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    NOLS Fall Semester in Baja

    NOLS Fall Semester in Baja


    • Listing Type: Gap Year Programs
    • Destinations: Mexico
    • Program Delivery: Residential
    • Credit Awarded: High School, College
    • Program Length: Semester
    • Start Month: September
    • Category: Outdoor Adventure
    • Selective: Yes
    • Gender: Coed
    • Ages: 17, 18, 19+, 19
    • Housing: Tents
    • Accreditation: Gap Year Association - Program
    • Financial Aid: Grants/Scholarships, Payment Terms
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    Open the door to lifelong outdoor adventure, leadership, and international travel with a semester in Baja. This semester combines a variety of outdoor activities interspersed with cultural learning opportunities. Gain the skills to be self-sufficient in sea kayaking, backpacking, and coastal sailing and meet members of local fishing and ranching communities. Practice Spanish language skills and have a deeper understanding of the history and culture of Baja California.

    The Baja California Peninsula is a land of extremes and contrasts. You’ll find yourself in mountain ranges that extend over 1,000 miles down the central spine of the peninsula, the Sonoran Desert, and the Sea of Cortez. You’ll explore these contrasting environments on foot, in a sea kayak, and on a sailboat as you develop your leadership skills.

    Course Sections

    Duration: 25-27 days 
    Route length: 50-100 miles
    Average pack weight: 60 pounds
    Emphasis on outdoor living skills and navigation
    Location: Sierra San Pedro Martir

    During this section, you’ll explore huge canyons and thick vegetation. You’ll begin with the basics of outdoor living, from tarp setup to cooking to navigation. As you travel, you will have opportunities to lead your group and learn risk management from your instructors. Eventually, you will travel in small groups independent of your instructors for up to a day at a time. By the end of this section, you’ll be ready to lead your friends and family on your own backpacking trips.

    Sea Kayaking
    Duration: 26-28 days 
    Route length: approximately 100 miles
    Watercraft used: single and double sea kayaks
    Emphasis on basic and advanced paddle and rescue techniques
    Location: Sea of Cortez
    250-pound participant weight limit (this is a function of the kayak’s weight carrying capacity)

    The Sea of Cortez is a beautiful and dramatic environment where desert, volcanic coastal mountains, and the ocean come together. Watching the weather, judging sea conditions, and learning to assess your group’s strengths and abilities are just a few of the things you’ll learn on this section.

    On most days, you will get up before dawn and begin to paddle. Throughout the day, you will have practical classes on kayaking skills, natural history, leadership, and expedition skills. On days when you do not move campsites, you may practice rough water kayak skills, explore the intertidal zone, go on a day hike, or learn about the desert’s natural history. You may also skin-dive and explore the world under the waves.

    Coastal Sailing 
    Duration: 24-27 days 
    Route length: approximately 100 miles
    Watercraft used: 22-foot Drascombe longboats
    Emphasis on coastal navigation and leadership
    Location: Sea of Cortez

    On this section, you will learn the fundamentals of sailing as you explore the coast in yawl-rigged open boats called Drascombe longboats. Each of these craft can carry five people and at least a week’s worth of food and gear. Skills emphasized include coastal sailing, navigation, seapersonship, and leadership. 

    An instructor will be present on each boat to teach seapersonship, boat handling, anchoring and other nautical skills, but you, the students, will do most of the sailing and take turns in the various crew positions. You'll have time to practice many skills as you journey down the Sea of Cortez, anchoring or beaching the boats each night and camping ashore. On days when you don’t travel, you may have opportunities to review your skills, day hike, and visit local fishing and ranching communities.