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Baja California and the Sea of Cortez: Among the Great Whales

Primary Itinerary
February 22 - March 01, 2014 (10 Days)

Days 1 & 2 — San José del Cabo, Mexico/La Paz

Arrive in San José del Cabo, then transfer to La Paz and enjoy time to relax at our waterfront resort. The next day, travel overland to the fishing community of San Carlos, where we’ll board our ship.
CostaBaja Resort & Spa; National Geographic Venture for the remainder of the trip (Day 1: D; Day 2: B/L/D)

Day 3 — Isla Magdalena

Go ashore on Isla Magdalena, a vast sandywilderness surrounded by mangrove channels and the protected waters of Bahia Magdalena. Explore the island’s ever shifting dunes during a walk to one of the most pristine beaches on the Pacific coast. On the mud flats, spot migrating birds at rest, including frigatebirds, pelicans, cormorants, terns, and great blue herons.

Days 4 & 5 — Laguna San Ignacio

The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino in Laguna San Ignacio is one of the main breeding and calving areas for California gray whales, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Every year, gray whales migrate here from the Arctic waters of Alaska; it is one of the longest known migrations of mammals and one of nature’s greatest spectacles. In this vast water nursery, observe these enormous yet gentle animals at water level from our Zodiacs. Our extensive experience navigating these waters, as well as the ship’s exploration tools, maximize the likelihood of up-close encounters with gray whales and their calves.
(B, L, D)

Day 6 — At Sea

As we travel south along the Pacific coast of the Baja Peninsula, spend time on deck seeking out some of the many marine life that inhabit these waters, including the blue whale—the largest animal on Earth. Attend talks given by our naturalists, and learn wildlife-photography tips from our photo instructor.

Day 7 — San José del Cabo and Gorda Banks

This morning, we cruise past Friars Rock at Land’s End and dock at San José del Cabo to explore its historic town center. The afternoon is spent at the Gorda Banks seamount or La Fortuna, gathering places for whales, dolphins, and other sea life. Humpbacks are often active here at this time of year, and we may witness them tail-lobbing, flipper-slapping, and breaching. Our onboard marine biologists and naturalists will be available to interpret the behaviors of these majestic animals.

Day 8 — Los Islotes and Isla Espíritu Santo

In the waters off Los Islotes, we’ll have the opportunity to snorkel and swim among curious sea lions. After lunch, examine the intriguing geological layers of Espíritu Santo from the water during a kayaking excursion, and go ashore to see compacted volcanic ash blanketed by solidified lava flows. Enjoy time to go beachcombing, or opt for a walk along rocky cliffs to spot brown pelicans, gulls, wandering tattlers, and boobies. Cap off the day with a beach barbecue, gather around a bonfire to share stories from the day’s adventures, and take in a stunning display of stars.

Day 9 — Exploring the Sea of Cortez

Today we enjoy the luxury of having no specific plan. You may spend time on the lookout for whales, as well as bottlenose and common dolphins; or explore some of the many uninhabited islands in the Sea of Cortez, such as Isla San Francisco or Isla San José, known for its sweeping beaches and arroyos. Birdlife may be plentiful, and the nutrient-rich sea is home to an incredible variety of fish, including angelfish, surgeonfish, butterfly fish, damselfish, and the beautiful parrotfish.

Day 10 — La Paz/San José del Cabo

Disembark in La Paz after breakfast, and drive to the airport for your flight home.