Among the Great Whales (Loreto to San Carlos)
8 days with Natural Habitat Adventures Rating:
Day 1: Loreto, Mexico / Embark Ship
Upon your arrival at the airport in Loreto, transfer to San Carlos and embark the ship. Get settled in to your cabin and head out on deck to admire the views as we prepare to set sail.
Day 2: Exploring the Sea of Cortez
We're cruising at sea today, with the luxury of no specific plan. Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez "the world's aquarium," and we get a feel for its tremendous biodiversity as we scout for marine life. We may spend the morning whale-watching in the waters around Isla Danzante, an area that has proven to be one of the best for finding blue whales, bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins. Rich in nutrients, the Sea of Cortez is home to a huge variety of fish: king angelfish, surgeonfish, butterfly fish, damselfish and the vividly colored parrotfish. Explore one of the many tranquil uninhabited islands such as Isla San Francisco or Isla Santa Catalina, famous for the 12-foot wavy barrel cactus, or Isla Carmen with its abandoned salt works. Whether walking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or watching from the ship's bridge, you’ll observe a great diversity of birdlife—ladder-backed woodpeckers, Costa’s hummingbirds, Gila woodpeckers and verdin.
Day 3: Los Islotes and La Paz
With deeply indented shorelines and dramatically eroded cliff faces, Los Islotes are some of the most beautiful islands in the Sea of Cortez. We swim and snorkel here, with equipment and instruction provided by the ship’s expedition staff. Curious sea lions often swim right up to us, eager to play. There’s also a chance to observe the islands’ rich geological history from a kayak, observing massive amounts of compacted volcanic ash covered with solidified lava floods, just yards from the shore. Seabirds abound, and brown pelicans, yellow-footed gulls and blue-footed boobies are part of the landscape. This afternoon, take in vibrant La Paz, the tranquil capital city of Baja California. With its lively street art and bustling waterfront Malecon, you’ll feel the authentic romance of Mexican culture. Dinner this evening promises to be an unforgettable cultural experience, complete with local cuisine, dancing, and folklore.
Day 4: Gorda Banks / Cabo Pulmo
Enjoy the sunrise as we cruise past spectacular Friars Rocks at Land's End. The morning is spent at the Gorda Banks sea mount, a gathering place for whales and dolphins. Humpback whales are often on view this time of year, and we may see tail lobbing, flipper slapping, spy-hopping and breaching. Our onboard marine biologists and naturalists are always available to inform and enlighten you with their extensive knowledge and experience. Not only do they know where the best spots are to look for wildlife, their passion and respect for the area is infectious—whether you ask a question or two, or spend an entire day in their company. After lunch we’ll set out for the East Cape region of Baja California Sur to snorkel the pristine reefs of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. Surrounded by undeveloped desert and rugged mountains, Cabo Pulmo has successful preserved pristine beaches that give way to a shallow bay with the only hard coral reef in North America. The coral reef is approximately 20,000 years old, among the oldest in the American Pacific. Fishing is restricted and the marine life in these waters is prolific. Spend time learning about park’s conservation efforts with devoted locals who advocated for this pristine environment and drove the effort to make sure Cabo Pulmo was officially protected by the Mexican government.
Day 5: Hull Canal / Cruising
Spend a final morning exploring Magdalena Bay’s vast mangrove system via kayak, stand-up paddleboard and Zodiac, and learning from our naturalist guides about how these massive ecosystems support their surroundings. This afternoon, we’ll sail out through “La Entrada,” the Hull Canal’s narrow, navigable channel, as we leave Magdalena Bay behind. We sail south along the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula. This is where the rugged Baja California desert meets the sea, and the shoreline is dotted with sand dunes, deserted white sand beaches and small fishing camps—plus more than a few famous surf spots. At sea, well keep watch for a diverse array of wildlife, including seabirds, dolphin and the maybe even the largest animal on Earth, the blue whale. Take some time to breathe in the ocean air and watch the vast changing sky from deck, then gain some in-depth insights from the expert naturalists who know these waters intimately. It’s also a great opportunity to acquire some new photography skills under the guidance of the onboard pro photographer.
Day 6: Boca de Soledad
We remain at the heart of the gray whale's breeding grounds today. Marvel at these gentle giants that are often visible from the ship’s decks, then venture ashore to the tiny hamlet of Lopez Mateos, where savvy local fishermen guide us into the bay on Zodiacs to observe the numerous mother-calf pairs that thrive in this protected region. Birdwatching can be excellent here too, with magnificent frigatebirds, pelicans, cormorants, terns and great blue herons among the species we frequently see. We’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before returning to the ship in late afternoon.
Day 7: Bahia Almejas / Rehusa Channel / Isla Magdalena
Awake anchored in Bahia Almejas, the southernmost part of Magdalena Bay. Each winter, Pacific gray whales make the longest migration of any mammal, swimming south from their Arctic feeding grounds off Alaska to breed, birth and raise their calves in warm, protected waters on Baja California's west coast. Bahia Magdalena (Magdalena Bay) is a primary breeding and calving area for the whales. Inside the protection of this chain of barrier islands, the whales tend to be very active, seemingly oblivious to our presence. We’ll stop at a large frigatebird colony en route to the spectacular whale grounds of Bahia Almejas. During lunch, the ship will reposition to Isla Magdalena where we’ll head to shore to explore the ever-shifting sand dunes, on a cross-island walk to one of the most pristine beaches in the Pacific. Bird watching here can be excellent—it’s not unusual to see 40 bird species in a single day along these fertile shorelines, where they refuel for their destinations ahead.
Day 8: San Carlos—Disembark / Depart
Our whale-watching cruise comes to an end as we disembark after breakfast. A transfer to the Loreto airport is included, to meet departing flights.
All This Included
Each winter, gray whales migrate from their Arctic feeding grounds to breed and birth their young in the sheltered lagoons of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, making it one of the world's premier whale-watching destinations. The annual journey is the longest mammal migration on Earth, covering more than 10,000 miles. In the protected waters of Magdalena Bay, cruise among the whales in motorized expedition rafts, offering the rare privilege of a close-up, water-level perspective. We're positioned perfectly for heartwarming encounters with these friendly mammals, which sometimes approach our boats directly. We also enjoy naturalist-guided walks on uninhabited islands, plus swimming, snorkeling andkayaking in the Sea of Cortez. Discover the natural attractions Baja California is famous for, including whales, dolphins, sea lions, blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds, huge cardon cacti, mangroves and sand dunes.
Cruising: Cabin onboard National Geographic Venture
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* 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.