Baja California has long been described as the ‘Galapagos of Mexico’s. From the Pacific-pounded shores of its western coastline round to the sheltered blue waters of the Sea of Cortez, this 1,285-kilometre peninsula, one of the world’s longest, is home to a diversity of wildlife that could easily rival Darwin’s more famous islands over 1,600 kilometres to the south. Flocks of Magnificent Frigatebirds soar ominously overhead, whilst lines of Brown Pelicans and Brant’s Cormorants file over the sea’s surface and hundreds of Sea Lions rest on isolated rocky islands. Inland, Crested Caracaras sit atop the huge Cardon Cacti which cover much of the desert interior and tiny hummingbirds sip nectar from a variety of colourful desert plants.
Baja is, without doubt, a naturalist’s paradise. Yet there is one family of animals above all others in which it excels — the cetaceans. The rich feeding grounds of the Sea of Cortez and the sheltered bays along the Pacific coastline combine to produce one of the best whale-watching experiences anywhere in the world. This exciting holiday will take you down the western coastline of the Baja Peninsula and then round into the deep blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. It will offer such unforgettable experiences as eye-to-eye contact with the Grey Whales of San Ignacio, the chance to be surrounded by thousands of dolphins, and the opportunity to look for the mighty Blue Whale, the largest animal on Earth.
Our tour begins with a flight to San Diego in California. Here we board the MV Searcher, an American registered vessel that comfortably accommodates 25 passengers. We cruise south from San Diego, stopping en route to explore the many seabird colonies and Elephant Seal rookeries, and some of the isolated islands such as Todos Santos and San Benitos. On our third day we will arrive at the world famous San Ignacio Lagoon, home to Baja’s ‘friendly’s Grey Whales.
Every year between 17,000 and 24,000 Pacific Grey Whales make the 8,000- kilometre journey south from the cold, invertebrate-rich waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas to the lagoons and bays along Baja’s Pacific coastline. Here, in the warm sheltered waters, they assemble to mate and give birth. Grey Whales are naturally inquisitive creatures, especially the mothers and small calves, but at San Ignacio they seem to genuinely revel in human contact; there is no need to look for the whales here, they will quickly find you! There can be few more memorable wildlife experiences than being able to look one of these gentle creatures straight in the eye as it raises its head out of the water next to the boat; a truly moving moment in a highlight-packed tour!
Leaving San Ignacio behind, we continue our journey south. Off the coastline of Magdalena Bay we hope to find such cetaceans as Bryde’s, Humpback and Fin Whales, together with huge pods of Common Dolphins. The birdlife is equally diverse, with Brown and Blue-footed Boobies, Black-vented Shearwaters, Royal Terns and Pomarine Skuas feeding over the sea, whilst areas of coastal mangroves hold Reddish Egrets, Tri-coloured Herons, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills and Long-billed Curlews.
Rounding Baja’s southern cape we enter the deep blue waters of the Sea of Cortez, home to one of the world’s greatest concentrations of cetaceans. Here a maze of submarine canyons and sea mounts deflect nutrient-rich water to the surface to feed blooms of plankton and other sea creatures. It is this rich food supply that attracts the cetaceans and we will spend the remainder of our holiday exploring this narrow sea in search of whales and other marine-life. In particular we will be on the look-out for the huge, 12-metre tall ‘blow’s of water vapour that marks the surfacing of the magnificent Blue Whale, an animal that can grow to over 27 metres (90 feet) in length! A wide variety of other whale species share the Blue Whale’s domain and, during our five days here, we will search for Humpback, Fin, Minke, Sperm and Bryde’s Whales, plus more elusive species such as Orca, Dwarf Sperm Whale and Pygmy Killer Whale. Once again Bottlenose and Common Dolphins abound in these waters, pods of the latter sometimes numbering in the thousands! In addition to the whale-watching, there will be daily excursions onto remote islands and into coastal habitats in search of Guadalupe Fur Seals and birds such as Gila Woodpecker, Black-throated Sparrow, Crested Caracara, the endemic Xantu’s Hummingbird and perhaps even the rare and exquisitely beautiful Red-billed Tropicbird. There will also be plenty of opportunities for snorkelling in search of turtles, rays and some of the other 650 species of fish that inhabit the Sea of Cortez.
At the end of our journey we must sadly disembark at Cabo San Lucas, Baja’s southernmost community and, with memories of whales and other wildlife that will last a lifetime, we begin our journey home.
Highlights included: Seeing a blue whale, the largest living animal on our planet, for the very first time and at such close range. Seeing six other whale species as well, including one dead sperm whale. Enjoying an incredible display by 250 or more dolphins one afternoon. Gazing in wonder at a whale shark coming within arm's length of our skiff with its enormous mouth wide open as it fed. Having glorious sightings of a black-footed albatross, a red-billed tropic bird, scores of storm petrels and terns, as well as nesting ospreys, egrets and herons, orioles and frigatebirds. Neither will I forget the spectacular sunrises and sunsets, nor the Milky Way that night when all the boat's lights were switched off. Magic!
I enjoyed everything on this trip. The variety of prolific wildlife was amazing, not to mention getting so close to all these amazing creatures. The trip leaders and the crew were exceptional. It was such a great trip with a great group of fellow travellers. I keep having to pinch myself as I can't believe I had all the experiences I did - it is like a dream. So much of the trip was magical. We were very blessed to have seen what we did. It was like taking part in our own wildlife programme. I can't single out one experience over another as they were all very special in their own way. When I first read the details of this holiday I thought it sounded too good to be true - I can now say it was even better than the brochure indicated. Definitely a very, very special trip and worth every penny.
B.H. & E.H.
Best holiday ever! Never dreamt we would get so close to the whales or see so many species of cetaceans, birds and other animals. The food was some of the best we have had in North America, and the crew were awesome without exception.
F.J. & J.M.
The holiday was an amazing experience - we saw 9 species of whales and dolphins, 4 pinnipeds and nearly 100 species of bird we had not seen before - and we loved the peace and quiet of the islands we visited. Our guides Lee and Rob were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and added hugely to the experience.
This was a wonderful trip from start to finish. The crew were knowledgeable, supportive, friendly, efficient, cheerful and funny. Wonderful encounters with grey whales, amazing sightings of sea creatures and other whales. A lovely atmosphere on the trip.
The trip met the description set out in the brochure but exceeded our expectations - we had not anticipated the skill and dedication of the skipper and crew in spotting, tracking and following the whales to maximise our sightings and overall experience and enjoyment of the trip.
Mr & Mrs H.
Based on reading your website and trip reports we had great expectations of this trip. I am pleased to say that these were easily exceeded. The tour arrangements, the guides, and the Spirit of Adventure and its crew were great, topped only by our experience of the whales, dolphins and other sea-life. It is hard to imagine how this experience could have been bettered.
Amazing trip of a lifetime. Whale experience awesome. Crew extremely attentive and professional. Catered for our every need. Will certainly recommend this excellent holiday to others.
Mr & Mrs S.
Art Taylor and his team were first class. They all make for a wonderful experience. Lee Morgan and Rob Nawojchik are superb guides. I have been on several guided trips and this team is by far the best. Both were always available, working hard to search for wish-list species. This was always done at a pace that suited all and ensured that everyone had a memorable trip.
Lee Morgan is a star. Always helpful, caring and very knowledgeable about all aspects of the wildlife we encountered. We enjoyed every minute of this holiday and can't think of anything that could be improved.
Just a note to say how much we all enjoyed our recent Baja California holiday aboard the Spirit of Adventure. It really was a tremendous trip with each day bringing fresh delights, from the humbling experience of the personal contact with the grey whales in San Ignacio to the sheer exhilaration of swimming with the sea lions at Los Islotes. We are left with so many wonderful memories (as well as innumerable photos and videos …) it would be almost impossible to pick one thing as the highlight of the trip. We can’t commend enough Tim and Scott. Apart from their excellent company, their contribution to the trip through their sheer enthusiasm for what they were doing and fantastic knowledge was invaluable. When you add in the crew of the good ship Spirit of Adventure, whose attentiveness and unfailing good humour really were the icing on the cake, it all added up to a tremendous holiday which we would have had no hesitation in recommending to others. Only one word of complaint, diet sheets should be issued at the end of the trip to help get rid of the excess pounds we put on due to Dan and Dean’s great cooking! Our thanks to everyone involved in making this trip possible.
The holiday delivered all it promised - touching Grey Whales, seeing Blue Whales, snorkelling with sea lions and so much more. Captain Art and his crew could not have done more. The food was very good; they were very helpful & knowledgeable and their organisation was superb. To be truthful, I have almost run out of superlatives regarding this holiday. Well Done Naturetrek!.
...without your support and expertise, we wouldn’t have had such a wonderfully successful trip. I am still ‘there in spirit with the whales and dolphins’, an unforgettable and truly magical experience
my fifth trip with Naturetrek and the best so far. The Searcher was top notch in every way, a first class holiday!
A wonderful trip, one of the best we've ever done. I don't see how it can be improved. The crew of Search couldn't be more helpful and cheerful, every one of them. The leaders knowledgable, enthusiastic and hard-working. I would recommend this holiday to anyone.
For me this was the best holiday I have ever had. So much to do and see. A real wow factor!!
This was a wonderful holiday. I’ve ran out of superlatives in describing the experience since I got back. Superb itinerary. Unforgettable sights. Great crew. Excellent food. Thank you.
This trip was excellent value for money. We both had a holiday of a lifetime. The 'Searcher' team were brilliant. Art is a skillful Captain & wildlife watcher. His crew were all polite, helpful, knowledgeable, interesting and fun to be with. Lee, was knowledgeable & willling to help with camera & photography problems. It was very noticeable how he went out of his way to give everyone on the trip personal time & often helped with serving drinks and food to ensure the smooth running of mealtimes. We would definitely recommend this trip to our friends, and any trip that Lee was guiding.
This was a truly outstanding experience. We had it all! Exceptional viewings of 7 species of whale, generally calm seas, blue skies & sunshine, enthusiastic & knowledgeable guides, superb food, brilliant birdwatching, special experiences snorkelling, a friendly funny and helpful crew, good company and amenable group and don’t forget the dolphins..thank you!
Sheila and I had a wonderful experience. It was a most amazing trip and surpassed our wildest expectations. As well as the outstanding nature experience the leaders were exceptionally kind as were all of the crew of the Spirit of Endeavour.
T. & J.F.
Excellent trip all round. Both Tim and Scott were great tour leaders at all times imparting excellent commentary backed up with sound knowledge of the flora and fauna. The Captain and crew of the Spirit of Adventure were faultless in their care and our needs. Congratulations and many thanks to all. Well done.
Quite simply the best two weeks of my life so far!
M.B. & A.K.
A fantastic experience which we thoroughly enjoyed. Hope to be back one day. Thank you to all the guides and crew for helping make this such a special holiday.
The food was excellent - much appreciated. Crew were very good - helpful, good sense of humour etc. Local naturalist and guide, very good.
This was a fantastic trip, excellent views and photo opportunities. The Spirit of Adventure was a wonderful boat with a great crew and splendid food. The naturalist Scott Anderson was excellent.
Food on boat excellent, helpful hands, and great thrill being able to pat a grey whale and calf!
Boat - immaculately clean and kept that way throughout... friendly and helpful crew who went out of their way to make the holiday memorable... food beyond all expectations. How Dan produced such food in such quantities from such a small galley, borders on the miraculous... The lengths Mike and the crew went to find whales and the skill Mike used to get us close to them when found deserves the highest praise and thanks. Itinerary - brilliant. Whales - beyond our expectations. A privilege to be able to touch Grey Whales and swim with Sea Lions, to name but two of the highlights. Scott - excellent, extremely friendly and knowledgeable.