Cruise, Kayak & Hike among the Whales & Wildlife of Baja's Magdalena Bay
Day 1: Loreto, Mexico / San Carlos—Embark Ship
Arrive in Loreto, where you'll meet your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers at the airport. Connect with our group transfer across the Baja Peninsula to Magdalena Bay on the Pacific coast. This scenic 2.5-hour drive traverses 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 Bird,
our floating base camp offering mobile access to this rich coastal ecosystem of protected lagoons, mangroves, sand dunes and pristine beaches. The small ship's nimble design allows us to enter shallow waters where whales give birth, and to go ashore on wild islands unmarred by tourism development. At dinner this evening, get acquainted with Nat Hab's founder and president Ben Bressler, then head up to the sun deck as we set sail beneath the stars.
Day 2: Boca Soledad—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 make their way south from the Arctic seas of Alaska to the southern reaches of the Baja Peninsula each year, swimming more than 5,000 miles one way. They mate and give birth in several major lagoons on Baja's Pacific coast, 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 Bird
cruises northward across 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'll have our first opportunity for whale watching inside the protected waters flanked by slender barrier islands. Leaving our marine base camp, we board excursion skiffs to travel easily and unobtrusively among the whales. Our naturalist expedition staff is by your side to interpret all you experience. The ship's professional photography instructor is also on hand to help you get the best possible whale shots. Later on, there's also time to explore the wild beach, looking for the exquisite seashells commonly on display.
Day 3: Whale Watching at Boca Soledad
The gray whales get all our attention today as we make two separate small-boat excursions to spend time among them. Boca Soledad is a prime spot for mothers with calves that 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, seemingly inviting us to reach out and touch it from just inches away. 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 disturbing their natural behavior. Nearly hunted to extinction in the 20th century, today Baja's gray whales 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 whales intimately.
Day 4: Boca Soledad—Whale Watching / Exploring Hull Canal
Spend the morning on another whale-watching outing in Boca Soledad before returning to Sea Bird
for the journey southward this afternoon to Rehusa Channel. The best view is from the sundeck as we cruise slowly back down the Hull Canal, though we'll stop in transit to hop into kayaks and Zodiacs for a more intimate view on our environs. The narrow passage offers up-close 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 these fertile shorelines where many refuel for their migratory destinations ahead.
Day 5: Rehusa Channel—Whale Watching / San Carlos
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. We'll 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 Bird
makes the return voyage to Puerto San Carlos, where we spend the night.
Day 6: San Carlos / Loreto / Depart
Wake up in San Carlos this morning, with breakfast aboard. Disembark ship and transfer back to Loreto by road for afternoon flights home.
Physical Rating: Easy