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The Great Gray Whales of Baja

Itinerary

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 first Jesuit mission in the region. Peaceful Loreto offers fine beaches, reef snorkeling, nearby islands to discover, and excellent hiking in the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains that form the backdrop for 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
We drive across the spine of narrow Baja California to the Pacific Ocean today, following 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.

Physical Rating: Easy

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