Karen Ivey, Baja Ecotourism Pioneer, 1942-2012

Karen Ann Ivey
The Baja Discovery family and friends mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Karen Ann Ivey, who passed away in Chula Vista, California on August 23, 2012.

Karen was born in La Porte, Indiana on Nov. 17, 1942. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Sociology, and began a long, successful career in social work on Chicago’s West Side. Karen was very instrumental in the Head Start program and became a champion of those less fortunate and worked diligently to help improve their lives.

Marriage brought her to San Diego in 1984. She was introduced to the Baja peninsula by her new husband and fell in love with that ocean-lively desert, its animals, plants and people. Together they operated a tour company for 5 years. While their union didn’t last, Karen continued on and founded Baja Discovery in 1991. In her determination to share the unique beauty of Baja with others, she introduced thousands to this desert paradise through her natural history tours. Over the years Karen established an amazing network of friends and allies in those sparsely-populated villages, proving that fluid bilingual skills aren't mandatory for good communication across cultures.

Whether it was observing gray whales from the waters edge in San Ignacio, trekking through the desert in pursuit of botanical oddities, or admiring the iridescence of the vermilion flycatcher, Karen was in her element with nature. In addition to her very successful whale-watching trips, Karen also conducted birding and botany trips with several museums in the U.S. and Canada; a Sea of Cortez program, cave painting and sea turtle trips.

So many wonderful memories have been woven into the lives of those who met Karen and grew to love her. She was dedicated to giving those who came on her trips, the very best experience possible. She would talk to people at length, not only about their upcoming trip, but also about their lives. She was affectionately known as “the mother hen,” keeping people under her “wing” as they made their way through Baja in planes, vehicles and boats. She paid meticulous attention to her guests, many of who would return year after year to go see the whales...and Karen…a generous and caring soul, and despite her many fears and worries, a brave, daring and valorous woman!

Karen lived in Chula Vista where she cared for a large population of feral cats over the years. Animals who made their way to Karen’s doorstep were graciously accepted into her home. She also rescued a Baja dog “Coya,” short for “coyote,” a sickly stray pup that literally walked into, curled up and fell asleep in Karen’s big purse while in San Ignacio. Coya enjoyed a pampered life with her for 12 wonderful years.

Besides a multitude of friends, Karen leaves behind her sister Susan Lightcap and brother-in-law Bill, nephew Brad Lightcap and niece Angie Mulder. Angie, having worked with Karen for 17 years, took the reins of Baja Discovery and continues Karen’s legacy.

Remembrances in celebration of Karen Ivey can be directed to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and The Humane Society of the United States.

Karen loved this quote attributed to Chief Seattle and lived her life accordingly:

“All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth
Befalls the sons of the earth.
Man did not weave the web of life,
He is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web,
He does to himself.”


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