Our whale-watching tour begins upon arrival in the small coastal town of Loreto on the Sea of Cortez. A Nat Hab representative meets you at the airport and joins you on the short transfer to our waterfront hotel where our Expedition Leader will be waiting to greet you. Loreto was founded as a Spanish mission by Jesuit priests in 1697 and is the oldest permanent settlement on the Baja Peninsula. Loreto offers fine beaches, reef snorkeling, nearby islands to discover, and excellent hiking in the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains that rise behind the peaceful town, centered on a colonial Spanish plaza. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner and a preview of our time with the magnificent gray whales of Baja.
Day 2: Loreto / San Ignacio Lagoon
A scenic drive is in store as we traverse the mountainous spine of narrow Baja California Sur to reach the Pacific Ocean. First, we follow the Sea of Cortez coastline northward, then turn west into a dramatic landscape of arid mountains and giant cardon cacti. Once we reach the sleepy colonial village of San Ignacio, we transfer into smaller vans for the remainder of the trip to the coast, arriving at our whale camp in the afternoon. Then, time permitting, we'll set out on our first whale-watching excursion. Our 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 also 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 solitude and comfort. We are also secluded in a remote area under very dark skies, making for outstanding star viewing.
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. Pacific gray whales make the world's longest mammal migration, traveling 10,00-12,000 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, then swimming north again in the spring. Our Expedition Leader and local guides provide expert interpretation about the whales' remarkable journey and their fascinating range of behaviors, which we expect to witness at close range.
We make multiple whale-watching excursions in San Ignacio Lagoon in motorized open skiffs, offering an unimpeded view. We may see them breach, spy-hop or glide up close to present their backs for a scratch. Generally, we spend two hours whale-watching on each 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 outings 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, and our skiff drivers are experts at positioning the boats to maximize proximity to the whales without disturbing or encroaching upon them, instead allowing them to approach us—which they often do. 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. Sometimes, mothers even bring their babies—which are 14-16 feet at birth and gain 50 pounds a day as they grow—within arm’s length of our boats. Once a gray whale reaches full maturity, it will weigh 30-40 tons and reach 50-60 feet long.
Ashore, we participate in other activities such as birdwatching, naturalist-led hikes, and exploring the vast, empty beaches and salt flats, looking for fossils, bones
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
Day 6: Loreto / Depart
Our whale-watching trip comes to a close with a transfer to the airport for flights home. Or, choose to spend an extra day in Loreto to explore its well-preserved colonial architecture and heritage, and this little-developed coastal region.