Interesting that there is such a rash of glowing reviews in the last few days. As mentioned in earlier reviews, Paddling South has quite a network. Our recent trip was a disaster and I think the company has pulled out the stops to counter the resulting bad feelings. You may choose to give this company the benefit of the doubt but know that everything is not always super wonderful.
Many things bothered me about our trip. The one thing I want to speak publically about is the conduct of the guides. The Paddling South guides for this trip were not equipped to handle the group safely. They had neither the equipment nor the leadership skills required. In Baja, safety is often all about who you know, for assistance as well access to information needed to stay abreast of the weather. On trips I have been on in the past, the Guides talked with fishermen by radiophone in order to find out the latest weather information, or confirm pickup locations. On this trip, the lead guide had to make two trips back to “town” to make communications, and to call for help when we were stranded by weather. There, he was dependant on the town phone, which was out of commission. Meanwhile, the rest of the party waited on the beach, missing prime calm water hours for paddling. We sat idle on a beach for three days and the trip was cut short by an additional day.
The guides did not have the leadership skills necessary to lead the trip. They were swayed again and again by two guests who knew the owner of the company and who had travelled with the lead guide before. These guests had brought their own kayaks and liquor. Their kayaks were too light for the sea conditions, and they were too small to carry their share of the group equipment. Time and again the lead guide would announce his decision about what we were going to do, only to reverse it 5 minutes later, after these two guests had expressed their wishes or opinion.
Every night after dinner, the guides held sessions where group members were supposed to rehash the day. Group therapy, or anything resembling it, is not how I would like to spend my time on a vacation. Two nights the guides brought up dynamics that would have been better left unsaid. During the last one, they accused the guests of being unsafe and yet would not give one example of our unsafe behavior, or how we could rectify the situation. To be accused of being unsafe on a trip like this is the worst thing I can think of. I went to bed that night feeling very unsettled. For me, the integrity of the group was destroyed. I lost confidence in the guides. I feared for my personal safety.
Other examples of lack of professionalism: 1) I have never before been out with a kayaking company where the guides drank alcohol. 2) The lead guide did not know proper knots for tying the kayaks to the top rack of the truck. I was embarrassed for him, as I watched a bystander, who had come to our aid, retie the kayaks safely. 3) The guides did not get up early enough for us to take advantage of the calmest water for paddling. 4) There was obvious favoritism towards the 2 guests who knew the owner of the company and the lead guide. In response to the earlier review using the word "DUH", it wasn't that anyone wanted coffee in bed, or in his or her tent. The 2 "special" guests requested, and received, hot water in their tent first thing every morning. Then they got up and drank coffee with the rest of us, using their own cups, which were one and a half times bigger than ours. When was the last time you paid over $1000 for a trip and had to argue to get your share of the coffee? Not fun. 4) The lead guide pouted. He barely spoke during the traditional "last night" dinner.
Our guides were not without merit. For example, one day, one of the guests was not feeling well and the guides were solicitous and helpful. The positives did not out weigh the negatives however, and I feel I wasted my vacation with Paddling South.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.