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Ultimate Baja Whale Expedition

7 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices
Day 1: Loreto, Mexico
Our whale-watching expedition begins in Loreto, a tranquil small town on the Sea of Cortez. Make the short transfer from the airport to our hotel located opposite the marina in the oldest permanent settlement on the Baja Peninsula. Colonial Loreto was founded by the Spanish in 1697, the site of the region's first Jesuit mission in Baja California. Join our Expedition Leaders for a welcome dinner this evening, with a preview of the adventures to come.
 
Day 2: Blue Whale Search in Loreto Marine Reserve / San Carlos—Embark Ship
After an early breakfast, walk to the marina in front of our hotel to embark on a small-boat excursion in search of blue whales. These cetaceans are Earth's largest animals, and during a few fleeting weeks each year, this local population veers off the deep ocean trenches of the Eastern Pacific to enter the Sea of Cortez where they mate, calve and feed on krill in the waters of the Loreto Marine Reserve. Blue whales were nearly extinct before they were given global protection in the 1950s. While still endangered, there are now thought to be 12,000 to 14,000 blue whales combing the world's oceans, and Mexico takes their protection seriously. Watch for their spouts and telltale flukes: These 100-ton giants exude several columnar blows reaching 22 feet into the air each time they surface to breathe, and they often lift their huge tail flukes high in the air as they submerge.
 
After lunch on the beach, we drive across the Baja Peninsula to Magdalena Bay on the Pacific coast. This scenic 2.5-hour transfer spans the rugged Sierra de la Giganta Mountains, winding through rocky arroyos and saguaro forest en route to the port city of San Carlos. Early this evening, board the National Geographic Sea Lion, our floating base that offers mobile access to this rich coastal ecosystem of protected lagoons, mangroves, sand dunes and untouched beaches. The expedition ship's nimble design allows us to enter shallow waters where whales give birth and offers access to wild islands unmarred by tourism development.
 
Day 3: Boca Soledad—Gray Whale Watching
Our focus for the next four days is the greater Magdalena Bay region—some of the world's best environs for gray whale watching. As many as 20,000 gray whales migrate south from the Arctic seas of northwest Alaska to Baja's Pacific coast each year, swimming more than 5,000 miles one way. They mate and give birth in several major lagoons, including 70-mile-long Magdalena Bay, lined with sand dunes and mangroves and home to abundant seabirds. Learn about the whales in depth during daily presentations aboard ship, as well as other aspects of the natural world in and around Magdalena Bay.  
 
During the night, Sea Lion cruises up the bay to reach the southern end of the Hull Canal, an inland channel flanked by mangroves. Our destination at the top of the channel is Boca Soledad, one of Baja's best whale viewing areas, where we anchor for the next three days. This afternoon, we make our first whale-watching excursion inside these waters protected by slender barrier islands. Via rigid inflatable skiffs, we cruise easily and unobtrusively among the whales. Our naturalist expedition staff is by your side to interpret all the elements of the whales' behavior. The ship's professional photography instructor is also on hand to help you get the best possible whale shots. Later on, there's time to explore the wild beach, looking for seashells that are abundant in the region.
 
Day 4: Whale Watching at Boca Soledad 
Gray whales are our main focus today on two separate small-boat excursions. Boca Soledad is a prime spot for mothers with calves, which congregate here to nurture their young in the warm, sheltered waters. It's not uncommon for a gray whale mother to push her calf right up alongside us, seeming to "introduce" it to us within arm's reach. Babies are 14 to 16 feet at birth and gain 50 pounds a day as they grow. Once they reach full maturity, they will weigh 30-40 tons and be 50-60 feet long. The whales are frequently as inquisitive about us as we are toward them, and the interactions we have with these intelligent, sentient beings are often described as life-changing. Whale watching is carefully regulated, however, and we always wait for whales to approach us, never pursuing them or disturbing their natural behavior. Nearly hunted to extinction in the 20th century, Baja's gray whales today are a conservation priority and important source of ecotourism sustenance for local communities. During our visit, we'll be joined by local fishermen—resident experts who know the area and the whales intimately.
 
Day 5: Whale Watching / Exploring Hull Canal
Spend the morning on another whale-watching outing in Boca Soledad before returning to the National Geographic Sea Lion for the journey southward to Rehusa Channel. The best view is from the sundeck as we cruise slowly back down the Hull Canal. Partway through our transit, we stop to hop into kayaks and Zodiacs for a more intimate view on our environs. The narrow passage offers close-up views of this important mangrove habitat, and we'll see a wide variety of birdlife that thrives here. Keep an eye out for grebes, pelicans, cormorants, terns, great blue herons, magnificent frigatebirds, ibis, whimbrels and willets. It’s not unusual to see 40 species of birds in just one day along this shoreline where many refuel for their migratory destinations ahead.
 
Day 6: Rehusa Channel—Whale Watching / San Carlos
Sea Lion has reached Rehusa Channel at the southern entrance to Magdalena Bay this morning, another premier location for whale watching. Mating behavior is often on display here, with vigorous males sometimes putting on quite a show. Once again, take to the Zodiacs for observation at close range. We also make a special stop to view a massive frigatebird colony on Isla Magdalena. Later this evening, Sea Lion makes the return voyage to Puerto San Carlos, where we spend the night. 
 
Day 7: San Carlos / Loreto / Depart
Wake up in San Carlos this morning. After breakfast aboard, it's time to disembark for the transfer back to Loreto. There's time to shop, have lunch and explore the historic downtown, including Baja California’s first mission, The Mission of Our Lady of Loreto, before afternoon flights home.
Map
All This Included
A close encounter with whales in their natural habitat is one of the world's great wildlife adventures. And there's no more exhilarating place for it than Mexico's Baja Peninsula, where gray whales shelter in protected Pacific lagoons to mate, give birth and nurture their young before migrating to their summer feeding grounds in Alaska. Across the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains on the other side of the peninsula, even bigger blue whales cruise the Sea of Cortez—the largest animals on Earth. From our small-ship base in Magdalena Bay, we explore by Zodiac, hoping to see gray whale mothers with calves, and to witness lively activity like breaching and spy-hopping. Whales may even approach us within arm's reach! The region holds other natural wonders, too, from sand dunes and scores of seabirds to lush mangroves that invite eye-level investigation by kayak. Search for more elusive blue whales in Loreto National Marine Park, on a diverse expedition that is Mexico's ultimate whale adventure!
  • Accommodations for one night in Loreto and five nights aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion
  • All meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on final day
  • Some alcoholic beverages
  • All excursions
  • Services of Nat Hab’s professional Expedition Leader(s) and naturalist staff
  • Use of exploration equipment and kayaks
  • All port charges and service fees
Highlights
  • Commune with Gray Whales: Spend in-depth time with giant gray whales that migrate to the warm waters of Baja's Pacific lagoons each winter—in the world's best place to see them up close!
  • Seek out Blue Whales: Sail along both coasts of the Baja Peninsula to watch for whales—visiting Magdalena Bay for gray whales and the Sea of Cortez in search of blue whales, Earth's largest animal
  • Stay Aboard an Expedition Ship: Stay aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion, our floating adventure platform for exploring the coastal ecosystems of mangroves, sand dunes and sheltered seas
Accommodations
Loreto: La Mision
Cruising: Cabin onboard National Geographic Sea Lion
Notes
  • Cabin upgrades are available. 
  • Group Size: National Geographic Sea Lion: Approximately 60 Travelers.
  • Not Included: Travel to and from the start and end point of your trip, some alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees (if any), items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, internet, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes (if any), required medical evacuation insurance, optional travel protection insurance.
  • Physical Requirements: Easy. This adventure is not strenuous and does not require a high degree of physical fitness. You must be able to walk up and down stairs, wade through shallow water to step in and out of the excursion skiffs, and sit on bench seats for long periods of time while whale watching. Depending on weather and sea conditions, boat excursions to the whales can be rough, bumpy and wet. Winds may be strong, water may spray into the boat, and the air temperature may be chilly. Optional hikes will also be available, and in order to participate, you should be able to walk unassisted over uneven terrain for at least one mile. Travelers may have the opportunity to participate in optional kayaking, weather permitting. Though no prior kayaking experience is required, general fitness and mobility, including the ability to get into and out of a kayak, are essential. All activities are completely optional, and travelers should participate only in those activities with which they feel comfortable.
  • Since the areas you will travel to on this trip are remote and wild (that's why we go there!), we require medical evacuation insurance for this program. If you decline the medical evacuation insurance coverage offered by Natural Habitat Adventures, we require that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected. We recommend that your chosen independent insurance plan includes at least $250,000 in medical evacuation coverage. Please note that we will add the cost of Natural Habitat Adventures' medical evacuation policy (currently $48 per person) to your tour invoice until you provide our office with proof of coverage including your insurance company's name, phone number and your individual policy number. 
  • Please plan to arrive in Loreto by 4 pm on Day 1, as there is a group orientation and welcome dinner at 5 pm. You are free to depart anytime on the final day. 
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
For Natural Habitat Adventures terms and conditions, please click here.

* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.