Anatomy of a RED Sustainable Travel Camp

The chatter of coyotes rises and falls in an eerie chorus. The cool desert air soothes your sunburned face, and the rest of your body is warm under thick blankets. You are still marveling at the plethora of stars you saw in the dark, velvety sky while you were brushing your teeth at the outdoor sink. Tired but exhilarated from the day’s adventures, you set your watch alarm for another early morning.

Camping along the remote shorelines of Magdalena Bay may not involve 300-thread-count sheets, marble floors, or even plumbing. But it is highly luxurious by backcountry standards, and it is a spectacular experience for anyone enthusiastic about the outdoors.
One of the most popular destinations on our website are the wilderness camps set up by RED Sustainable Travel, a non-profit operator based in Baja California Sur, Mexico. SEEtheWILD promotes two of RED’s trips: Baja Whale Watching and Turtle Research, and Baja Sea Turtles and Kayak Adventure. Both trips involve camping on the remote shorelines of Magdalena Bay. I enjoyed the opportunity to experience a RED trip recently; here’s the lowdown on the accommodations:
RED tent's twinbed Baja
RED tent’s twinbed Baja

Guests’ Tents (Las Carpas): When you arrive, the roomy two-person tents are already set up, your bed is made, and on your pillow are two welcome gifts: a personalized card and a small trinket. Each guest gets a twin-sized, slightly firm but delightfully thick mattress with clean sheets, blankets, and a soft pillow. Between the mattresses is a broad aisle, and a small wood slatted nightstand, perfect for stashing an alarm clock (battery or solar-powered) and headlamp, and anything else you want handy during the night. The tents have zippered vents to provide air circulation during the heat of the day and a rain fly to keep out the wind and dew at night (the desert can get chilly after sundown). A bamboo mat serves as the “front porch,” a convenient place to remove and stash shoes. A small brush is provided for each tent to manage the sand that will inevitably get tracked inside.

Kitchen and Dining Area (La Cocina): There are two large kitchen tents – out of which come healthy, delicious meals with local flair. The large, long dining tent is next door, and contains three wooden tables, plenty of plastic deck chairs, a cooler with purified water, and a bookshelf featuring tomes on plant, bird and animal identification, Spanish language, and other useful topics. The walls of the dining tent can be tied back to catch a breeze during the day, or closed to block the wind at night.

View_from_the_camp_in_BajaPaths through Camp (Los Senderos): To protect fragile desert vegetation, walkways are lined with
white stakes, stuck in the soft desert sand every few feet. Interspersed with the stakes are solar-powered lamps, which provide enough illumination at night that one doesn’t need a headlamp or flashlight to walk through camp.

And now onto everyone’s favorite place…
Composting Toilet (El Baño): There are two outhouses, situated a distance from the kitchen and the tents. This arrangement is clean and practical, and the bañosthemselves are tidy, sanitary, and even smell good (you’ll learn why in a minute).Enclosed by three walls and a roof, the white plastic toilet faces away from the tents into the vast, uninhabited space that surrounds the camp. It is a wonderful view – and there is no one to see you! Obviously there is no plumbing at a camp in the middle of the desert, so once you are done, you sprinkle a handful of woodchips into the toilet. The woodchips help the composting process, masks smells that may attract animals, and keeps the baños smelling surprisingly fresh. There is also a sealed bucket full of clean, fresh toilet paper rolls next to the toilet – plenty for everyone. All used paper is then deposited into another sealable bucket next to the toilet (the paper does not easily biodegrade and has to be disposed of separately). Once that’s all taken care of, you can head over to the…
Camp Sinks (Los Lavados): There are two, one near the baños, and one by the doorway to the kitchen. Stepping on a pedal under the sink causes water to squirt out the delicately arched faucet and splash into the bronze-colored bowl. This lovely sink even has large clam shells lining the bottom (classy, no?). Biodegradable soap is provided in a bottle next to the sink. The used water drains through plastic tubing and into the nearby brush. A small towel hangs alongside the sink, and there is a small counter. The one downside? During the day, bugs were drawn to the water.
Shower: A tall, 3-walled enclosure houses the camp “shower.” Sun-warmed water awaits in metal containers and a rubberized mat with drainage holes prevents sand accumulation on your wet feet as you wash off. This water source also drew a lot of bugs. But this is more than most backcountry camps offer, so it’s hard to complain.
So there you have it: RED Sustainable Travel camps are well-organized in order to provide a comfortable experience for guests, maximize efficiency, and minimize ecological impact. Basic needs (and then some) are met with a wonderful combination of rustic charm and classy innovation. Of course, it is not for everyone. If you are leery of anything from insects to slightly firm mattresses, this may not be the trip for you. If, however, you have camping experience or an eagerness to learn about the outdoors, you will enjoy a comfortable and invigorating stay in a beautiful desert setting.

This article was originally written by Jenni Denekas for SEEtheWILD’s WildBlog.