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Among the Great Whales

Itinerary

Note: Some departures travel in reverse, from La Paz to San Carlos, with the same stops included. If your voyage ends in San Carlos, you will be offered a transfer to the airport in La Paz at the end of your voyage.

Day 1: San Jose del Cabo, Mexico / La Paz 
To allow more flexibility, more comfortable transfer arrangements and a better overall start to your whale-watching tour, we've included a pre-cruise night at the CostaBaja Resort & Spa, located on the shore of the Sea of Cortez just south of Espiritu Island. Upon your arrival at the airport in San Jose del Cabo, transfer to La Paz and check in to the resort. The rest of the day and evening are yours to relax after your travels.

Day 2: La Paz / San Carlos—Embark Ship
The morning is free to take advantage of the resort and spa amenities before departing later for La Paz, where we'll have lunch at a local restaurant. An afternoon drive across the Baja Peninsula takes us to San Carlos, to embark ship. Get settled in to your cabin and head out on deck to admire the views as we prepare to set sail. 

Day 3: Bahia Magdalena
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. Marvel at these gentle giants that are often visible from the ship’s decks, then venture ashore on Isla Magdalena for a cross-island walk to one of Mexico's most pristine beaches. Along the way, watch for many cacti and agave species that are endemic to the island. Back in the bay, we'll explore the surrounding mangrove swamp canals via kayak and expedition landing craft—always keeping an eye peeled for the whales and their young. Birdwatching here can be excellent, with magnificent frigatebirds, pelicans, cormorants, terns and great blue herons among the species we frequently see.

Days 4 & 5: Laguna San Ignacio

We head north along the coast to Laguna San Ignacio (San Ignacio Lagoon), a prime breeding and calving areas for the Pacific gray whale. The lagoon is also important habitat for four of the planet’s seven sea turtles, and the entire site protected within the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each winter, gray whales breed, birth and raise their calves in this warm, sheltered lagoon that snakes deep into the desert. During the days, we'll have the opportunity not only to observe these huge yet gentle mammals from the ship's decks, but also at water level on excursions by Zodiac and panga. With the advantage of our captain and staff's in-depth experience and knowledge of these waters, we have enjoyed consistent success in achieving "friendly encounters" with gray whale mother and calf pairs. While we would never presume to predict nature's offerings, it is highly likely that you will have the privilege of a close-up sighting, and probably several.

Day 6: At Sea—Baja's Pacific Coast
Today 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 7: Los Cabos and Gorda Banks
Today, we cruise past spectacular Friars Rocks at Land's End. For those who wish, we will arrange a visit to the historic town center of San Jose del Cabo. The afternoon 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 afternoon in their company.

Day 8: Los Islotes and Isla San Jose
With deeply indented shorelines and dramatically eroded cliff faces, Los Islotes and Isla San Jose are some of the most beautiful islands in the Sea of Cortez. We swim and snorkel here, with equipment and instruction provided by Venture’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. Isla San Jose is the last stand of the endemic San Jose brush rabbit, and with luck, we may spot one. Our time here is leisurely and unscripted, and there are possibilities for long walks, swimming or lazy beachcombing, too. Our idyllic day winds up with a beach barbecue and campfire under a star-filled sky.

Day 9: 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 Jose or Isla Santa Catalina, famous for the 12-foot wavy barrel cactus. Whether walking, kayaking 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 10: La Paz—Disembark / Depart
Our whale-watching cruise comes to an end as we disembark after breakfast in La Paz. A transfer to the airport is included, to meet departing flights.

Note: This itinerary should serve as a guideline only; the actual stops are determined by weather, wildlife activity, and a host of factors in order to provide the best possible experience. This flexibility is what makes traveling on our nimble expedition ships so much more rewarding than on a large vessel with a locked-in voyage plan. Some itineraries travel in reverse.

Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate

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