Delve into the wonders of Baja California on an epic voyage from the peninsula’s untamed Pacific coastline across the pristine Sea of Cortez—called “the world’s aquarium” by Jacques Cousteau. Experience the thrill of exploration determined by nature as we track marine life from aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird, National Geographic Sea Lion or National Geographic Venture. Board Zodiacs to get up-close to gray whales and their curious calves in Laguna San Ignacio, go ashore on desert islands to witness thousands of sea birds nesting, and kayak crystalline waters below towering sea cliffs.
Get up close with California gray whales, and search for sperm, blue and fin whales
Hike the islands of the Sea of Cortez, searching for a variety of plant and bird species
Learn photo techniques from National Geographic photographers and photo instructors that will last a lifetime and create stunning images
Snorkel among playful sea lions and explore several idyllic sea gardens
Itinerary - 16 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./San José del Cabo/La Paz/San Carlos, Mexico
Arrive in San José del Cabo, then transfer to La Paz and check in to the CostaBaja Resort and Spa. Enjoy the following morning on your own, with time to relax and take advantage of the resort and spa amenities. Later, depart for lunch at a local restaurant in La Paz. Then transfer to the fishing community of San Carlos, where we’ll board our ship. National Geographic Sea Bird or National Geographic Sea Lion Day 1: D, Day 2: B, L, D
Day 3 — Bahía Magdalena
Hop in kayaks and Zodiacs to explore the winding, mangrove-shrouded canals of Bahía Magdalena. Numerous species of birds can be spotted here: frigate birds, pelicans, cormorants, terns, great blue herons, ibis, and more. It's not unusual to see forty bird species in a single day while exploring these fertile shorelines where they refuel for their destinations ahead. (B,L,D)
Days 4 & 5 — Laguna San Ignacio
Each year during their long migration, gray whales pause to birth and nurse their calves in sheltered lagoons along the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula. Our next destination—the spacious bay of Laguna San Ignacio—is one of their favorite haunts. We will linger in this remote locale, which provides an extraordinary opportunity to observe and photograph mother whales and their calves up close. It’s not unusual for mothers and calves to approach our Zodiacs, and the calves sometimes play “hide and seek”—even allowing us to touch them. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — At Sea
As we travel south along the peninsula’s Pacific coast, attend talks by our experts and onboard photographers, and join our naturalists on deck to search for a variety of marine life, including the largest animal on Earth, the blue whale. (B,L,D)
Days 7 through 15 — Exploring the Sea of Cortez
With nature as our guide and cameras in hand, we’ll take advantage of incredible photo opportunities as we explore the desert islands scattered throughout the Sea of Cortez: Espíritu Santo, Los Islotes, Santa Catalina, and more. Cruise past the spectacular Friars Rocks at Land's End, and enjoy an optional excursion to the historic town center of San José del Cabo. We’ll venture into waters that provide the best opportunities for whale spotting, and employ our full arsenal of exploration tools. Snorkel among sea lions and colorful fish, kayak in turquoise bays edged by dramatic cliffs, and discover endemic flora and fauna on naturalist-led hikes. After many years of exploring here, we’re still discovering new places and experiencing exciting events: bottlenose dolphins leaping over sperm whales, a pod of fin whales feeding around a convergence zone, thousands of Heermann’s gulls and terns arriving on Isla Rasa to begin incubating their eggs, and hundreds of Humboldt squid illuminated in the ship’s bow lights. (B,L,D)
Day 16 — La Paz/San José del Cabo/U.S.
Disembark in La Paz and have lunch. Then transfer to the airport to connect with your flight home. (B)
Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts--from naturalists to regional specialists — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes and local culture. The expert featured below will be part of the expedition team on the date noted.
Ralph Lee Hopkins
Ralph Lee Hopkins is a popular photo instructor and geologist who also serves as an expedition leader aboard the National Geographic fleet. He served as a photographer on the historic Arctic Expedition for Climate Action in July 2008 and has traveled beyond both the Arctic and the Antarctic Circles many times during the past two decades. His wildlife images have appeared in National Geographic's books, magazines, and online galleries, and are represented in the National Geographic Image Collection.
Travelers can choose between a light or moderate activity level. For a light level of activity, they should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
For a moderate level, travelers should be prepared for multiple hours of physical activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.