Come face to face with grey whales in San Ignacio Lagoon, see highly endangered Guadalupe fur seals and observe blue, sperm, Bryde’s and humpback whales on this trip of a lifetime on board the Searcher.
The rugged desert peninsula of Baja California is more than 1,250 kilometres long and its west coast is bathed by the cool, nutrient-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean. The incredible diversity of marine life that exists here includes whales, dolphins, turtles, seals, birds and over 900 species of fish. It is the place to see grey whales at close quarters in their breeding lagoons, and we also hope to see playful humpback whales breaching, along with blue whales, the largest mammals of all.
This exclusive voyage travels to Baja's spectacular Pacific coast at a time when a variety of whale species congregate there. Selected departures will be accompanied by Wildlife Worldwide founder Chris Breen whose first experience of whale watching in Baja California was so moving that he made a vow to return every year. In his own words: "I have been all over the world looking at some amazing wildlife but there is something utterly captivating about whale watching and Mexico’s Baja Peninsula in particular."
The Searcher, a 28-metre vessel with a friendly crew of seven, is the perfect choice for this whale watching adventure, and the captain, Art Taylor, has been operating in Baja for over 30 years, with a strong focus on responsible whale watching. During your week on board, enjoy activities such as snorkelling, hiking, birding walks and whale watching, each supported by the expertise of our on-board naturalist guides.
Read Wildlife Travel Consultant Helen Bryon's blog about her amazing trip on board the Searcher.
Day1: Fly to San Diego & overnight
We take a scheduled flight to San Diego, California, and on arrival make our own way to our overnight hotel. Dinner this evening is at leisure, with plenty of options to choose from.
Day2: Free day, board Searcher in the evening & set sail
Most of today is at leisure, before boarding our vessel this evening; we set sail at around 10pm. Our home for the next seven nights is the Searcher, a comfortable vessel with 14 cabins, each with bunk beds.
Day3: Islas Todos Santos
Following a stop at Ensenada harbour for Mexican Customs and Immigration clearance, we cruise along Islas Todos Santos with the opportunity to view nesting seabirds, rocky reef and cliff life, and harbour seal adults and pups. We may spot our first grey whales already making their way from the warm waters of the lagoons around Baja’s coastline where they mate and calve, northward to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Also keep an eye out for fin whales, dolphins and seabirds.
Day4: Islas San Benito
Today we stop at Isla San Benito and spend a day ashore. We hike to an old lighthouse and observe northern elephant seals crowded in each cove; as we coincide with the breeding season, jousting males, nursing pups and resting females make for wonderful photography opportunities. We should also see nesting birds, such as osprey and ravens, and spot unique desert plants. Rare Guadalupe fur seals can also been seen here.
In the evening we continue to navigate south to San Ignacio Lagoon, with outstanding birdwatching opportunities including the charismatic black-footed albatross.
Days5-6: Whale watching in San Ignacio Lagoon
We continue to San Ignacio Lagoon, our home for two days and one of the voyage highlights, with extraordinarily close encounters with the world’s friendliest whales.
Grey whales mate and calve in San Ignacio Lagoon from January through until the end of April. From mid March onwards, males begin to head north along the coast towards their distant feeding grounds in the northern reaches of the Pacific Ocean and in the Arctic Sea. At this time, perhaps because the mothers are no longer having to contend with ‘amorous suitors’, there is increased contact behaviour with the boats, and even greater opportunities for interaction with the whales.
Our boat is one of the few to hold a permit to anchor in the vast, almost land-locked lagoon. Hundreds of grey whales congregate here, and we take trips aboard pangas piloted by local fishermen and wait for them to approach. With any luck, some of these gentle creatures - along with their young at this time of year - will come so close that they rub against the hulls of the pangas and seemingly court our attention - a moving and truly memorable experience. At night the clear desert skies fill with stars, we can hear coyotes howl and, as we sail, we may see blue and humpback whales plus Pacific white-sided dolphins feeding in the nutrient-rich waters.
Day7: Offshore Bahía Magdalena
Today we cruise the nutrient rich waters off Bahía Magdalena, a major feeding ground for blue whale and home to a staggering number of migratory and marine birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals – including grey whales, Bryde’s, fin and humpback whales, pods of long-beaked common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, turtles, sharks and more.
This area comprises the largest wetland ecosystem on the west coast of Baja California and is considered one of the most important in North America. The bay provides a vital calving area for the Eastern Pacific grey whale, and a feeding ground for several species of endangered marine turtles.
Day8: Offshore Cabo San Lucas
This morning we cruise to Gorda Banks where humpback whales gather to sing and mate; if lucky, we may have spectacular encounters, and may also see the majestic northbound migrating blue whales. During the afternoon we stop at Los Frailes beach where we have the opportunity to snorkel and enjoy some birdwatching.
Day9: Arrive Cabo San Lucas, disembark & depart for the UK
We are scheduled to arrive in Cabo San Lucas in the early morning. After disembarking and clearing Mexican customs, it is time to transfer to Los Cabos international airport for an overnight flight back to the UK.
Day10: Arrive UK
You should note: After exploring the Pacific Coast of Baja California, why not extended your stay to the Sea of Cortez? We have designed a fabulous 4-day extension based around La Paz where you can see (and swim with!) sealions and whale sharks, as well as looking for blue, fin, humpback and Bryde’s whales and bottlenose dolphins. From £695 per person - contact one of our experts for full details.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 10 daysfrom £5,295 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 9 daysfrom £4,295 pp
Group size: 25
, Fully booked, Led by Chris Breen & Andrea Dransfield
, Limited spaces, Led by Lee Morgan & Andrea Dransfield
Chris studied Geographical Sciences in Plymouth, however his first encounter with the wider world was in 1983, when he headed off to Zambia.
Under the tutelage of the late Norman Carr, the pioneer of walking safaris, he worked as a wildlife guide and managed a wilderness camp. On his return to the UK, he had a spell at a major tour operator before setting up Wildlife Worldwide in 1992.
Since then he has travelled the world in search of first-class wildlife experiences. He devised the Festival of Wildlife concept, which has spawned the Festival of Bears and the Festival of Whales that now both operate on an annual basis. An ardent conservationist, Chris has co-led each of these since their inception. He dedicates several weeks each year to communicating his irrepressible passion for nature to those who travel with him.
With over ten years experience of guiding a wide range of wildlife tours worldwide, Lee is also a professional ecologist, naturalist, photographer and writer.
He has spent eight seasons leading natural history cruises around Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, and consequently has a wealth of knowledge about the whales that frequent these waters. Lee has also worked as a bear guide in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, and has a particular passion for the wildlife of Canada’s Pacific Coast.
Andrea Dransfield is a California-based marine biologist, with wide experience both in studying whales and dolphins and interpreting their behaviour for the public. With a strong professional interest in geographical information systems, for her Master’s thesis she modelled whale habitat use and shipping, in order to avoid conflict between them. For her undergraduate thesis she studied harbour porpoises in British Columbia. Having also worked for a range of consultancies with birds, freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles and wildflowers, she is passionate about all wildlife and its conservation and is a rich source of information on the wild places of the western seaboard of North America.
San Ignacio Lagoon is located in the Mexican province of Baja California and is one of the winter sanctuaries of the eastern Pacific grey whale. Here, males and females congregate looking for mates and newborn calves prepare themselves for the long journey north to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic.
This itinerary is available on the following
Operating in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, the Searcher is a 28-metre vessel, skippered by a captain with over 30 years experience of sailing these waters. She has 14 air-conditioned cabins and is an ideal choice for exceptional whale watching opportunities and a quality natural history experience.