“Ferocious with life,” is what John Steinbeck said of it; Jacques Cousteau called it the “Galapagos of North America.” Both were captivated by the Sea of Cotes and on a cruise through Baja, California, you will be too. Just south of California lies this unrushed and uncrowded inland sea – the Gulf of California, more commonly known as the Sea of Cortes. UNESCO has declared this a World Heritage Site, calling it one of the most biologically diverse marine environments on earth. In fact, these wildlife-rich waters and islands are home to both plants and animals found nowhere else, including giant lizards, sea turtles, boobies, sharks, mantas, sea lions and many species of whales.
If you travel in December to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico to board the Un-Cruise Safari Voyager, you'll participate in the Baja Whale Bounty Adventure – December through April being prime whale-watching months. It’s during this time that Gray whales are in the San Ignacio Lagoon and do their birthing.
A Sense of Place
Small group travel is the heart of Un-Cruise Adventures. Small ships and yachts ply the waters of Alaska, Hawaii, Columbia and Snake Rivers, Washington, British Columbia and my choice – the Sea of Cortes. Trademark watchwords for this cruise: “rigid flexibility.” At a moment’s notice, one must be prepared to deviate from the day’s plans, depending on water currents, weather conditions, and sightings of sea mammals. The result is some extraordinary experiences in wild and scenic places that provide true, meaningful travel.
As you leisurely sail the northwestern region of the Baja California peninsula, you'll kayaked through mangrove forests and in crystalline blue coves, hike along dunes and cactus-clad ridges, swim with playful sea lions and, of course, whale watched! I That word is emphasized because frequently many of us go on whale-watching sojourns equipped with binoculars and high hopes, only to return after a day of disappointing whale searching - desperately searching for a large gray mammal to pop its head out of the sea and give us the thrill we’ve been patiently waiting for… then nada. Well, this time it will be different. More on this later.
Setting off from San Jose del Cabo, you'll visit the island of Gordo Banks whose frequent visitors are manta rays, humpback whales and hammerhead sharks. Next stop, Isla San Francisco where you'll have the chance to snorkel along barnacled rocks and later take a hike through desert and low scrub to photograph the salt flats and the tiny animals living in tidal pools. At Isla Santa Catalina, you'll have a guided hike into a forest to view the giant Cardon, world’s tallest cactus. An accommodating burro will carry you on high, to the ridges above the sea, and through mountains and canyons - providing an “authentic Baja” experience.
In the evening you'll skiff over to the beach for a bonfire ashore, your only light the fire itself and the heavens so star-laden it seems implausible – a bright, fanciful end to the day. Los Islotes has a lively, colorful and very noisy sea lion colony. As you approach the outcropping of rocks and well before you see the animals, you'll hear them – their raucous “barking” mingling with “laughing” seagull cries announces that you're in a strange and special spot. You can swim with agile sea lion pups and, thoughone is told they’d be playful, you won't expect them to be quite so in your face. But they are pretty adorable so no concern. Now, if the pups’ adult parents decide to enter the fray, that might be a different story.
A Whale of a Time
Then – the highlight of your cruise – Bahia Magdalena. You'll dock in Puerto Escondido and head across the peninsula to hop on pangas (small outboard-powered fishing boats).Your thoughts may turn to 50-ton beasts tipping your boat over and ultimately swimming with whales, but you'll be assured that this has never happened. Fears assuaged, you'll quickly know that you ae at the right place – at the very right time. All around you: giant yet gentle whales spouting through blow-holes, cresting and even swimming so close to the panga you can reach out and pet their smooth, rubbery backs. All past disappointments at trying to spot these creatures fade away. For once you are truly whale watching! You'll spend a few hours at this thrilling fun while surrounded by Blue-footed boobies, Brown pelicans, cormorants and gulls that add to this exceptional experience. The whales will leave Bahia Magdalena later in the year to make the 3,000 mile return swim to Alaska..
During your voyage, you'll realize that this isn’t small ship cruising or large ship cruising. It is unconventional, uncompromising casual adventure – fully focused on delivering unexpected experiences – quality over quantity, wildlife over nightlife, life-changing encounters over momentary entertainment. Un-Cruise is designed to be far from the ordinary and it fully lives up to its promise. The leaders and guides have advanced training in natural and cultural history. The service on-board is attentive and professional – and the fellowship is brilliant.
Back in San Jose del Cabo, your adventure over, you'll disembark and bid adios and a heartfelt thanks for the memories to the captain and crew. You will now discarded your long-held idea of cruising as somewhat predictable, sometimes even a bit boring. This time you've opted for inspiring, surprising, stimulating. You've picked the Un-Cruise – and you are really glad you did!
It's summer. You want to be out on the water yet you're awfully far from Baja California. Not to worry. Check our our NYC options:
Spirit New York Cruises, www.spiritcruises.com/newyork
Bateaux New York, www.bateauxnewyork.com
World Yacht, www.worldyacht.com
If You Go:
Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort