heard of or participated in this event you are in for a big, big surprise.  You’ll see antique cars, new cars, convertibles, SUVs, and just about any other kind of vehicle that can be driven safely on the road (it must also be able to driven on the beach for 10-12 miles).  Now, this is not the San Felipe SCORE 250 off-road race, so don’t expect wild action.  What is surprising is that it is not just that there will be a variety of vehicles — it is the fact that each one will be decorated with lights. Not just plain old white lights, but red, green and orange, and just about any other color imaginable, with some lights blinking and some just blazing into the twilight until they burn out from being on so long.  It is pretty remarkable, watching this parade of lights — and maybe even a Santa or a snowman — travel through the desert corridor that parallels the Sea of Cortez, and that then illuminates the white sand beach!

 

Annual South Campos Parade of Lights

Another great thing about the Annual Parade of Lights is that anyone and everyone can join in the event. All you need is a vehicle that can make the trek, some inspiration and creativity in decorating your car, and enough gas to get from Point A to Point B. Some of the locals refer to this as the Come-Along-Parade since everyone is invited to join in. All participants will meet at the parade office in Playas de Oro at 3:30 p.m. This ensures that everyone can come together and form a caravan. And, good news!  The road is fully paved all the way.

If you are not joining the parade and just want to watch, the official starting time is 5 p.m. at the Poblado KM 35.5 (which is technically in the Ensenada municipality, but remember…that is a vast region, so just think ‘San Felipe’). It then heads south to Campos Cadena KM 41.5. There, the parade turns left and heads for the beach.  The crowd congregates at Campo Sahuaro KM 32 where, once everyone has arrived at the final location, the fiesta begins:  The drivers, participants and looky-loos will be entertained with a huge bonfire.  Don’t be concerned about the weather because the welcomed bonfire will keep everyone warm.

If you join in the parade, and you have done a spectacular job of decorating your vehicle, you might win one of several awards for your efforts.  But, according to Hal Stuart,  one of the event organizers, it isn’t about prizes and awards…it is about the season of giving.  Everyone is asked to bring a donation of a toy or gift or sweaters or jackets — whatever! — for a child.  These offerings will be distributed at the Poblado by the event organizers.  There is no doubt that all who participate in the parade will have a great time and part of that is the rewards of putting big smiles on children’s faces when they receive their gifts!

If you have any questions about the Parade of Lights, please contact Hal at  halstuart@hughes.net.  In the meantime, why not think about visiting San Felipe for the winter?  Lots of snowbirds (Americans or Canadians who want to head for warmer climes and come south of the border) each year.  It is always a tranquil place to discover the Sea of Cortez…and who knows?  Just maybe you’ll find yourself on a white sand beach celebrating the holidays amidst of wondrous Parade of Lights.

 

 

The Parade of Lights travels from Baja's eastern road

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Exploring Baja and Its Blue Palm Canyon, ‘El Berrendo’

Exploring Baja and finding a Blue Palm ‘paradise’ near San Felipe

By David Kier, author of The Old Missions of Baja & Alta California 1697-1834

The Blue Fan Palm ‘Erythea (Brahea) armata’ is endemic to Baja California and is found in canyons and slopes near arroyos with water from the area of San Ignacio north to the border with California. Often they grow alongside their green leaf cousin the Mexican Fan Palm. The Blue Fan Palm (in Spanish: Palma Azul or Palma Ceniza) stand out with their gray-blue leaves and can be seen growing out of rocky cliff sides high above the sandy desert in many places.

Exploring Baja, author David Kier finds a Blue Palm ‘paradise’

One canyon near San Felipe stands out as a Blue Palm ‘paradise’ with the blues growing both in the arroyo sand and high up the cliff face. Apparently the ones up high are feeding on water trapped inside boulders after rain or along a fault with spring water. The canyon is El Berrendo located along the east slope of the Sierra San Pedro Martir, draining into Valle Chico between Agua Caliente Canyon and Matomi Canyon. Some maps also spell the canyon ‘Herrendo’ or ‘Verrenda’.

Getting to Berrendo Canyon is best done with a four wheel drive or off road vehicle. The 51 dirt miles is mostly a good graded road. However, the final 3 miles is in a deep sand arroyo and may require lowering tire air pressure to improve flotation. Bring an electric air pump for the return trip. Make sure to top your fuel tank in San Felipe before leaving town and going with a companion vehicle would be a good idea in this remote region.

Running water is not far from the end of the road in this Blue Palm ‘oasis’

 

How to get to Berrendo Canyon:

There are several roads into (or out of) Valle Chico allowing one to make a loop trip or see some of the other area sites. By far, the fastest and easiest road is from just north of San Felipe and comes down Valle Chico, described below. Other roads can be used from near the sulfur mine (25 miles south of San Felipe) or up Arroyo Matomi, 10 miles north of Puertecitos.

Leave Highway 5 about five miles north of San Felipe where a sign may point the way to ‘El Saltito’ and ‘Morelia’. A large self-storage facility is at the junction. Go west about 4.5 miles and junction with the original Ensenada-San Felipe road (turn right). In just under 9 more miles is a fork where you will go left (south) and enter Valle Chico. Some rock hounding in this region may produce fossils to photograph (collecting of fossils is not legal by non-Mexicans).

About 19 miles beyond the fork, traveling mostly south, the road bends west to a junction where you turn left (south). If passed the road goes 1.3 more miles to the foot of the sierra, by Rancho Algodon. The correct road goes south and passes through the nearly abandoned ejido farm of ‘Plan Nacional Agrario’ in about 8 miles (often also called ‘Agua Caliente’ after the nearby canyon with hot springs).

A left or south turn is made in the ejido for the road south to Berrendo and Matomi. 5.6 miles south of Plan Nacional Agrario is a fork. Most traffic goes left to Matomi Canyon (11.7 miles), continue straight ahead on a lesser road that passes a ranch corral ‘Carricitos’. Continue south 1.4 miles from Carricitos and turn right in the white sand arroyo of Berrendo. The road ahead goes 6.4 miles and ends a mile from Rancho El Parral.

The drive up Arroyo el Berrendo is only 3 miles to where boulders force you to park. This may be the only part of the drive where four wheel drive needs to be used. The road ends at some large boulders. Look up at the high canyon walls and see the blue palms. A short walk will bring into the blue palms along a running stream. About a mile walk up the canyon is a grotto. Giant boulders, running water, pools and blue palms create the grotto.  2012 visitors reported a fence was erected across the arroyo before the end of the road. If unlocked, please close gates after passing, as they are used to control livestock.

 

Exploring Baja: A cluster of Blue Palms in the rocky terrain near San Felipe

GPS DATA (WGS84):

Leave Hwy. 5: 31º05.89’, -114º53.56’

Turn left into Valle Chico: 31º01.69’, -115º05.79’

Turn left near Algodon: 30º47.03’, -115º09.99’

Turn left in Plan Nacional Agrario: 30º40.34’, -115º08.09’

Go straight near Carricitos: 30º35.68’, -115º07.02’

Turn right in Arroyo el Berrendo: 30º34.49’, -115º06.76’

End of Road: 30º32.59’, -115º07.96’

The Grotto: 30º32.11’, -115º08.15’

 

David Kier is author the The Old Missions of Baja & Alta California 1697-1834, that covers the histories and interesting facts around the 48 missions — starting with the first mission established in Loreto in 1697 —  founded in Baja during this time period.  

The San Felipe area is a great place to visit in winter!  Find out where to stay and where to dine at Baja.com!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Baja Norte’s Captivating Coast on the Sea of Cortez

The Baja Coast along the Sea of Cortez offers treasures to the intrepid traveler

by Tom Gatch

Situated at upper end of the Sea of Cortez, the eastern coastline of northern Baja California supports an entirely different type of habitat and marine life profile than does the Pacific side.  Rugged volcanic outcroppings and occasional groups of small, rocky islands intermittently interrupt the many miles of warm, sandy beach that adjoin a tepid desert sea.

 

San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez enjoys spectacular sunsets

The narrow highway south of San Felipe that eventually meets the small settlement of Puertecitos some 50 miles away, runs parallel to long stretches of unpopulated beach.  The inshore waters nearby are a kayak angler’s dream, and catches of croaker and orange mouth corvina are not uncommon here during the summer months. In spite of being so close to the rapidly growing tourist town just to the north, this area along Baja’s Cortez coast is truly rural in almost every sense of the word.  This is a place where travelers should be prepared to provide their own creature comforts.  Puertecitos offers a small launch ramp; but aside from that, don’t expect to find any fancy hotels, gourmet restaurants or other tourist amenities in this somewhat isolated venue.

 

“Las Chivas” on the Sea of Cortez

For those wanting to relax after a long day fishing or hiking around the local foothills nearby, one of the most beguiling aspects of Puertecitos is that it features an adjacent proliferation of small, volcanic hot springs that flow nearby.  Just offshore, the Islas Encantadas, or Enchanted Islands, offer solid bottom fishing for leopard grouper, cabrilla and other popular gamefish, which often makes them one of the first stopping points for the panga festooned mothership operations based in San Felipe.  During the warmer months, the area around the islands is a prime place to catch large white sea bass and yellowtail.

 

Fishing can be rewarding along the rocky coastline of the Sea of Cortez

Beyond Puertecitos, the dusty and uneven thoroughfare heading south has a longstanding reputation as one of the most rutted roads in northern Baja. It can be very intimidating, and probably should not be undertaken except by the most seasoned of Baja travelers.

That having been said, the secluded areas of Bahía Willard and Bahía Gonzaga several miles down the coast offer breathtakingly beautiful seascapes and the solitude to truly appreciate them.  The onshore, inshore, and offshore angling opportunities here can also be outstanding throughout the entire summer season.  This entire section of coastline features a wealth of open, sandy beaches and rocky coves that are guaranteed to tempt the wandering beachcomber.

Bahia de los Angeles on the Sea of Cortez

Bahía de Los Angeles is a very popular fishing location that lies even further south, but is best reached by automobile via the Transpeninsular Highway. As is true along the entire Cortez coast, summer visitors should expect extremely warm daytime temperatures and plenty of sunshine. The nearby islands attract large schools of baitfish as well as big white sea bass, yellowtail, skipjack, grouper, and cabrilla.

The region is also home to the world’s largest cactus, the giant cardón, which some Native Americans believed that the cardón cactus could even take on the attributes of human beings, and actually meander around the moonlit desert while they slept at night.  It can reach a height of over 60 feet.

 

Giant cardón cacti dot the coastal areas along the Sea of Cortez

 

The first time I ever saw one of these huge cacti, I mistakenly referred to it as a saguaro. This is a common mix-up, since it greatly resembles a smaller, related species that is common in the deserts of Arizona.  There are a number of other specimens dotting this arid landscape, such as the painfully notorious cholla, sometimes referred to as “jumping cactus.” Also present are a plethora of barrel cacti and nopal, which produces moisture rich and  bright red fruits that are light green inside and taste a bit like kiwi fruit.

Nopal cacti are found in the coastal desert along the Sea of Cortez

For thousands of years before the first Europeans ever set foot here, the roots, leaves, seeds, and fruits of many of these native plants provided a valuable source of food and water for countless generations of indigenous peoples that had to survive in this harsh environment.  Young and tender nopal leaves and cactus fruits referred to as ‘tunas’ and ‘pitayas’ are still relished northern Baja California today.

One thing is certain:  However you get there, wherever you go, there is a special magic that exists in this section of Baja Norte’s eastern desert region that consistently manages to enchant visitors, many of whom never suspected that they might eventually fall under its spell.

Hooked on Baja’ author & columnist, Tom Gatch, is one of Baja’s foremost writers with a focus upon outdoor and recreational topics in Baja and southern California.

Want to find out more about traveling in Baja Norte?  Where to stay, what to do?  Read more on Baja.com!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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San Felipe Shrimp Festival: Family Fun on the Sea of Cortez

Contributor, Shelli Read

Holy crustaceans!  The XX San Felipe Shrimp Festival is almost here.

 

The San Felipe Shrimp Festival is simply delicious fun. Photo courtesy of SanFelipe.com.mx

San Felipe is always a great destination for vacationers and the San Felipe Shrimp Festival is a perfect time to enjoy the fresh-caught crustaceans for which San Felipe is know.  This year’s 20th celebration is November 1-4, 2012. With local chefs creating delicious dishes, it’s definitely a one-of-a-kind culinary experience you won’t want to miss.   The best part is you won’t just leave and forget this festival!  After you’ve indulged in every kind of San Felipe’s famous blue shrimp you can imagine – shrimp wrapped in bacon, shrimp grilled, shrimp tacos, shrimp pipian, etc. – you can go home and create some of these dishes on your own.  This year, you can take up to four kilos of shrimp home with you — plenty to WOW your guests with San Felipe Shrimp Festival stories and recipes.

Making a Shrimp Cocktail

But it’s not all about the shrimp either. Enjoy wine and tequila tastings, San Felipe restaurants, music, and daily entertainment on the malecon. Throngs of people just meander along the waterfront, sampling shrimp plates, listening to bands and playing the ever-popular arcade games that line the sidewalks.   It is pure fun and the kind of festival that everyone enjoys.  For more information go to: www.sanfelipeshrimpfestival.com.

 

Children love the arcade games that are part of the San Felipe Shrimp Festival

How to get to the San Felipe Shrimp Festival?  San Felipe is about 125 miles south of the international border between Calexico, California and Mexicali, Baja California.  Highway 5 from Mexicali does the trick.  From the western coast of Baja, a scenic trip from Ensenada on Highway 3 and then cutting south on Mexico Highway 5 brings visitors to the town.  Marking the way are the dramatic craggy peaks of Sierra San Pedro Martir, the tallest mountains in Baja.

 Where to Stay?  There are lots of choices from great hotels to vacation rentals, and even beach camping.  Baja.com and San Felipe Vacations can help you find your perfect lodging.  For more information, contact  randy@sanfelipevacations.com.

For more information about San Felipe, visit http://sanfelipe.com.mx/.

Shelli Read is an owner of San Felipe Vacations, that offers you the home away from home experience so you can focus on having fun.  For more information, visit their website or contact randy@sanfelipevacations.com.  And to find out where to go and what to do, visit Baja.com.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

 

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The Noble Totuava — Fish Story with a Sad Beginning and (Maybe) a Happy Ending

By Tom Gatch

Tony Reyes, "Papa" Gorgonio and his son, Chichi, after unloading a catch of totuava in 1953.

Nearly a half century ago, San Felipe was little more than a tiny, remote poblado at the northern end of the Sea of Cortez. Few people north of the border even knew that it existed, let alone entertained the thought of ever going there. The rare exceptions were dedicated anglers in pursuit of the mightiest croaker of them all, the giant Totuava.

The Colorado River delta is the primary spawning ground for this indigenous species, and also serves as a nursery for very young fish. Juveniles begin migrating south after about two years, but then must survive for another six or seven years before reaching full sexual maturity. They have been known to live for 25 years, but because of overfishing and inadvertent bycatch, fewer and fewer of the now relatively rare fish even live long enough to reproduce.

Totuava can easily attain weights of well over 200 pounds. They are considered gourmet table fare and, along with shrimp, were the backbone of San Felipe’s economy at the time. Ironically this factor eventually became the totuava’s undoing. During the middle of the previous century, large quantities of their ice covered fillets were trucked up to satisfy the growing demand north of the border for what was then referred to as ‘Mexican sea bass’.

Giant totuava provided great sport for countless visiting anglers during the mid 20 th century.

Unfortunately, it was later discovered that even more money could be made by catering to the desires of epicures in Asian countries who prized the totuava’s swim bladder as a prime ingredient in gourmet soup stock. The skyrocketing value of such an easily harvested and cheaply processed product created a situation where beaches around San Felipe often became strewn with huge, rapidly decaying totuava carcasses which had nothing more than their swim bladders cut out.

This tragic waste, along with excessive shrimp trawling in the region and the incremental damming of the Colorado River up in the United States, reduced the flow of fresh water in the Rio Hardy to a virtual trickle. Such a profound environmental change spelled certain doom for the noble totuava.

During the late 1970’s, when it seemed as if the last nail had finally been driven into the coffin, the Mexican government intervened and instituted a strict ‘no take’ embargo on sport and commercial catches of the now endangered totuava.

The good news is that, with current aggressive husbandry programs and organized habitat enhancement efforts, the totuava is starting to make a comeback.  In May 2002, a cooperative program with UABC (Universidad Autonoma de Baja California) and conservation groups allowed the release of 1,600 totuava’s into the Sea of Cortez.  Their stocks, however, will probably never return to the number and size that were common during San Felipe’s ‘glory days’.

The cooperative efforts of both government agencies and civilian environmental groups are now helping to reintroduce totuava to the waters of the upper Sea of Cortez.

Today, this region still offers solid fishing opportunities for various species including orangemouth corvina, shortfin corvina and spotted bay bass and smaller grouper. Shore fishing from can also be productive during periods of good tidal movement. If you don’t have your own boat, a commercial panga can be booked right on the beach, and deepwater charters targeting larger fish at Consag Rock just offshore are also available.

Further south along the coast toward Puertecitos, the long stretches of sandy beach are a kayak angler’s dream, and catches of large corvina are not uncommon during the months of summer.

Although the big totuava may be gone, the wise angler will never visit San Felipe without a fishing pole.  Want to cast a line in San Felipe?  Ask us how!

Hooked on Baja author & columnist, Tom Gatch, is one of Baja’s foremost writers with a focus upon outdoor and recreational topics in Baja and southern California.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants,hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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A Festival of Freshness: Ceviche in San Felipe!

by Carla White

Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012 — the San Felipe Ceviche Festival!

There is very little that piques my palate more than a heaping bowl of chilled ceviche, redolent of Mexican lime and cilantro.  For the uninitiated (seriously? If you don’t know what it is, you don’t know what you have been missing!), ceviche is a uniquely Central and Latin American dish composed of the freshest raw fish or seafood marinated in citrus (usually lime juice), and seasoned with bright green chopped cilantro leaves, chopped onion, sometimes bits of tomato and mild chili pepper and other spices.  It is often garnished with succulent avocado slices or even a slice of orange.  It is always delicious…and what could be better than a whole festival of it at the San Felipe Ceviche Fest 2012 that is taking place on Saturday, September 1, at the lovely malecón that borders the Sea of Cortez, from 12 noon-10 p.m.!

photo by Héctor de Pereda

 

The festival features 12 different styles of ceviche and the cost is only 100 MXN pesos (less than $10 a person), including tastings and a beer.  There will be live regional folk music, dancing, and plenty of fun.  There will even be a children’s area.

For anyone who has had the chance to attend the famous San Felipe Shrimp Festival held annually in November, you will know that the malecón comes alive during festival time.  Booths line the seafront street and there is an authentic atmosphere of an old-time, community carnival.   San Felipe is a small town — almost a village — and to wander from one end of the boardwalk to the other is a pleasure, particularly on a summer evening after a hot day, when the sea breezes are soft on sun-tinted skin.    Here is a schedule of events for the Ceviche Festival:

PROGRAM
12 :00: Opening
12:30 to 6:30: Tasting
12:30 to 3:30: Group Jukebox/rock and oldies
3:00:  Folk dance school, Dance Gena Jazzo
4:00 to 7:00: Group of Salsa Candela
5:00:  Folk Dance
7:30:  Awards Ceremony

How to get to San Felipe:  Highway 3, Ensenada-San Felipe, cutting south at Highway 5 on the Sea of Cortez Coast (from Ensenada, a 2.5-3 hour drive).  Highway 5 from Mexicali brings you right into San Felipe (about a 2-2.5 hour drive).

What to bring:  Summer clothes, a hat, and sunscreen.

Where to stay:  El Dorado Ranch, Hacienda de la Langosta Roja, Hotel Cortez, San Felipe Marina Resort, and more.

For more information:  Information at COTUCO,  telephone in Mexico, (686)577.2300

 

Carla’s Ceviche Recipe

1 lb of sea bass or 1.5 lbs of fresh, deveined shrimp (if I use shrimp, I cut them into half-size chunks.  Sea bass should be cubed or diced.  If you are really lucky, you can find and use the famous San Felipe blue shrimp).

1 cup of diced tomato

1/4-1/2 cup of chopped cilantro

6-8 Mexican or key limes (you need to squeeze enough juice to fully cover the fish

A tablespoon or two of white wine vinegar to mix with the lime juice

1 medium onion finely chopped (I prefer red onion)

Salt, pepper and oregano to taste (I prefer a good dose of fresh ground black pepper and I use Ocean’s Flavor low sodium sea salt — love that stuff!)

Dash of Tabasco sauce

Directions: Dice the fish or cut the shrimp.  Marinate fish in the lime juice in the fridge overnight (this step cooks the fish).  Stir it periodically and even add in a little more fresh lime juice to keep the flavor fresh.  Pour off most of the lime juice but not all (you want to keep it moist).   Add remaining ingredients and let sit in the fridge for a few hours before serving. When you are ready to serve, garnish with sliced avocado.  Serve in a bowl, in a cocktail glass or on crispy tostadas!

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants,hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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