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The Great Gray Whales of Baja
Day 1: Loreto, Mexico
Our whale watching tour begins upon arrival in the colonial town of Loreto, where we transfer to our hotel near the plaza. At one time the capital of California under Mexico’s rule, Loreto was founded in 1697 and is the region’s oldest permanent settlement. Located on the Sea of Cortez, Loreto boasts fine beaches, reef snorkeling and excellent hiking in the nearby Sierra de la Giganta Mountains. This evening we gather for dinner and an orientation to the magnificent gray whales of Baja.
Day 2: Loreto / San Ignacio Lagoon
We drive across the desert to the Pacific Ocean today, traversing a scenic landscape of arid mountains dotted with saguaros, to arrive by late afternoon or early evening. Our “whale cabana” accommodations at the edge of San Ignacio Lagoon are a special feature of our trip. Secluded on a quiet stretch of beach, the cabanas are well-built thatched structures, rustic but inviting, each with two beds and a window overlooking the bay. Shower facilities and toilets are shared. While basic, these are the best remote lodgings available, offering the opportunity to experience the wilderness of the Vizcaino Desert, a UN Biosphere Reserve, in genuine comfort.
Days 3 & 4: Whale Watching
Whales have been revered as mystical creatures by many cultures, and an intimate encounter with them is a dream realized for wildlife lovers. We watch them from skiffs—small motorized boats—that allow us to closely observe their fascinating range of behaviors. We may see them breach, spy-hop or come up close to present their backs for a scratch. In general, we spend two hours whale watching per excursion and take 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 small boat allows 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 are 14 to 16 feet at birth, and they often come within arm’s length of our boats. Our Expedition Leader and expert local guides provide interpretation about their remarkable journey and habits.
Ashore, we have a chance to participate in other activities such as bird watching and 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, returning to Loreto in time for dinner and our final evening together.
Day 6: Home
Our whale-watching trip comes to a close as we transfer to the airport for flights home—or transfer to Conchalito Island for our Sea Turtle Voluntourism Extension, a captivating opportunity to learn more about another of Baja's most important creatures as you assist with turtle-monitoring efforts. You may also choose to spend an extra day in Loreto to explore this historic town and beautiful, little-developed coastal region.