Summary : It is said that when the Spaniards arrived in Baja California in 1539, they believed they had reached a mythical island of female warriors governed by Queen Calafia. Certainly this is paradise found – home to the legendary El Zorro, massive canyons, rugged coasts, rich jungles and UNESCO protected biospheres. Not for the average tourist, Baja California offers a very different Mexico.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Snorkeling, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark Silver Explorer and settle in and participate in a mandatory safety drill. Set sail and your Expedition Leader will introduce important members of the crew and the Expedition Team. Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.
Have a leisurely breakfast and attend a lecture about the Sea of Cortez before arrival at your destination in the late morning.
Located off the east coast of Baja California, two islands, Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida, constitute an important biological reserve. Los Islotes is a small set of rocks just to the north of Isla Partida. Los Islotes is home to a sea lion colony of more than 200 permanent members and several seabird species. Approach Los Islotes with Zodiacs to get a closer look at the different animals and rock formations with an opportunity to swim and snorkel with the sea lions.
Espiritu Santo was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1995, with Isla Partida separated from Espiritu Santo only by a narrow winding channel. A sand bar is said to connect the two islands at low tide. Many long bays seem to be dividing the island of Espiritu Santo. Steep cliffs, azure blue water and white sand make for some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. Apart from enjoying the water, walks ashore might also be offered.
During the night Silver Explorer will have entered further into the Gulf of California, heading north. This afternoon set off for Isla San Pedro by Zodiac around the guano-covered island. This steep rock coming almost straight out of the sea is one of the few islands in the Sea of Cortez to have a permanent group of seabirds – Brown and Blue-footed Boobies, Red-billed Tropicbirds, pelicans and cormorants and Magnificent Frigatebirds as visitors. It was mainly because of the hundreds of thousands of Brown and Blue-footed Boobies and the resulting guano on the island that the difficult to reach island was mined. These days a landing is prohibited to protect the nesting sites of the birds and the island itself is protected by Mexican law and included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, together with 243 other islands in the Sea of Cortez. Bottlenose dolphins can be found around the island as well as one of the three great pods of sperm whale in the Gulf of California. Californian sea lions have made this island their home and form the third largest colony in the gulf – something that will not only be seen but heard as well.
Today, Silver Explorer will be off to two more of the Midriff Islands. Go ashore to search for desert birds and some of the endemic lizards following the dry riverbeds. Remains of the local Seri natives can be found in several areas, indicating that they managed to cover major distances across the Gulf of California, looking for resources and establishing shelters and small settlements.
Santa Catalina is one of several islands in the Loreto Bay National Park (Parque Nacional Bahia Loreto). The sea surrounding Santa Catalina has manta rays and several large pods of bottlenose, spinner and long-beaked common dolphins, as well as short-finned pilot whales.
In the afternoon go ashore at Isla Santa Catalina and search for marine life and or explore on a hike into the Cardon cactus forest. Standing next to the various cacti, especially the Santa Catalina barrel cactus, can be quite impressive. Look for Gila Woodpeckers and other birds that use the cacti for food or as a resting place. There are several interesting animal species on the island, including the endemic Santa Catalina rattleless rattlesnake. The Santa Catalina whiptail lizard, the common desert spiny lizard, Santa Catalina desert iguana, and other reptiles make for interesting photography.
There will be another opportunity to swim and snorkel if you desire.
Exploration and discovery await as the ship anchors off the coast of Isla San Jose with its 170 square kilometers. Explore the mangroves on San Jose’s southern side and take the Zodiacs into the lagoon and channel in search of shorebirds and waders. The Yellow-footed Gull is one of the resident seabirds.
At Isla San Francisco find a beautiful desert beach on its southwestern side with excellent snorkeling and a nearby sea lion colony. Or take a shore hike to look for fauna and flora.
Silver Explorer will arrive quite early to Topolobampo where you will have the choice to either visit the famous Copper Canyon by train on an overnight excursion seeing a series of massive canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, or to visit local indigenous groups and El Fuerte, the home of El Zorro.
In either case you will have to drive to El Fuerte, as the train ride to Copper Canyon will start from there.
At El Fuerte you will board your privately chartered train on the Chihuahua Pacifico Railway. Enjoy a leisurely morning and a continental boxed breakfast on board the train while you traverse the magnificent Sierra Madre Mountain range, and eventually enter the Copper Canyon – four times larger than the Grand Canyon and only accessible by rail. Your approximately six-hour rail journey will wind through tunnels and bridges as you climb from sea level to 7,200 feet. Traveling along the rails sometimes over 1,475 feet above the ground, the journey covers a distance of 400 miles over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels. You will stay at the Mirador Hotel overlooking Copper Canyon. The Mirador Hotel is located at the canyon’s edge, near the highest point of the canyon. The Mirador is the only hotel where each guest room has a spectacular view overlooking the canyon, claimed to be one of the ten best views in the world. Located in the middle of the legendary Sierra Madre Mountains of the Mexico’s state of Chihuahua, this immense series of canyons and ridges covers 25,000 square miles of rugged territory. Explore the area and might get to see the Cusarare Falls.
While staying at the Mirador witness a Tarahumara dance presentation. At present the Tarahumara, a reclusive tribe that has chosen to live apart from modern western culture, subsisting on corn, beans, and their livestock, constitute the largest indigenous group in the state of Chihuahua.
If you prefer to stay aboard Silver Explorer and still see part of this enchanting region of Mexico, join a scenic drive to the 450-year-old town of El Fuerte, once a flourishing trading post for silver and gold miners. Drive to Teheuco, home to the Mayo Indians. There you will be treated to a lively and colorful folkloric dance and an exhibition of handcrafted bowls, utensils, handicrafts and pottery.
From Teheuco it is a short drive to El Fuerte, renowned as the birthplace of Zorro, the fictional outlaw hero, made famous in Johnston McCulley’s 1919 novel “The Curse of Capistrano” and several Hollywood movies. Enjoy a savory lunch at the Posada del Hidalgo Hotel, believed to have been the original home of Don Diego de la Vega, Zorro’s true identity. This majestic colonial mansion was the largest and most beautiful manor in El Fuerte when it was built in 1890. Following lunch, enjoy the elaborate costumes, lively music and spirited dances of a folkloric group. Zorro himself just may make an appearance.
Then have a leisurely walking tour along the colonial town’s narrow, orderly streets past architectural masterpieces when the town was known as a major sugar cane producer. Another highlight is the lovely 18th century baroque-style cathedral on Plaza de Armas, a picturesque park complete with palm trees and wrought iron gazebo.
On the second day, get to see the area north of Topolobampo which is one of the most important farming areas in Mexico and home to major crops such as sugarcane, cotton, rice, and flowers. Not only will you get a taste of the region but you will also visit Los Mochis’ Regional Museum. Originally founded in 1893 by the American socialist Albert Owen, the city gained recognition in 1901 when businessman Benjamin F. Johnston built his first sugar mill here, which grew to become the largest sugarcane empire on the American continent. Continuing past lush farmland, arrive at La Carambola Hacienda, home to a mango plantation. Tour the plantation and learn how this sweet, juicy fruit was brought here in the 17th century and later cultivated. After the tour, you will be able to sample a variety of sweet treats such as mango ice cream, mango candy and mango marmalade. Then, you will return to the hacienda where you can try your hand at cooking authentic Mexican staples such as corn tortillas, beans and cheese.
Cabo San Lucas is often referred to as Land’s End, as it is located on the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula.
Use the afternoon to set sail on a spacious catamaran for a scenic cruise in the Sea of Cortez to beautiful Chileno Bay. Anchored in turquoise waters you can snorkel over a reef that is home to colorful marine life. As the sails are hoisted for the return, relax on board with complimentary snacks and an open bar.
Another option will take you to a quaint sea-side ranch where horses will be waiting for you. After brief instructions, you will begin a leisurely one-hour beach ride along a secluded beach with the sound of crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. Continue your rde and head atop a bluff to see the spectacular contrast between desert and sea.
Looking for a different perspective of the cape region you can be driven north to San Jose del Cabo. The bus ride shows Baja California’s striking appearance, from its arid desert setting and white sand coves, to its swaying palm trees and the deep blue sea. At the picturesque San Jose del Cabo you will visit the local mission church and its shady tree-lined plaza; the town even has an old opera house, now converted to a popular local restaurant.
If you would like to kayak in the bay, you can opt to do so and head past Los Arcos to reach renowned Lovers Beach, a strip of land connecting the Sea of Cortez with the Pacific Ocean.
Another way to explore the bay and sea would be aboard a comfortable motorized catamaran for a coastal cruise along the Sea of Cortéz and Pacific Coast. Refreshments and snacks are served on board the boat. En route, take in breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, secluded coves and the famous arch at Land’s End.
Silver Explorer will sail from Cabo San Lucas along the west coast of Baja California. Take the time to look for cetaceans and seabirds, attend lectures about Baja California and California, or edit the many photos you have taken during the exploration of the Sea of Cortez. Relax on the outer decks and enjoy cooking demonstrations and wine tastings offered by the Executive Chef and Head Sommelier.
The Videographer will present the voyage DVD and the Captain will invite you to the Farewell Cocktail Party and Farewell Dinner.
Disembark the ship after breakfast.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
Ship accommodation; all onboard meals and entertainment; butler service; complimentary beverages (select wines, champagne, spirits, bottled water, specialty coffees, juices and soft drinks); onboard gratuities (except spa and salon); Silver, Medallion, Grand and Owner's Suite guests receive laundry service and dinner at Officer's table; 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Adventurer, Explorer, View, Vista, and Veranda Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Grand, and Owner’s Suites. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; government fees and taxes; transfers and luggage handling; passport and visa expenses; travel insurance; items of a personal nature; Wifi; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Ralph Lee Hopkins (dolphins), © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises