Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Turtle Releasing in Todos Santos

One evening in February my wife and I plus some friends took a trip to a secluded beach near Todos Santos.  This is on the west coast of the Baja Penninsula on the Pacific side.

We arranged to help transport new born turtles from their protected nesting site to the waters edge.  We left at approx. 7pm and arrived just before 8pm as the sun was just starting to set.

It is important that they are transported at this time as the sun acts as a reference point for the turtles, but it is just dark enough that the birds cannot easily see the turtles and do not swoop down and eat them all.

There were almost 30 people there in total as we actually came with a tour bus, however typically there are only about 10 people there.

A serious scientific side to things too!
The little guys take a while to get moving
After finding out lots about the turtles, their breading and nesting habits etc, we were all ushered to a line in the sand 10m from the water, where we were each given a turtle to care for and to release into the waters.

My friend with one of the little leatherbacks!
Having such a new born in your hands is quite amazing, particularly as they already have the instinct inside them to run toward the ocean and the sun.  They all had beautiful patterns on their shells and their skin was smooth and soft, yet tough like leather.

The site we visited was run by Todos Las Playitas and they are a really great team who are very caring and very knowledgeable.  Primarily funded by donations and merchandise the volunteers do a fantastic job of helping these endangered species get back on their feet.

You are able to take part and support throughout the year whether it is with supporting the hatchling releases or relocating nests to safe zones, as outlined in the handy table below.  To make a full day of it you could time it in with a trip to Todos Santos in the day time, see my next blog post about visiting Todos Santos, Baja Sur.


 Species
 Nesting Season
Hatchling Releases 
 Olive Ridley
 July- November
 September- January
 Black
 August- January
 October- March
 Leatherback
 October- April
 December- June


Oh and the sunsets! To die for

Please tell me about your similar experiences and if you visit after reading this let me know how it went.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Isla Espiritu Santo

Earlier this year we took a trip to Isla Espiritu Santo, just off the coast of La Paz, near Tecolote Beach for those of you who know a little about the area.


The area is protected under UNESCO as a biosphere, and its importance as an eco-tourism destination is the main factor.  Both of the islands are uninhabited except for a very small stretch of land, only a few hundred m2, where local fishermen are granted the right to live, on a temporary basis, whilst they fish in a sustainable manner.


As a biosphere it is not permitted to take or remove anything from the islands, not even empty shells.  Tour guides are directed to instruct all of their guests to take everything they brought with them back in the boat.  Fortunately the majority comply, after all it is the pristine beaches and waters of the islands that keep people going back time after time.


We took our trip in May, although typically I prefer to go between June and August, however this time we had a friend from England with us as therefore we couldn't ask her to wait a few months until the water warmed up a little.


We headed out with Choya Tours, ours friends help to run the company and they always do a great job whether they are taking us out or guests of ours.  We arrived at their office around 10am and then after meeting out captain climbed into the boat over the road and headed out to the Islands.


Beautiful Dolphins right in the Bay of La Paz
The trip out from the Malecon takes approx. 1 and a half hours, depending how big the boat is and the roughness of the water.  We took a little longer as a pod of dolphins were flirting with our boat and of course we took the opportunity to dance a little and take some photos of these majestic creatures.  For a second or two it seemed like we weren't moving, as they flipped and twirled alongside without a care in the world, it was only when I looked up and saw how fast we were travelling that it sank in just how powerful these creatures are, and as the same time how beautiful.


They were too fast for "Slow Simon" as my wife and friend were calling me, I was unable to take a photo of them jumping (something I will become known for throughout the day unfortunately) however I did grab a few beautiful shots as they were dancing beneath the boat.


Researchers examining the live giant turtles
After an hour and a half we were circling around the island taking in all of the beautiful scenery then as we made a turn to pull around and see one of the next beaches our captain starts to usher us onto the front of the boat as there is a giant turtle swimming beneath us.  They were far too quick for us to catch a good photo but to our surprise later in the day we came across some researchers actually examining a group of giant turtles on one of the beaches, which gave us a chance to grab some great photos and get a good luck and these prehistoric creatures.


We aren't sure but we have a feeling these same 
researchers are the same people we had just seen with tents set up on one of the secluded beaches on the other side of the island.  All lined up in an almost artistic fashion I thought I was on the site of a tent advertisement photo shoot.


As you can see the water is so clean and crisp, if it wasn't so salty I am sure it would make for a very refreshing drink!

After playing around a little in the boat and watching the turtles and jumping manta rays, yes "Slow Simon" was beaten again by quick flying fish, we headed to the Sea Lions who fortunately very much enjoy having their photos taken and were happy to wave at me whilst I took some photos.


Say hello guys!
As it was only the start of May the water was still a little chilly for the girls near the Sea Lions as the water is very deep there, only I got in the water.  I decided to stick on a wet suit although I don't think it actually needed one as it was not too cold.  I spent a good 20 minutes or more swimming around with the Sea Lions.  It was a little tricky as I am relatively blind without my glasses although the water is nice and clear and they are nice and big so I still had a great time.



Simon's Top Tip #1 - Ignore everyone else around you and just have fun with the sea lions.  If you keep trying to turn because someone says one is right next to you, you almost always end up missing them all, so just block your friends out and seek them out on your own, after all your friends on the boat can't see under water as well as you can!


Frigate Birds at Espiritu Santo
Once I was back on the boat we headed to see a giant colony of Frigate birds.  These are the birds with the split tails, that you can see high up in the sky over La Paz.  According to our captain they are incredibly fast birds but really lazy too.  Rather than catch their own fish, they apparently prefer to chase after slower birds who have done all the hard work, and steal their fish.  I have no idea as to the validity of this but it seems like it could be true as I never see them in the water like the Sea Gulls and the Pelicans.


These Frigates lined the tops of the trees which have grown over the site of an old oyster pearl breeding bed.  There must have been a thousand or more, and they were quite magnificent, especially when they chose to all take flight and perform an airshow for us.


Before heading back to town we took a stop off at a nearby beach where we unpacked out tables and shades where our captain laid out a fantastic feast for us.  My favourite was the shrimp and scallop cocktail, which was so good I ate about 5 servings.  We then took a little swim and snorkel around the edge of the beach.


Simon's Top Tip #2 - Things in the water look so much bigger than they really are!  I picked up a shell from the bottom that was the size of my whole head, only to find it was about the size of 3 of my fingers.  Water does strange things to your eyes, although it may have also been the few beers I had had!


Our Feast prepared by our captain from Choya Tours
After clearing up all of our mess we hopped back in the boat for a quick trip back to town.


I only had one request and it was that the captain swung by La Concha Condominiums where we have a number of rental properties.  I had been wanting a new photo from the ocean for a while, and this day was perfect for it.


La Concha Condominiums - La Paz
We were out a total of 7 hours and had an amazing time, from beginning to end, and are looking forward to more friends from England coming out so we have an excuse to go back out there.


If you want to find more out about turtles then please check out my blog post about our recent trip to help new born baby turtles nearby in Todos Santos - Turtle Releasing in Todos Santos, Mexico


What is your favourite day trip from La Paz? and Who which tour provider did you use?

continue reading "Isla Espiritu Santo"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Where is the Amistad Real Estate Office?

Our Office is located on the La Paz Malecon.  This is the road/boardwalk on the Ocean front.

Once you reach the Malecon, with the ocean on your left hand side continue to drive for approx. 5 minutes with traffic, 2 minutes without heading away from the airport.

Nuevo Pekin Hotel, La Paz Malecon
Distinctly Chinese looking building
You will then see a large hotel named Nuevo Pekin.  This is a good reference point to ask for directions should you get lost, as it has been in La Paz for a very long time.


This marks the start of our block, with our offices being located right in the middle.  We have a large billboard style sign which marks the end of our offices, we are the pretty green gate in the center of the long blue wall.




Simply open the gate and walk up to the back of the garden behind the palapa, and our office is straight ahead of you.

We have an unusual office in that it is in the ground of a beautiful garden, however it makes the perfect spot to work from and to entertain our guests.

Amistad Real Estate Offices
Our little piece of heaven.  Taken from my office front door.

View Amistad Real Estate in a larger map


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Cinemas in La Paz

We all enjoy a good movie from time to time, even during a vacation.  You can give the kids some popcorn and a soda and know you can enjoy 2 hours of peace whilst watching something entertaining.

Personally I love a quiet cinema.  I hate nothing more than a room full of 200 noisy people crunching away on nachos whilst I am trying to watch a movie I have been really hyping myself up for.

Until 2011 La Paz only had one cinema, which was the Cinepolis Cinema by City Club and Soriana.

However in 2011 3 new cinemas were built (don't ask me why, I guess there was clearly pent up demand).

Cinemex - Mega Commercial

This cinema is the closest to town of the 4 cinemas now in La Paz and is right on the Malecon road as you head to the airport.  It is a brand new multiscreen cinema with a standard and a VIP section.  It is also in a handy location next to my favourite supermarket, Mega Commercial.

Before these cinemas were completed I took a trip to Guadalajara and experienced the best cinema visit in my life, a VIP cinema or Platino as they call it.  This was a first for me.  In England we have cinemas which are all of a reasonable quality and typically cost $15US for a showing plus snacks etc.

The VIP cinema in Guadalajara was less than half this price and wow was it something special, reclining leather sofa seats, waiter service, huge amounts of leg room and a great bar!

I didn't expect to ever get to go to a cinema like this again, until lo and behold they started to build one here in La Paz.

For $80 Pesos (about $6.50US) you get to experience watching a movie in true VIP style.

My only issue is that the quality of the screens are not the same quality as the rest of the experience.  They are new, good quality projectors, but this does not compare to the top of the line digital screens elsewhere in the world, however the experience makes it my favourite place to watch any new movie.

Typically all movies in the VIP section are in English with Spanish subtitles, however any animated movie (Pixar, Disney etc) is in Spanish without subtitles as they are generally aimed for a younger audience and they tailor the jokes for the Mexican audience as the same jokes in English do not translate as you may expect.

Great seats!


Cinepolis and Mi Cine La Paz

The next new cinema is Cinepolis The Shoppes.  Cinepolis actually created two separate cinemas only a few hundred meters away, however in separate shopping malls.  It beggars belief why they would do this however they still seem to both be pretty busy when I go, so I am sure they had a reason.

Cinepolis in The Shoppes (the mall with Liverpool) is a standard quality new cinema however all screens are digital screens.  They are not the super quality screens that other parts of the world have however they are certainly a large step up from the standard projector screens.

I choose the Cinemax as my favourite due to the peace and quiet and comfort whilst watching a movie, which unfortunately this Cinepolis can't match, even if the tickets are half the price of the VIP cinema.

That being said it is in a great location, particularly if you have been shopping all morning with the kids and want somewhere where they wont feel out of place.

Certain movies in Cinepolis are shown in their Macro XE screen which has slightly improved seating and improved screen quality and sound.  Worth going for this option if it is available as it certainly makes the movie more enjoyable.

The Mi Cine version of the cinema is designed to be a more economical cinema, however currently the ticket promotion at the standard Cinepolis means they are priced the same, however I am sure this will change once they have been open a little longer.  The Mi Cine is located a few hundred meters away in the mall next door.

Please let me know which you have found to be your favourite.



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Entertainment in La Paz

Besides culture, natural beauty and water sports, La Paz also offers great shopping.
Fashion boutiques, department stores, Mexican curious stores and shopping malls fulfill the needs of the avid shopper.

We recommend you visit Plaza San Diego on 5 de Febrero Av, Plaza La Paz on Forjadores boulevard and downtown La Paz where you will find blocks and blocks filled with stores, restaurants and galleries.

Recently opened is The Shoppes La Paz which boasts a large Liverpool department store, and up to 80 small boutique stores from Mexico and internationally.  This mall is located opposite Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club close to the airport.

For souvenirs and regional art don’t forget to visit Bazar del sol, La Antigua California and Mexico Lindo, all located right at the Malecon.

Nightlife

La Paz offers many fun alternatives for visitors. Take pleasure in world class restaurants where you can enjoy a candlelit meal, take a leisurely walk along the Malecon before setting out in the search of an exciting and fun club where you can listen to live music, dance and enjoy a margarita or cold beer with friends. You don’t have to go too far, the best bars and clubs are right along and near the Malecon.

We have our best experiences by walking along the Malecon to see which bar or club is most popular that night, depending on different lives bands and last minute promotions that best places can change regularly, and you will see and hear which that is.

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Emergency and General Services


La Paz emergency services provide visitors and locals with all the services required to ensure public safety and health. The city has modern medical facilities as well as a fire department and police department that work together to make the city of La Paz the perfect place.



Emergency Services
EMERGENCY SERVICE
066

HOSPITAL FIDEPAZ
(612) 124-0400

HOSPITAL SALVATIERRA
(612) 175-0503

TOURIST POLICE
(612) 122-5939

ROAD ASSISTANCE
078


Other Services

TOURIST INFO
(612) 122-5939

TOURISM OFFICE
(612) 124-0100

IMMIGRATION OFFICE
(612) 125-3493

US CONSULATE (CABO)
(624) 143-3566

TAXIS
(612) 122-0790
(612) 122-0697


Whilst we hope that you never need to use the majority of the above services, if the times comes don’t forget to let us know as we will be happy to provide translation services and also to make sure you receive the best service possible.
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Best La Paz Beaches

La Paz and Baja California Sur have some of the best beaches in the world; ranging from the large popular beaches to private beach coves only accessible by Kayak or Boat.  


My favourite two are as follows: 

Balandra Beach

Driving away from La Paz on the Costa Baja road will take you to a number of beaches.  Balandra is 14 miles along the road and provides you with 8 beautiful bays of calm turquoise waters.  Snorkelers, Kayakers and Sight seers flock to this beach all year around to see the Balandra Mushroom rock and its vast mangrove field.  The sand dunes here are perfect for camping and playing games.


I love to walk around to the right of the first bit of beach you meet near the carpark.  Follow the rocks around to the right and then you will find the beach opens up into a much larger section of beach with the Mushroom rock at the end.


This beach is especially nice as it is much quieter than other beaches in Mexico as it is difficult for people to bring ice chests and stereos etc and certainly not cars, meaning it stays much cleaner and quieter. 

El Tecolote Beach

This is the largest and quite possibly the most visited beach in La Paz, famous for its restaurants watersports and camping.  In the summer months residents of La Paz drive here after work to enjoy their evening on the beach and to socialize with friends.  This beach can be found by heading north along the Malecon road and continuing past Balandra beach.  It is the next beach along from Balandra at the top of the bay.


This beach is great for large groups wanting to have fun.  The beach is gigantic and has plenty of space for you to bring your car close to the sand and unload your ice chest for the day and set up "camp". There are restaurants serving food and drinks all day as well as some places to hire boat trips to Espiritu Santo and Jet Skis etc.


Please let me know your views on these beaches and if you have any different favourites.


Mr and Mrs Loftus (My Parents) on Balandra Beach, on a visit to La Paz



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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Activities in La Paz, BCS, Mexico


La Paz is a really beautiful place, particularly from an eco-tourism perspective.    We have pristine oceans and beaches full of life, from Sea Lions to Whales, from Sharks to Eagles, we have it all in Baja Sur and La Paz is the best point to act as base camp for your adventure.
Sea Lions Fishing
18 miles north of La Paz is the world re-known Espiritu Santo, one of the most visited islands in the Sea of Cortez.  The island of Espiritu Santo is surrounded by a group of smaller islands: El Gallo, La Gallina, Los Islotes, La Ballena and Isla Partida.  The diving in this spot is absolutely fantastic with many underwater caves and reefs, with one of the best spots located at San Radaelito where you can find a fabulous shallow reef.

There is also a large colony of Sea Lions in addition to all of the exotic fish and sea life that fill the waters.  Many people take boat trips to the island specifically to see the Sea Lions.

Find out about our trip to see the Sea Lions in our blog post all about the Espiritu Santo Island tour - Isla Espiritu Santo Tour



Grey Whales Playing
Two hours north of La Paz is the famous Magdalena Bay where each year between December and April hundreds of Grey Whales migrate in order to give birth in the warm and safe waters of Magdalena Bay. 

These whales, particularly the baby whales, are incredibly friendly and playful, allowing visitors to stroke them for upwards of 30 minutes if you are lucky.  This is a trip of a life time and well worth the trip!


Whale Sharks - La Paz Bay and Sea of Cortez

Whale Sharks Relaxing
Found in the fertile and calm waters of the Sea of Cortez, these fantastic creatures glide slowly through the waters feeding on millions of microscopic plankton.

Each year you can experience swimming with these miraculous fish, the biggest species of fish in the world, all within the Bay of La Paz!



Turtle Rescue and Releasing

On the west side of the peninsula you can have the opportunity to help save the environment whilst having a great evening out.  

Throughout the year you can help protect and release baby turtles at a beach near Todos Santos, La Paz, BCS, Mexico.





We work very closely with our friends and colleagues at Choya Tours here in La Paz, which is a small family business, to provide life changing trips to some of the most unique locations in the world, all a short trip from La Paz.

If you would like to swim with Sea Lions and Whale Sharks or stroke a giant Grey Whale then we are only a phone call or email away and can arrange the whole trip for you.

Typically a minimum group of 4 is required for each trip, however as we manage a number of properties we can book you with our other guests to make a larger party, saving you all time and money.

Balandra Beach and Mushroom Rock





continue reading "Activities in La Paz, BCS, Mexico"

Grocery Shopping in La Paz, Mexico


When staying or moving to a new city and country one of the first things you will need to do is a big grocery shop.  Whether it is food, drinks or cleaning supplies you will need to get your bearings and take a trip to the local supermarket.

In La Paz we have a number of options and I have listed out favorite ones below. 

Supermarkets

SUPERMERCADO ARAMBURO
Corner of Calle Francisco I. Madero and Hidalgo
Downtown La Paz

Located two blocks up from the Malecon, Supermercado Aramburo is well known for having the best beef in the city. Although the supermarket seems small don’t be fooled by its size they carry National and International Brands as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.

MEGA COMERCIAL MEXICANA
Calle Abasolo between Colima and Colosio
Along the Malecon Road towards the Airport

This large supermarket has a full shopping mall around it, with places to eat, relax or just grab a drink, before or after buying your groceries. Here you will find mainly Mexican Brands, the supermarket has a large section of fresh fruits and vegetables we really enjoy.

WALMART
Carretera Transpeninsular, Ciudad del Recreo
Along the Malecon Road towards the Airport

Walmart sells the American Brands we all love as well as a full selection of Mexican produce. This supermarket has a large section of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as a selection of gourmet ingredients.

Local Markets

MERCADO MADERO
Corner of Calle Revolucion and Degollado
Downtown La Paz

This public market is open seven days a week, here you will find fresh produce, meat, seafood and drygoods. If you would like to practice your Spanish this is the place to go, as most people here only speak Spanish.

MERCADO BRAVO
Corner of Calle Bravo and Guillermo Prieto
Downtown La Paz

Similar to Mercado Madero this public market is open seven days a week, it provides locals and visitors alike with fresh produce, meat, seafood and drygoods. The “Mercado” also sells prepared food, you will find locals love to have breakfast here.

FARMER’S MARKET - ORGANIC MARKET
Corner of Calle Constitucion and Revolucion
Downtown La Paz

Located across the Post Office and Corazon Cafe. The Farmer’s Market is open every Tuesday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. You’ll find fresh greens and seasonal offerings, organic eggs, jams, sauces, German sausages and baked goods. Don’t forget to bring change and your reusable shopping bag. English Spoken.

Mercado Nicolás Bravo in La Paz, BCS, Mexico
One of La Paz's public markets - Mercado Nicolás Bravo

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Concierge Services - Whilst staying in La Paz


We are delighted to offer very special services to make your stay in our Condominiums and Houses in La Paz a most enjoyable and relaxing one. We’re here to give you more time to enjoy your time away, while on vacation.

Let us help you plan your own getaway or add any of the following to your stay while in the beautiful city of La Paz.
  • Groceries delivered to your accommodations on the day of your arrival
  • Booking Tee Times
  • Dining Reservations
  • Special Events/Theatre Reservations
  • Airport Transportation
  • Spa and Salon Appointments
  • Hairstylist on Location
  • Fishing Excursions
  • Sunset Cruises
  • Extra special touches added to your Condo (wine, champagne, gift baskets,
    flower arrangements, hors d'oeuvres, etc.)
  • Plan a surprise or special event while visiting.
  • Answering General Questions or special requests.
Moet Champagne bottle on ice in La Paz
A little Champagne goes a long way to starting your vacation!


We provide these services exclusively for guests staying in one of our properties however should you require some extra special attention and happen not to be one of our guests, we are sure we can sort something out.*

Enjoy your stay!

*Reasonable charges and fees may apply, plus the cost of the actual service/goods
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A bit about La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico


La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

La Paz is the capital of the state of Baja California Sur, a beautiful place well known for the peacefulness of the sea, spectacular sunsets and the warmth of its people.

The city is a mix of laid-back, old-world beauty and wonderful contemporary Mexican design. La Paz lives up to its name with a quiet and relaxed lifestyle. Even though the majority of its residents are Mexican, La Paz is considered to be a cosmopolitan city, it is surprisingly international during the cooler months of the year, if you walk down the famous Malecon (seaside boardwalk) you’re as likely to hear French, Portuguese or Italian here as English or Spanish. This wonderful place has earned worldwide recognition as a place to come rest and retreat.

If you enjoy water sports or activities, such as fishing, diving, snorkelling, kayaking, sailing or simply admiring unforgettable sunsets; you have come to the right place.

La Paz provides visitors with all the services required to make their stay a perfect experience; direct flights from major cities, casual restaurants and fine dining with the beautiful bay as a backdrop, car rental companies, modern medical facilities, activities, culture and nightlife. 


continue reading "A bit about La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico"

Living in La Paz and Living The Peace

La Paz directly translates to "The Peace".  It also happens to be the name of the beautiful city that I, Simon Loftus, am living in with my fantastic wife, Dianne Loftus.

We moved to La Paz in 2011 and do not regret it one single bit.

Everyone moves to La Paz for different reasons.  We came for a relaxed working lifestyle to give us more time to spend together in a climate that gives us many more enjoyable days than I was used to in England.

My friend Susan Fogel at Mexico Musings says that she came to La Paz to retire in the peace and quiet.  She is a really hard worker and the retirement thing didn't go too well as she enjoys working and keeping busy but she loves how different La Paz is from the rest of the world, and living on the ocean front in a great area of La Paz known as El Comitan, who can blame her!

Another friend of mine Anabelle Rossell who blogs for Pedregal La Paz came to La Paz with her family and loves the people and the lifestyle here.  With lots of fantastic restaurants all close by and amazing people, who can blame her!

My point is, whatever your reason, if you are planning to relocate, check out La Paz as you may have just stumbled onto our hidden little gem, like we all did!

When we arrived we established a Real Estate and Rental business to help people following in our footsteps to relocate, or just vacation, to La Paz, BCS, Mexico.

I am writing this blog to complement our welcome services for anyone wishing to visit or move to our wonderful home.

Please find more information about our business at: Amistad Real Estate, La Paz

Simon and Dianne Gaytan Loftus, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Dianne and I in 2012 on a beach near Todos Santos

Amistad Real Estate Offices, La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Our Offices on the La Paz Malecon, overlooking the Ocean
continue reading "Living in La Paz and Living The Peace"