This voyage from San Diego in California to Mexico's Sea of Cortez, encompasses some of the best whale watching in the eastern Pacific. The longest section of the journey is along the Pacific coast of Mexico's Baja California: a 1,300km long mountainous desert peninsula stretching down from Mexico's far northwest. Along the coast and within the more sheltered Sea of Cortez on the Peninsula's eastern aspect, you can encounter plunging desert cliffs, mangrove forests, shallow lagoons and coral reefs.
One of the highlights during the northern hemisphere winter, are the Grey Whales which gather in shallow lagoons to breed, raise their young and prepare for an epic journey north to the cool waters of Northwestern America. At locations such as the San Ignacio Lagoon, grey whales can be some of the most approachable and curious of the large cetaceans. They come literally within touching distance. At other locations, Humpback, Sperm, fast swimming Fin Whales and even Blue Whales are encountered on a regular basis. Dolphins are also spotted regularly, sometimes in pods of more than a hundred at a time. In the north of the Peninsula, close to the US border, islands shelter large and growing populations of imposing Elephant Seals and California Fur Seals.
In addition to spotting whales from the mother ship and smaller boats ('skiffs') within the lagoons, you will be able to get into the water for snorkelling, explore mangrove forests and join regular shore landings. These shore landings will put you amongst Baja's desert - a place of rare beauty and one of most biologically rich of the world's desert landscapes.
Birdlife is also spectacular around the Peninsula and along your journey you can hope to see Masked, Blue Footed and Brown boobies, Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, Yellow-footed and Sabine Gulls, Red-billed Sheerwaters, Craveri's and Xantus's Murrelets and more. Some of the islands you will stop at are home to unique wildlife, such as the Santa Catalina Rattlesnake.
Your guide team onboard will have many years experience and a passion for wildlife in the Baja Region. To assist in their explanations about marine life in the area, the vessel is equipped with marine hydrophones, enabling us to listen to the whales and their unique 'songs' and underwater communication.
Sample 12 Day Itinerary
Please note that this itinerary may be subject to change without notice. This might include adjustments to fit in with prevailing weather and sea conditions, the discretion of the captain and the uncertainties of operating within Mexican preserve guidelines.
Day 1: Arrive San Diego
Upon arrival in San Diego you will be met at the airport and transferred to the waiting liveaboard expedition vessel. Board the boat by 8pm for passenger orientation and depart 2 hours later. (For those arriving from outside North America, we recommend that you arrive a day early to mitigate against international flight delays).
Day 2: Islas Todos Santos
Stop at Ensenada harbour for Mexican Customs and Immigration clearance. Cruise along the Todos Santos islands to view nesting seabirds, rocky reef and cliff life, and harbor seal adults and pups. Whalewatch during the afternoon for migrating gray whales, dolphins, and seabirds.
Day 3: Islas San Benito
Hike to an old lighthouse and observe elephant seals crowded in each cove. You will be there during breeding season when jousting males, nursing pups and resting females make for wonderful photography. We will observe nesting birds, such as osprey and ravens, and enjoy unique desert plants.
Day 4 - 5: Laguna San Ignacio
At San Ignacio you will anchor among the gray whales and make this famous lagoon our home for two days. You will whalewatch from smaller boats (called pangas) and perhaps come eye-to-eye with the whales. You will be able to observe mothers caring for their young and marvel at the power and grace of breaching and spyhopping whales. Between whale watching, you will be able to explore pristine beaches for plants, tidal marine life and observe feeding birds in mangrove channels which lead into the lagoon.
Day 6: Offshore Bahía Magdalena
Spend the day in search of blue and humpback whales, herds of common dolphins, sea turtles, and pelagic seabirds with the peninsula as a truly scenic backdrop for photography.
Day 7: Offshore Cabo San Lucas
Cruise to Gorda Banks where we hope to find humpback whales gathering. Humpback whales are very acrobatic - spectacular to observe, photograph, and listen to with the onboard underwater microphone.
Day 8: Isla San José
Your vessel will arrive at the spectacular red sandstone cliffs of Punta Colorado for photographing at sunrise. You will be taken for a skiff ride into a cave and along the cliffs for up-close views of nesting brown and blue-footed boobies, pelicans, yellow-footed gulls, osprey and white-throated swifts. You will then take a desert plant and bird walk through an arroyo formed by the scenic red cliffs. After the hike, you can enjoy snorkeling to view tropical fish on reefs and sandy coves underwater. In the afternoon, you will head out to see again in search of blue, fin and sperm whales, as well as large pods of bottlenose dolphin that frequent this area.
Day 9: Isla Santa Catalina
This island is famous for the 12-foot "wavy" barrel cactus and other desert plants that grow along the canyon. An early morning walk is an enjoyable option. Birdlife is abundant and you should see and hear cardinals, Gila woodpeckers, ravens, and verdin. Also famous residents are the rare endemic Santa Catalina rattleless rattlesnake and the abundant emerald-tailed lizards. There will be snorkeling opportunities at this island, where the shallow reefs are home to many species of fish, sea stars, sea fans, and other marine life. In the afternoon you you will head out again in search of whales in this most productive marine area.
Day 10: Bahia Agua Verde
You will stop at this beautiful bay on the peninsula to birdwatch ashore then snorkel among sea fans and rocky reef inhabitants. Then there's time to whalewatch offshore for blue, fin, or other whales.
Day 11: Isla San Jose / Islas Los Islotes
Make a stop at one of Baja's best locations for mangroves, birds and scenery. Then travel to Los Islotes, two islets and underwater rocky reefs used by sea lions as haulout sites. Skiff rides around the islets provide great views of the sealions, fishes and invertebrates along the reefs, and nesting boobies and other birds. This is a lovely snorkeling area and this is a great way to spend a couple of hours. There should be time to whalewatch offshore for blue, fin, or other whales.
Day 12: Arrive Cabo San Lucas
You voyage ends at the southern tip of Baja California: Cabo San Lucas. This is where you disembark.
As a fully ATOL and ABTOT bonded company, we can arrange your international flights and accommodation if you wanted to spend some time here in the vibrant beachfront town of Cabo or in the more laid-back town of San Jose del Cabo after your voyage. Please Contact Us for more details.
Starts San Diego, USA
Ends: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico
- Accommodation onboard
- All excursions while onboard
- Daily excursions on skiffs, shore landings and activities as per itinerary
- All meals onboard starting with breakfast on Day 2 and breakfast on Day 12
- International Flights
- Accommodation and arrangements pre and post liveaboard (please enquire
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature