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Join Naturalist Journeys on this fun Sea of Cortez cruise. Stocked with supplies and a bountiful sense of adventure, follow Steinbeck’s path into the protected waters of Cousteau’s “world’s aquarium” in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Crystal clear water abounds near the shorelines, fringed by red desert bluffs. Sail among the islands, once explored by the conquistadors searching for black pearls. Learn all about the impressive geologic forces that created these picturesque islands. Explore by kayak and paddleboard, keeping your eyes peeled for sea life, or enjoy leisurely beachcombing with the sand between your toes.
The islands of the Sea of Cortez are much like the Galapagos, a textbook for the study of speciation, which we see in lizards, plant life, and right from the start at Cabo, some of Baja’s endemic birds including Belding’s Yellowthroat, Gray Thrasher, and Xantus’s Hummingbird.
Active exploration, turquoise water and snorkeling, and a menagerie of seabirds and other wildlife await you on this exciting Sea of Cortez nature cruise!
- Enjoy whales, mobula rays, dolphins, and birds
- Marvel at the courtship rituals of nesting Brown and Blue-footed Boobies
- Wander, kayak, paddle board, and explore by skiff
- Burro ride into arroyos with local rancheros
- Search for Gray Whales at Bahía Magdalena (seasonal, we watch activity and feature what is best)
- Snorkel with sea lions and colorful reef fish; on land be dazzled by Xantus’s Hummingbird
- Relax and enjoy the simplicity of flying in and out of Los Cabos International Airport
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Sat., Mar. 25 : San José del Cabo | La Paz—Embarkation
Welcome to Baja, Mexico! You are met today upon arrival at the Los Cabos International Airport in San José del Cabo and transferred to our hospitality area. We are then joined by the cruise’s expedition team for an overland orientation transfer to La Paz, getting our group acquainted with the dramatically beautiful Baja landscape and the week of adventure that lies ahead. As we board our ship, the Safari Voyager, the captain and crew welcome you aboard with a cocktail before a kick-off dinner with your new mates.
Sun., Mar. 26 : Isla San Francisco
Today we begin our explorations in a playground of steep red bluffs and sweeping desert beach. What a treat to kick off your adventure with a day of play—this is a vacation, after all. Don a snorkel and some flippers and get to know the colorful and bountiful sea life, put on your walking shoes for an exploratory hike along the red bluffs, grab a paddle and explore by kayak, or just relax on the beach with the sand between your toes … the choice is yours! The rugged beauty of Isla San Francisco makes it an ideal spot for escapades.
Today, and throughout the duration of the cruise, we are on the lookout for the different whale species that call this sea home. Fin, Bryde’s, Pilot, Gray, and Sperm Whales are some of the larger whales we hope to see, while large numbers of different dolphin species make their presence known, riding the bow waves. If you choose to go ashore, we look for the Isla San Francisco Whiptail Lizard, found no other place in the world! Tonight, we enjoy a delicious dinner as we watch the sun set.
Mon., Mar. 27: Bahía Agua Verde
At Bahía Agua Verde, stunningly clear waters are bordered by sparse craggy mountains hemmed in green. Today we explore the coast by small skiff, keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife, the ever-present Osprey nesting on sea stacks, and different species of cormorants and terns. Mobula Rays may be taking that leap of faith as they rocket out of the water, landing belly first back into the sea. We then visit with a local ranchero and his family before we take to the canyons and mountains on a mule ride to experience the “real Baja.” Today’s scenic vistas, outstanding exploration by boat and by hoof, excellent birding, and unmatched camaraderie make for a perfect day.
Tues., Mar. 28: Captain’s Choice
While it’s unlikely we find any black pearls, today we sail amongst islands once explored by early conquistadors. What fun to imagine what they thought of this stunning land and sea. Our boat’s expedition team is at the ready with more adventurous options to choose from today?kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding, or beachcombing. We keep watch during our transit for Brown and Blue-footed Boobies, Magnificent Frigatebird, and the endemic Yellow-footed Gull. Discover nature’s diversity and learn about the geologic forces that formed these islands.
Wed., Mar. 29 : Marine Life Search in Magdalena Bay
We defer to our on-board naturalists today, and depending on conditions and recent activity, we either visit Magdalena Bay for Gray Whales or Bahía de la Paz for Whale Sharks. The Gray Whales arrive each year on Baja’s west coast—migrating more than 12,000 miles—to calve in Bahía Magdalena. If Gray Whales are the day’s excursion, we dock in Puerto Escondido, then drive across the peninsula to ride in a panga and witness these remarkable mammals and their babies in the lagoon. Those going ashore watch for wintering warblers, vireos, and sparrows use these islands as winter retreats.
Thurs., Mar. 30: Los Islotes | Isla Partida
At Los Islotes, a steep craggy seamount leaping straight from the sea, we observe a Sea Lion colony from the boat and skiff, or slip into a wetsuit for an early morning snorkel with curious, agile young Sea Lion pups. After a lively morning, we heave anchor and set sail for Isla Partida for an afternoon of water play or island hikes along desert beaches or into rocky arroyos.
Fri., Mar. 31 : Isla Espíritu Santo
Today we quietly tuck into a secluded cove surrounded by long fingers of red rock and a golden beach. We spend our last full day enjoying the feel of warm sand under our feet on a beach walk, investigating nooks and crannies in the rocks by kayak, or exploring a little further afield on a guided hike. We are accompanied by the ever-present frigatebirds patrolling the skies. Watching these pirates of the air sometimes gives us an alert to the presence of flying fish or maybe a feeding frenzy replete with dolphins, whales, and seabirds. The Sea of Cortez is one of the world’s best for marine mammals and we should have plenty of photographic opportunities. Sea Lions are abundant here and snorkeling with these agile swimmers gives you ample and up close views as they blast through their watery home. Tonight we celebrate our lovely week at this evening’s special farewell dinner with an entertaining slideshow by your expedition team.
Sat., Apr. 1: La Paz | San José—Disembark
After breakfast, it’s “adios” La Paz, as you disembark the vessel and transfer back to San José del Cabo for flights home.
Cost of the Journey
The cost of the cruise is $5,995 per person based on double occupancy / $8,995 single occupancy, plus a $350 port tax/fee per person.
This price is for Commander Cabins; other cabin types may be available—please inquire. The tour cost includes 7 nights aboard the Safari Voyager, all meals onboard the voyage including alcoholic beverages, all excursions with professional guides, and miscellaneous program expenses, transfers and baggage handling between airport/vessel on embark/disembark days; entry fees to national parks/preserves; all from-the-ship adventure activities and equipment; wellness amenities: fitness equipment and yoga mats.
Not included is the round-trip flight to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The tour cost does not include items of a personal nature such as telephone charges or optional activities.
We recommend a gratuity for local guides and the ship crew, which is left to the discretion of each participant; guidelines will be provided.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
For the cruise, plan to arrive Saturday, March 25 no later than 2:30 PM. Please plan flights out after 1:00 PM on Saturday, April 1. We STRONGLY recommend you arrive the night before—you don’t want to miss the boat!
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Butterflies & Birds
- February 2020
- February 2022
- February 2023
- October 2021
- August 2022
- October 2022
- August 2023
Sea of Cortés
- March 2017
- February 2019
- March 2022
- March 2023
Kelly has worked with Naturalist Journeys since 2011. She assists our lead guides on trips to Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Death Valley, the Eastern Sierras, California’s Central Coast, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, Utah’s National Parks, Belize and the Caribbean islands of Trinidad & Tobago. Kelly enjoys the outdoors, travel, nature, wildlife, and working with people. Kelly is a licensed wildlife rehabber and educator for Pacific Wildlife Care in San Luis Obispo county, and is a founding member of the organization. She is also the Owner/Broker of Central Coast Property Sales. She and her husband Art own a ranch in Cayucos on California’s Central Coast, where
they live with their large menagerie of birds and mammals, both wild and domestic. When not traveling, Art and Kelly welcome guests to find peace and quiet on their ranch in their B and B guest house.
Other trips with Kelly Vandenheuvel
Baja's Bounty: Wildlife Discovery in the Sea of CortezFebruary 10 - 17, 2024
Death Valley National Park Sampler Lens-FriendlyMarch 10 - 15, 2024
Sunshine Birding: California Coast to CactusApril 15 - 22, 2024
Yellowstone: Birds, Bears & Wildlife Traveling CyclonesJune 12 - 19, 2024
Alaska Sampler Anchorage, Homer, Seward & Kenai FjordsAugust 9 - 17, 2024
- Baja's Bounty: Wildlife Discovery in the Sea of Cortez
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Photo credits: Banners: Safari Endeavor by Jocelyn Pride, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Brown-footed Booby by Peg Abbott; Skiff Landing, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Dolphins, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Hiking, courtesy UnCruise Adventures; Beach Walkers, Yellow-legged Gull, Long-billed Dowitchers by Peg Abbott; Brown Pelican by Mahlon Hale; gray Thrasher, by Susan Zazzali Mittelstadt; Kayakers, Gull by Naturalist Journeys stock; Sea Lion courtesy of Un-Cruise.