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The Great Gray Whales of Baja

6 days with Natural Habitat Adventures   Rating: Deluxe

Itinerary
Click for Dates and Prices
Day 1: Loreto, Mexico
Our whale-watching tour begins upon arrival in the small coastal town of Loreto, where we make a short transfer from the airport to our hotel in the heart of the historic center, overlooking the sparkling waters of the Sea of Cortez.  Colonial Loreto was founded by the Spanish in 1697 and is the oldest permanent settlement on the Baja California peninsula, as well as the site of the region's first Jesuit mission. Peaceful Loreto offers fine beaches, reef snorkeling, nearby islands to discover, and excellent hiking in the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains that backdrop the town. This evening we gather for dinner and a preview of our time with the magnificent gray whales of Baja.
 
Day 2: Loreto / San Ignacio Lagoon
Driving across the spine of narrow Baja California to the Pacific Ocean today, we follow the scenic Sea of Cortez coastline northward before turning west to traverse a dramatic landscape of arid mountains dotted with saguaros. At the sleepy colonial village of San Ignacio, we transfer into smaller vans for the remainder of the trip to the coast, arriving in time for dinner. Our “whale cabana” accommodations at the edge of San Ignacio Lagoon are a special feature of our trip. Secluded on a quiet stretch of rocky beach, the cabanas are well-built thatched structures, rustic but inviting, each with two beds and a window overlooking the bay. Ecological shower facilities and toilets are shared, though an en suite toilet is provided for nighttime use. While basic, these are the best remote lodgings available, offering the opportunity to experience the wilderness of the Vizcaino Desert, a 6-million-acre UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in genuine comfort.
 
Days 3 & 4: Whale Watching in El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve
Whales have been revered as mystical creatures by many cultures, and an intimate encounter with them is a dream realized for wildlife lovers. Gray whales make the world's longest mammal migration, traveling 10,000-12,000 miles annually between their summer feeding grounds in the cold Arctic waters of Alaska's Bering Sea to reach their sheltered winter calving lagoons in Baja. Our Expedition Leader and local guides provide expert interpretation about their remarkable journey and their fascinating range of behaviors, which we'll hope to witness at close range. 
 
We watch the whales from motorized open skiffs that allow an unimpeded view. We may see them breach, spy-hop or glide up close to present their backs for a scratch. In general, we spend two hours whale-watching per excursion and make two excursions per day (due to conservation regulations, these numbers may vary, depending on the total number of boats on the water at a given time), with a total of six whale-watching excursions during our stay. Numerous whales enter this particular lagoon, and our maneuverable small boats allow us to get incredibly close. Naturally, we are very sensitive to the animals’ demeanor before approaching, and our skiff drivers are experts at positioning the boats to maximize our encounters with the whales without disturbing them. We may see males competing for females, young adults playing, and mothers protecting and teaching their calves, perhaps the most endearing of all our encounters. Babies, which are 14 to 16 feet at birth and gain 50 pounds a day as they grow, sometimes come within arm’s length of our boats. Once they reach full maturity, they will weigh 30-40 tons and reach 50-60 feet long.
 
Ashore, we participate in other activities such as birdwatching, exploring the vast, empty beaches and salt flats, and taking naturalist-led hikes during which we may find fossils, bones and shells. If weather and tides cooperate, we may also explore the local mangrove estuaries.
 
Day 5: Whale Watching / Loreto
After a final chance to spend time with the whales, we depart San Ignacio by road, crossing the rugged Sierra de la Giganta Mountains once more to return to Loreto. We arrive in time for dinner and a final evening together in this charming, laid-back coastal town.
 
Day 6: Loreto / Depart
Our whale-watching trip comes to a close as we transfer to the airport for flights home. Or, you may choose to spend an extra day in Loreto to explore this historic town and beautiful, little-developed coastal region.
Map
All This Included
Every winter, hundreds of Pacific gray whales return to their traditional breeding and birthing grounds in sheltered San Ignacio Lagoon on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Their migration from Alaska's Bering Sea to the warm waters of Baja's Pacific lagoons is the longest mammal migration on Earth. Nearly hunted to extinction in the past, these gentle giants have made a dramatic comeback. Friendly and engaging, they are often intrigued with humans, swimming right up to our open boats. We may see mothers "showing off" their babies, and our small groups can frequently interact with them at close range. The whales entertain us with breaching and spy-hopping, and we sometimes observe mating behavior as well. When you come with us to Mexico to see them, you'll be forever spoiled for whale watching, because it doesn't get any better than this!
  • Accommodations
  • Meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on final day
  • Drinking water during activities and drinking water and soft drinks at meals
  • Services of NHA Expedition Leader and local guides
  • All airport transfers to and from La Mision
  • Most gratuities
  • All permits, entrance fees and taxes
Highlights
  • An In-Depth Immersion: Witness the spring finale of the gray whales’ migration of nearly 6,000 miles from Alaska to Baja, with the expert interpretation of our naturalist Expedition Leader
  • Six Separate Whale Excursions: Come within arm’s reach of gentle whales—including amiable mothers with calves—on six separate skiff journeys inside the protected waters of San Ignacio Lagoon
  • Vizcaino Desert Discoveries: Explore the saguaro-studded wilderness of the Vizcaino Desert, a UN Biosphere Reserve, on excursions from our private beachfront whale camp
Accommodations
Loreto: La Mision
San Ignacio Lagoon: The Whale Cabanas
Pre and Post Add-ons
Among the Great Whales
10 Days / Jan – Mar, From $6590

Enjoy magical close encounters with enormous gray whales in the warm waters of the Baja Peninsula, which are their winter breeding and nursery grounds.
Notes
  • Group Size: Approximately 18 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), optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry and 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 temperatures may be cold. Optional hikes will also be available, and in order to participate, you should be able to walk unassisted for at least one mile. All activities are completely optional, and travelers should only participate in those activities with which they feel comfortable. If you are concerned with your personal physical capabilities with regard to the demands of this trip, please contact our office for further details, in addition to your own physician for his or her opinion.
  • 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. 
  • Plan to arrive in Loreto no later than 4 pm on Day 1 of the adventure, 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.