Summary : Every winter, hundreds of Pacific gray whales return to their traditional breeding and birthing grounds in sheltered San Ignacio Lagoon on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Friendly and engaging, they are often intrigued with humans, swimming right up to the open boats. You may see mothers "showing off" their babies, and your small group can frequently interact with them at close range. The whales entertain you with breaching and spy-hopping, and you sometimes observe mating behavior as well. The Pacific gray whale migration from Alaska’s Bering Sea to the warm waters of Baja’s Pacific lagoons is the longest mammal migration on Earth. Nearly hunted to extinction in the past, these gentle giants have made a dramatic comeback and today show little fear. When you come to Mexico to see them, you'll be forever spoiled for whale watching, because it doesn't get much better than this, anywhere on the planet!
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Photography
Your whale watching tour begins upon arrival in the small colonial town of Loreto, where you will make a short transfer from the airport to your hotel on the historic plaza. At one time the capital of California under Mexico’s rule, Loreto was founded in 1697 and is the region’s oldest permanent settlement, as well as the site of the first Jesuit mission in the region. Located on the Sea of Cortez, peaceful Loreto boasts fine beaches, reef snorkeling and excellent hiking in the nearby Sierra de la Giganta Mountains. This evening gather for dinner and an orientation to the magnificent gray whales of Baja.
You will drive across the desert to the Pacific Ocean today, following the scenic coastline and traversing a dramatic landscape of arid mountains dotted with saguaros, to arrive in time for dinner. Your accommodations at the edge of San Ignacio Lagoon are a special feature of your 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. While basic, these are the best remote lodgings available, offering the opportunity to experience the wilderness of the Vizcaino Desert, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in genuine comfort.
Whales have been revered as mystical creatures by many cultures, and an intimate encounter with them is a dream realized for wildlife lovers. You will watch them from open skiffs—small motorized boats—that allow you to closely observe their fascinating range of behaviors. You may see them breach, spy-hop or come up close to present their backs for a scratch. In general, you will spend two hours whale-watching per excursion and take 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 excursions during your stay.
Numerous whales enter this particular lagoon, and your small boat allows you to get incredibly close. Naturally, you are very sensitive to the animals’ demeanor before approaching, and your skiff drivers are experts at positioning the boats to maximize your encounters with the whales without disturbing them. You may see males competing for females, young adults playing, and mothers protecting and teaching their calves, perhaps the most endearing of all our encounters. Babies, which are 14 to 16 feet at birth and gain 50 pounds a day as they grow, often come within arm’s length of the boats. Your expedition leader and expert local guides provide interpretation about their remarkable journey and habits. Ashore, you will participate in other activities such as bird watching, exploring the salt flats, and naturalist-led hikes during which you may find fossils, bones and shells. If weather and tides cooperate, you may also explore the local mangrove estuaries.
After a final chance to spend time with the whales, you will depart San Ignacio by road, returning to Loreto in time for dinner and a final evening together in this charming, laid-back coastal town.
Your whale watching trip comes to a close as you transfer to the airport for flights home.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
This adventure is not strenuous and does not require a high degree of physical fitness. You must be able to walk up and down stairs, wade through shallow water to step in and out of the excursion skiffs, and sit on bench seats for long periods of time while whale watching. Depending on weather and sea conditions, boat excursions to the whales can be rough, bumpy and wet. Winds may be strong, water may spray into the boat, and temperatures may be cold. Optional hikes will also be available, and in order to participate, you should be able to walk unassisted for at least one mile. All activities are completely optional, and travelers should only participate in those activities with which they feel comfortable. If you are concerned with your personal physical capabilities with regard to the demands of this trip, please contact ExpeditionTrips for further details, in addition to your own physician for his or her opinion.
Medical Evacuation Insurance is mandatory for this trip. Note that the cost of a medical evacuation policy will be added to your tour invoice. If you wish to decline this coverage and opt for a different carrier, you will need to provide other proof of coverage including your insurance company’s name and contact number, and your insurance policy number.
Airport transferes in Loreto; accommodations as per itinerary; meals from dinner on Day 1 through breakfast on final day; soft drinks at meals; services of expedition leaders and local guides; most gratuities; permits, entrance fees, and taxes. Subject to change without notice.
Travel to and from start and end points of trip (Loreto, Mexico); alcoholic beverages; some gratuities; passport fees; early arrival or late departure airport transfers; items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, internet, etc); airline baggage fees; optional travel insurance.
Photo Credit: © NHA, © Chris Burdon, © Melissa Scott, © Mike Bruscia