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Join us for a relaxing week of birding and exploring the incredible diversity of southern Sonora and the beautiful colonial city of Alamos. This trip is a great way to experience a truly interesting and exotic area at a nice, relaxed pace!
An easy day’s drive from Tucson, Arizona, puts you in a completely different world. We break up the first day of travel and birding by staying the night in Sonora’s capital city, Hermosillo. In the Alamos area, we enjoy five nights at the nature lodge, El Pedregal. Here, we encounter the mixing of habitats, formed by the transition zone between the southern limits of the Sonoran Desert and the furthest northern reaches of the tropics. We also spend a day at the Sea of Cortez, where we are rewarded with a spectacular show of wintering birds of the shore and sea. And there is time dedicated to learning about the Sinaloa thorn forest and the dry tropical deciduous forest, two of the most botanically rich and most highly endangered habitats in the world. This trip into northern Mexico is sure to impress you with amazing habitat diversity and cultural riches, all within a day’s drive of the U.S. border!
While the emphasis of this trip is bird watching, we take time to explore the rich human history of the area, too. We explore an old mining town, visit a couple of restored haciendas, get some insight into indigenous Mayo Indian culture and tour the historically significant and beautiful town of Alamos. The heart of Alamos has been elevated to National Historic Monument status and is also a “Pueblo Magico” of Mexico, because of its rich history and Spanish colonial architectural.
In the environs of Alamos we can see an amazing array of birds, and many of the northwest Mexican endemic birds are visible right from the comfort of our hotel! Some of the birds possible on this trip are Blue Mockingbird, Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Russet-crowned Motmot, Purplish-backed Jay, Elegant Quail, Lilac-crowned and White-fronted Parrots, Five-striped Sparrow, Mexican Parrotlet, Elegant Trogon, Crane Hawk, Common Black Hawk, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, White-fronted Parrot, Rose-throated Becard, Happy and Sinaloa Wren, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, and many others. The species list for the area approaches 250 birds; we should encounter upwards of 200 on this trip.
Our accommodations are very comfortable. The first night is spent at a comfortable business hotel in Hermosillo. In Alamos, we stay at the unique and beautiful El Pedregal Nature Lodge. Luxurious adobe casitas and the inviting central lodge are set on 20 acres of intact tropical deciduous forest right at the edge of Alamos. El Pedregal is known for its fine hospitality and delicious food. It is a beautiful and relaxing place to spend our time here. On the last two nights of the trip we stay at a very nice seaside hotel in San Carlos where every room has a view of the Sea of Cortez.
This is a fantastic trip for the beginning birder; it offers the chance to really study a high number of northern migrant birds, as well as an interesting array of tropical birds at their northern limit. The experienced birder is sure to be happy with the high number of northwest Mexican endemics in the Alamos area.
- Explore Sinaloa thorn forest, dry tropical deciduous forest, tropical deciduous habitat, and Sea of Cortez riparian zones and shorelines
- See stunning Mexican specialties like the Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, Crane Hawk Rose-throated Becard, and Plain-capped Star-throat
- Tour the stunningly beautiful historic town of Alamos, a Mexican “Pueblo Magico”
- Experience winter flocks of shorebirds by the thousands on the edge of the Sea of Cortez
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Wed., Nov. 29 : Arrival in Tucson, Arizona
Welcome to Arizona! Arrive today in Tucson, a vibrant city surrounded by mountain ranges that rise dramatically from the Sonoran Desert floor. Please arrive by 5:00 PM to enjoy an informal welcome dinner close to our hotel for convenience. Meet fellow travelers, and get ready for a great week ahead!
Please note: Some of you may want to arrive early to explore multi-cultural Tucson with its great museums and restaurants and a chance to visit the Sonoran Desert Museum at your leisure. If so, we can make recommendations.
Accommodations at Sheraton 4 Points at the Tucson Airport (D)
Thurs., Nov. 30 : Santa Ana | Hermosillo
Plan on an early breakfast at the hotel — our local guides pick us up at 7:00 AM. We have snacks and water in the van throughout the day for your comfort and convenience.
Our first stop is in Nogales, Arizona/Sonora, the border crossing point a short hour from Tucson. Here we take care of customs and immigration paperwork. Welcome to our wonderful neighbor, Mexico!
We start birding soon after our stop, hitting some extensive riparian areas and various desert locations along the way. We have lunch at a popular spot in Santa Ana before making our way towards Hermosillo, the capital and largest city of Sonora. We stop in a couple of other spots in the Sonoran Desert before getting to the hotel to relax a bit before dinner. Cactus Wren, Greater Roadrunner, Black-throated Sparrow, and other birds of the Sonoran Desert are readily on hand. Two rivers, the Sonora and the San Miguel, provide green areas in this bustling desert city.
Accommodations in Hermosillo (B,L,D)
Fri., Dec. 1 : Alamos
After birding locally and breakfast, we make our way to the colonial city of Alamos, making a few birding spots along the way, but mostly this is a travel morning. As we get closer to our destination, tall cacti and Palo Verde and Ironwood trees give way to trees of the Tropical Dry Forest.
Colonial Alamos is rich in history, noted as the base for the start of the large Coronado expedition in 1540 and established as a village in 1685. Wealth from Mexico’s silver production influenced the architecture and city. Notable buildings include private mansions, an elaborate city hall, the church of La Purisma Concepcion and La Capilla. Cobblestone streets and the Plaza de Armas are part of the charm.
We arrive at El Pedregal, our nature lodge on a 20-acre oasis in the city, for lunch in the palapa! After a short afternoon break and settling into our casitas, we do some birding close to town and enjoy a delicious dinner back at El Pedregal. Being based from one location for our time in Alamos is one of the great features of this tour, allowing you to settle in and feel at home.
Accommodations at El Pedregal (B,L,D)
Sat., Dec. 2 : Aduana Arroyo | La Aduana | Walking & Driving Tour of Alamos
Today, we take a short 15-minute drive out to the Aduana Arroyo for birding in cut over tropical deciduous habitat and agricultural fields. We have a good chance of seeing some of the region’s signature birds like Black- throated Magpie-Jay, Purplish-backed Jay, and both Happy and Sinaloa Wrens. A favorite species that brings to mind the tropics is the Squirrel Cuckoo.
We continue with a quick tour of the site of the former mining town of La Aduana, where we’ll visit the historic church (1585) and woman’s artisans cooperative.
Enjoy lunch and a siesta back at El Pedregal, where you can take a break or relax at the feeders in the shade. Our afternoon activity includes a driving and walking tour of Alamos, followed by a great Mexican buffet dinner at the Mirador Restaurant.
Accommodations at El Pedregal (B,L,D)
Sun., Dec. 3 : Mentidero Arroyo | Cuchujaqui River
This morning we explore the Mentidero Arroyo, a 30-minute drive from Alamos. The Mentidero is a tributary of the beautiful Cuchujaqui River, a tropical river drainage within a federal Natural Protected Area. Our Mentidero day often yields good looks at a number of the area specialties, including many species very difficult to see in the states, but are more abundant here. Five-striped Sparrow, Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Elegant Quail, Green Kingfisher, Common Black Hawk, Crane Hawk, and Plain-capped Star-throat are possible species.
We spend the entire morning walking in both the Mentidero arroyo and along the Cuchujaqui River, enjoying the birds as well as the plants and other wildlife. This outing requires a fair bit of walking at a slow pace over what at times can be sandy and/or rocky terrain.
As usual, lunch is back at El Pedregal, followed by some relaxing siesta time. This afternoon, we bird around the lodge, then enjoy a dinner at another of our favorite restaurants in town.
Accommodations at El Pedregal (B,L,D)
Mon., Dec. 4 : Alamos
What would a birding trip be without visiting a sewage pond! This morning we make our way to some effluent ponds on the southeast edge of Alamos, 30 minutes away, where in the green oasis, we look for Black-vented Oriole, Russet-crowned Motmot, Elegant Trogon, White-fronted Parrot, Rose-throated Becard, and Rufous-bellied Chachalaca. The perennial water found in this area makes for a fantastic array of bird life and should offer dozens of species.
Today we sample lunch at a favorite restaurant and then return for a siesta at the lodge.
In the afternoon, we have some time to visit town, for those who like to shop and wander around. Alamos is considered to be the colonial gem of the Sierra Madres, and is given the distinction of a “Pueblo Magico” by the Mexican government in recognition of the historic charm that is such a strong part of visiting Alamos. There is an excellent museum in town, too. Pro-Natura, the major Mexican conservation organization, has offices in the city and we hope to hear from them during our visit about some of their programs and successes in creating biological corridors in the region.
And for those who prefer birding, we also offer an outing. This evening, we enjoy a delicious and bountiful Sonoran feast at El Pedregal!
Accommodations at El Pedregal (B,L,D)
Tues., Dec. 5 & Wed., Dec. 6: Rio Mayo | Sea of Cortez | San Carlos Birding
All too soon we say goodbye to Alamos and head west. If you are heading back to winter, enjoy the typical dry season temperatures here of 70s to 80s during the day, with night time temperatures in the 50s.
We first stop to bird the Rio Mayo in Navojoa. This area is home to huge numbers of tropical residents, as well as migrant birds. We should find Bare-throated Tiger Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Least Grebe, and the recent colonizer, Northern Jacana.
After a couple of other good stops, we arrive at the Sea of Cortez where the sheer number of birds is amazing. We bird at the water’s edge looking for Gull-billed Tern, Mangrove Swallow, Roseate Spoonbill, Mangrove Warbler, and much more. We also experience dozens of species of shorebirds with numbers in the tens of thousands. A picnic lunch at the estero allows us to stay out and make the most of the day.
Afterwards we make our way north to San Carlos, where we spend the night at the edge of the Sea of Cortez. It is not unusual to see over 125 species of birds on this day’s route!
On Tuesday, we enjoy a full day to bird around San Carlos, enjoy the beach, and take a break from the driving. Relax!
Accommodations at Hotel Sea of Cortez Beach Club (B,L,D)
Thurs., Dec. 7 : Estero El Soldado | Santa Ana | Return to Tucson
This morning, we enjoy a seaside breakfast in San Carlos. On our way north we may make one more stop to add a few more desert birds to our list, such as Gray Vireo, Black-throated Sparrow, Bendire’s Thrasher, and Gambell’s Quail.
We stop along the way for lunch in Santa Ana, and get back to Tucson around 5:00 PM, border wait time permitting. We celebrate a successful trip with a farewell dinner at a favorite downtown restaurant!
Accommodations at Sheraton 4 Points at the Tucson Airport (B,L,D)
Fri., Dec. 8 : Departures from Tucson
Plan to depart at your convenience anytime today. Breakfast is included with your hotel. And if you would like to stay on to enjoy more sightseeing and birding in the Tucson area we can make recommendations.
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the tour: $4390 DBL / $4850 SGL, based on double occupancy from Tucson, Arizona. Includes nine nights’ accommodations, all meals as noted in the itinerary, purified water, ground transportation in vans, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. Not included is round-trip airfare to and from Tucson, personal expenses such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, and gratuities for luggage handling or other services. Guide gratuities are at your discretion.
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.
Arrival and Departure Airport: Tucson International Airport (TUS) If you are driving, please plan to park at the long-term lot of the airport.
Arrival Details:You can arrive at your leisure November 29, please try to arrive by 5:00 PM for the welcome dinner at 6:30 PM. Note, we do have an early start the following day (7:00 AM, having loaded our luggage)
Departure Details: You may depart at your leisure December 8, we arrive back to Tucson the night previous. Plan on being at the airport at least two hours ahead of your flight; our hotel has a handy airport shuttle.
TRAVEL TIP! Tucson, Arizona is a fascinating city to explore with a rich history and a downtown area that is a magnet for dining and fun. It also has a number of excellent museums including the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. We suggest that if you arrive early that you book at our first-night hotel,
Items of Note
PACE: Moderate, with full days of birding and walks on quiet roads and trails. A typical walk is less than two miles and often we have a series of walks at different spots that are a half-mile each, several times a day. DINING: Casual, a mix of local restaurants and both restaurant and picnic lunches.
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
David MacKay - Mexico Expert
Why travel with David MacKay? Known for his deep knowledge and experience with Mexican birds, David is also known for his infectious smile. He takes great joy in field time; working it hard and finding results. He enjoys life and travel as well, always planning a good day’s end meal to bask and review the day’s sighting highlights. He’s had over two decades of guiding trips and his organization shows that. You can count on David to be ready to go and steer his group to see numerous birds and have a good time.
Other trips with David MacKay - Mexico Expert
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Make sure your passport is valid for six months AFTER your return date from Mexico. Your passport must have at least two entirely blank pages.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Mexico and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
- Plan your flight reservations to arrive into and depart from Tucson International Airport (TUS). Send a copy to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Arrival in Tucson International Airport (TUS)
Please note: If you are delayed in travel, please refer to your emergency contact list, and contact your ground operator, with a copy to our office. You may also phone or text your guide.
You can arrive at your leisure today, please try to arrive by 5PM for the welcome dinner at 6:30PM. Note, we do have an early start the following day (7AM, having loaded our luggage).
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Depart Tucson International Airport (TUS)
You may depart at your leisure as we arrive back to Tucson the previous night. Plan on being at the airport at least two hours ahead of your flight; our hotel has a handy airport shuttle.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passports, Visas and Documents
A valid passport book is required to enter Mexico. You must have a passport valid at the time on entry into Mexico. Please check your expiration date carefully! We advise having at least one blank passport page per entry stamp. A visa is not required for visits of this tour's duration, but it is always advisable to double check entry requirements 60-90 days ahead of traveling. If you are from another country, please contact the Mexican embassy website for guidelines. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at:
As a precaution for lost or misplaced documents you carry on your person during travel, we highly recommend you keep hard and digital backup copies on your phone (either photo or PDF scan), as well as a hard copy left with your emergency contact at home. The recommended important documents to copy include, but are not limited to; your passport ID page, the front and back of your credit card(s), the airline barcode on your luggage. This will greatly expedite getting new ones if necessary – we hope everyone will always keep travel documents close so that losing them will not be an issue.
General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!
We will share a copy of the health information that you provided with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important in case of a medical emergency.
Vaccinations: There are presently no vaccinations required for visiting Mexico though the CDC recommends travelers should be up to date on routine vaccines, including Covid, Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Varicella (chickenpox), Polio and your yearly flu shot. Vaccines for Hepatitis A and Typhoid should be considered in consultation with your doctor. Visit your doctor 4-6 weeks before your trip to get any vaccines or medications you may need. Find up-to-date recommendations on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website (USA).
Prescriptions and Allergies: It is a good idea to pack any meds you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. Bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. Bring an adequate supply of any prescription medications you use, a copy of the prescription and a list of generic names of your medicines as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. It is also recommended to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies, chronic medical problems and Medic Alerts so that, if necessary, emergency treatment can be carried out without endangering your health.
Common Ailments: We recommend bringing a travel-sized first aid kit and a supply of standard over the counter medications for common ailments. Suggestions for a personal first aid kit include: diarrhea medicine, mild laxative, antihistamine, antacid, motion sickness pills, cough drops, decongestant, antiseptic cream, aspirin and/or acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen, saline nose spray, tear gel, antifungal and antibacterial ointments, insect bite treatment, sunblock and lip protection, oral rehydration salts, band-aids, moleskin for blisters, cotton swabs, nail clippers, and tweezers.
Weather & Climate
Weather is generally mild with warm days and cool nights this time of year. Overall, expect lows in the mid-40s at night and 50s early in the morning. Daytime averages are in the mid-70s and sometimes into the mid-80s. There is a minimal possibility of rain, though if it rains, temperatures can be a bit lower.
Annoyances & Hazards
The expected relatively dry weather should keep insects to a minimum. If you do sense insect activity, you can best protect yourself from the risk of bug bites by covering exposed skin with long-sleeved shirts and long pants, socks, and hats. Use an appropriate insect repellant (containing at least 20% DEET) spray and/or easy-to-apply repellent wipes. Permethrin-treated clothing and gear can also be a good optioin.
Food & Drinks
Our lodging and restaurants will give you a good overall feel for the warm hospitality and wonderfully varied culture and cuisine of Mexico. Restaurants have been carefully researched to insure that food has been prepared in a sanitary environment. As with any case when traveling we urge you to consider what your body is used to before you eat something. Trust your common sense when consuming food and beverages. This is the best way to avoid any unwanted problems. Ask for recommendations from your hotel or refer to a guidebook such as Frommers.
Generally, sanitation and cleanliness have improved significantly in Mexico but tap water should not be consumed. We urge you to use purified bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth. Purified water will be available everywhere you go, as well as purified ice. There will be a cooler full of drinks that your guide will keep stocked during the trip. Bring a refillable water bottle that you can refill from larger bottles of purified water as needed; this helps enormously to cut down on the use of plastics. A number of restaurants and hotels will use purified water, but you may want to ask first to be sure.
Alcoholic beverages are not included in the price of the trip. El Pedgregal will typically ask guests to keep track of their consumption during the trip and then settle up at the end of the trip, adding up totals and adding a tip. They have a nice selection of local handicrafts and art as well. There may be individual bills at restaurants, with a tab just at the lodge. Your guides will advise. It is handy to have cash for these to save time, though most locations do accept credit cards
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee at El Pedregal. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day. Again, the climate is warm to hot, so you will be comfortable in lightweight clothing.
Please, pack light. We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need much to cope with tropical life! Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down please!
TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field and have one day’s clothing change (including a change of underwear!). And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!
The official currency in Mexico is the Peso but the US dollar is accepted almost anywhere. For times when it is not, there is an exchange booth about 20 minutes south of the border where you will stop to get your border crossing tourist card. We advise that you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. For the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like www.xe.com or your bank. U.S. dollars in good condition (no rips or tears) are taken as a form of payment but shopping for smaller handicrafts may necessitate using local currency.
When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards, and there are often transaction fees for withdrawals. Check with your bank before departure and be sure you know your PIN number ahead of the journey.
We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every location will accept every card and some smaller shops and restaurants, or taxis often require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. We recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.
Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted, and can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise that you use them.
Tipping throughout the tour is at your discretion. Tips for baggage handling, meals, local guides and boatmen are included in the price of your trip. Tips for the housekeeping staff and your guides are not included. It is customary to leave a gratuity for the lodge staff to share. This way you don’t have to worry about tipping a little at a time for porterage, tips for a beer, laundry, etc. – these will be shared by all. The recommended amount for this is $7-$10 a day per person. Jennifer MacKay will help coordinate the tipping effort for the El Pedregal staff to share, the San Carlos Beach Club is just a standard maid gratuity in your room if you wish to leave one.
We can coordinate tips for your local naturalist guide on the final day as a group or you can give it to David directly. If David has another local guide involved, he will share that tip. We hope that you will also be pleased with his professional service, and we find him quite extraordinary. If you choose to tip, here are some guidelines. Guides are typically given $10 - $20 per day as you feel comfortable. Know that they appreciate anything you care to give and of course you can do more if you wish!
Please note recommended tips are quoted in U.S. dollars.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
Many cell phones from the USA will work within Mexico, although roaming and data charges may apply and can be expensive. Check with your carrier for coverage. Options include activating international roaming, purchasing a local SIM, or simply turning off cellular service and relying on Wi-Fi to make calls and access the internet.
Your hotels and local restaurants may provide Wi-Fi, at least in their common areas. Although generally a reliable service, it can be affected by adverse weather conditions in more remote locations. Consider downloading smart phone apps like Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber to send text messages, and make voice calls, or video calls via Wi-Fi. Renting an international phone may also be an option. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
If you plan NOT to use your cell phone, we highly recommend that you turn off your cellular data. This will ensure that you do not incur international roaming charges. Another technique is to put your phone in airplane mode when not connected to WIFI, you can still use it for photos and the battery will last longer too.
Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it is an emergency.
Mexico plugs are 110 volts AV (60 cycles), as they are in the U.S. and Canada. You will not need a power plug adapter if you are using U.S. or Canadian plugs. Mexican socket types are type A and B. We recommend you bring a 3 to 2 prong adaptor just in case type B sockets are not available. More information can be found at https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com/mexico/.
Sonora is in the Mountain Standard time zone. A great website if you want to tell someone to check ahead of calling you is www.timeanddate.com.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone at 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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Packing List +
Please Pack Lightly!
We know that packing for our varied itinerary is challenging, but we hope you will pare down a bit. Layering is key. The good news is that everywhere we go, dress is casual. Soft-sided luggage is easier to load and move, so if you have the choice, please use soft bags or duffels. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of all bags, as well as on a luggage tag on the handle. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
Weather on this trip can vary a bit, but this time of year it is pretty perfect! Overall, expect lows in the mid-40s at night and 50s early in the morning. Daytime averages are in the mid-70s and sometimes into the mid-80s. There is a minimal possibility of rain, though if it rains, temperatures can be a bit lower.
Dress is informal. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty, and things that are comfortable and easy. All dining attire is casual. Lightweight long-sleeve shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing, as they protect from sun, vegetation, and biting insects that may carry disease. Note on clothing colors and insect repellent: We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors, though camouflage clothing is not recommended. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.
Clothing and Gear
- Lightweight or convertible hiking pants, 1-2 pair
- Lightweight long sleeve shirts, 2-3
- T-shirts, sleeveless and short-sleeved or equivalent, 2-3
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes)
- Personal underclothing (consider what dries quickly if you plan to do laundry)
- Socks – lightweight, easy to wash and dry
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight hiking boots
- Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
- Lightweight jacket: fleece fabric is ideal, or a pullover/sweater
- Lightweight raincoat (great if this doubles as a windbreaker)
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when hot and sweaty)
- Bathing suit (optional, but nice pool facilities are at your lodgings)
- Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets
Equipment and Miscellaneous
- Airline tickets, we recommend you have a paper and a digital copy backup on your phone
- Passport, visa (if required), travel insurance info, money & credit cards.
- A secure pouch to carry the items above on your person at all times (such as a secure, under-clothing document pouch)
- As a backup: copies of all the above (phone and/or paper) packed in a separate location than on your person, plus a set given to your emergency contact at home as a backup. For passport, copy of the ID and entry stamp pages.
- Small daypack or fanny pack for carrying your field gear
- Umbrella – compact and not brightly colored (optional)
- Walking sticks (optional, but recommended if you usually use them when hiking)
- Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock
- Sunscreen/lip balm and waterproof sunblock
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent (containing at least 20% DEET)
- Toiletry articles
- Earplugs (if hotel noise or roommates snoring may bother you; these are optional)
- Water bottle (can easily be bought in the airport and refilled daily)
- Binoculars (a hotel shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining)
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional – guide will have them)
- Camera and extra batteries/chargers, memory cards, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- 3 to 2 prong outlet adaptors
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical and First Aid Items
- Heath insurance and vaccination information (kept in personal pouch with other travel documents)
- Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions, including glasses)
- Personal first aid kit including medications for general and stomach ailments
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on van, etc.
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
Suggested Reading List +
These books are, of course, optional, but recommended to help you get the most out of your trip. There are many titles of interest for Mexico; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Field Guides and Apps
Merlin Bird ID, Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Free app you can download here, and then select the Bird Pack for the appropriate part of Mexico.
General Reading: Nature
General Reading: Culture & Conservation
Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Alamos, Sonora, MX eBird Printable Field Checklist
San Carlos Bird Guide
Amphibians and Reptiles of Mexico
Tropical Deciduous Forest and The Sonoran Desert: A Strong Connection
Flora of Southern Sonora
Vegetation of the Alamos Region of Sonora
Selected Wildlife of the Alamos Region of Sonora
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
Research and Conservation in Alamos, Sonora, MX
“An Effective Alternative for Habitat Conservation” – Article in Sonoran Joint Venture
Navopatia Field Station – Sonora, MX
Conservation Issues in Sonora, MX – The Biodiversity Group (.org)
Sierra de Álamos – Río Cuchujaqu Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO)
Geology & Geography
Generalized Geologic map of Sonora, Mexico
The Geologic Origin of the Sonoran Desert
The Topography of the Sonoran Desert and Surrounding Areas
Geography of Alamos, Mexico
Estero El Soldado
History & Culture
History and Culture of Alamos
Art and Artists of Alamos
Historic Town of Alamos (UNESCO)
Helpful Travel Websites
Tucson International (TUS)
National Passport Information Center
U.S. Department of State, Mexico International Travel Information - Mexico
Homeland Security Real ID Act
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - Mexico
Canada Travel Advise and Advisories - Mexico
Travel Health Pro (UK) – Mexico
Foreign Exchange Rates
Electricity and Plugs - Mexico
Date, Time, and Holidays – Mexico
Photo credits: Banner Photo: Roseate Spoonbills by Betty Andres; Group by Peg Abbott; Russet-crowned Motmot by Peg Abbott; San Miguel River by Peg Abbott; Elegant Trogon by Tom Dove; Green Kingfisher by Peg Abbott; Common Black Hawk by Greg Smith; Black-thoated Magpie Jay by David McKay; Brown Booby by Peg Abbott; Osprey by Bud Ferguson; Gambel's Quail, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Black-vented Oriole by Robert Gallardo; Desert Scenic, NJ Stock; Green Kingfisher, Tom Dove; El Pedregal, courtesy El Pedregal; Elegant Trogon, Peg Abbott; Rose-throated Becard, Tom Dove; Roseate Spoonbill, Betty Andres; Sea of Cortez Walk, NJ Stock; Desert Sunset, NJ Stock; Fishermen, Peg Abbott; Local with Dog, Peg Abbott; Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Peg Abbott; Group Shopping, Peg Abbott; Group, Peg Abbott; Steeple, David McKay; Black Phoebe, Peg Abbott; Black-necked Stilts, Peg Abbott; Blue Mockingbird, Peg Abbott; Scenic with Cross, Peg Abbott; Group at Dinner, Peg Abbott; Alamos Door, Peg Abbott; El Pedregal Pool, Peg Abbott; Sea of Cortez Scenic; Peg Abbott; Organ Pipe Cactus, Peg Abbott; Dog, Peg Abbott.