Private Journeys

Mexico Expedition Cruise: Baja California and the Sea of Cortez

12 days from £5,760pp

Mexico

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive Mexico City, transfer to hotel in historic core.

Your hotel is centrally located right next to the Zócalo, the capital’s massive main square dominated by the monumental Spanish cathedral. Mexico City, known by Mexicans simply as ‘DF’ (Distrito Federal), was built on the site of Tenochtitlan, the focal point of the Aztec empire, and it lies at 2,250m above sea level. Vast, chaotic and vibrant, this sprawling megalopolis of more than 20 million people has a multitude of attractions and a surprising number of green, open spaces. Mexicans are masters at taking traditional art and architecture and applying it sensitively to create a more contemporary style that many refer to as modern Mexican which can be seen throughout the city.        

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Day 2

Guided city tour with Museum of Anthropology.

Mexico City has evolved over the centuries into a modern day metropolis. A history of agricultural cultivation, religious ritual, and warring tribes took a seismic turn with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and the development of the city was fuelled by silver mining.

This is all reflected in the cultural vestiges apparent all over the modern day city which you will survey during your guided city tour. Visit the main square, the Cathedral and the National Palace with its murals by Diego Rivera. Travel down elegant boulevards to reach the world-class Museum of Anthropology, exhibiting remarkable, well displayed Aztec artifacts alongside items from other ancient civilisations. It’s a fantastic introduction to the superb and sometimes grisly artistic achievements of Mexico’s early inhabitants.

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Day 3

Transfer to the airport and fly to San José del Cabo.

San José del Cabo is the peaceful and attractive sister of the more raucous resort of Cabo San Lucas. While the beach running south of town is lined with hotels and condos, the centre is still quintessentially Mexican in atmosphere and the area around the main square, with its wrought-iron bandstand, illuminated fountain and attractive church, is lovely. There is also a selection of good restaurants, cafés and art galleries. Overnight in an arty boutique style hotel in the centre which we believe serves some of the best food in Baja!

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Day 4

By road to La Paz and embark the Safari Endeavour.

It’s approximately three hours’ drive down the main road to La Paz. La Paz is an easy-going port and is a very pleasant base from which visitors explore southern Baja California or indulge in outdoor adventure activities such as diving, fishing or sea-kayaking. The town has a university and a lively cultural scene as well. There is a palm-fringed waterfront promenade (malecón) and there are some lovely unspoilt beaches not far away.

You’ll be returning there at the end of the cruise but today you head directly for the port, and embark your expedition ship, Safari Endeavour. You’ll be joined on this drive trip by your expedition team, who will begin to tell you about what you can expect during the week which lies ahead. Upon arrival, the captain and crew welcome you aboard just in time for a cocktail and dinner where you can begin to get to know your fellow travellers.

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Day 5

Visit Isla San Francisco.

The first port of call is Isla San Francisco, 75 km north of La Paz and is separated from the peninsula of Baja California by a channel about 10 km wide. It’s a small island, less than 4 square kilometres, but ten species of reptile live there, scampering over the sun-blasted rocks of steep red bluffs and the stunning crescent-moon-shaped deserted beach. What you do during your land time here is up to you:  cacti stride across the rugged slopes and if you decide to hike up between them to a viewpoint you will have a panoramic view over the whole length of the bay. You may also spot sea birds rarely glimpsed in this region, such as yellow-footed gulls, white-throated swifts and sandpipers, as well as members of a resident sea lion colony. At sea level, you may be tempted into the water to snorkel, or grab a kayak and paddle across the glassy surface.

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Day 6

Explore Bahia Agua Verde.

The boat sails north and drops anchor at Bahía Agua Verde, where there’s a sheltered marina but not much else in the way of infrastructure.  Here, sparse craggy mountains descend to crystal-clear waters while scrubby vegetation adds splashes of green to the otherwise arid landscape. Explore the coast by small skiff, visit a local farmer and his family, and maybe explore the canyons and mountains by mule to experience the ‘real Baja.’ Once again, from this leisurely perspective, you’ll be rewarded by fantastic views and birdlife.

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Day 7

Exploring the islands off the coast of Baja.

At the end of the 19th century, commercial oyster farming was established in the waters lapping Baja California with the aim of cultivating pearls. Millions of these were harvested and over 1,000 workers were recruited, but the enterprise was destroyed in the turmoil of the Mexican revolution. While it’s unlikely you’ll find any black pearls today, you’ll sail among islands once explored by the early Spanish conquistadors. Your expedition team will be at-the-ready with adventurous options to choose from—kayaking, hiking, paddle boarding, or beachcombing.

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Day 8

Whale-watching In Magdalena Bay.

This is one of the most exciting days of your trip. Dock in Puerto Escondido and then cross the peninsula by land to Bahía de Magdalena on Baja’s west coast. Here, from mid-January to March, ship-sized grey whales are present, having arrived to calve, after an epic migration of up to 20,000km. Embark a small motor launch to observe the huge mammals and their babies in the sheltered lagoon. Chasing the whales is not allowed but frequently the curious creatures  will swim right up to your panga or, more unnervingly, under it.  They are without fear of humans and will allow you gently to pat them – a humbling experience. And you will certainly get some good photos!

From November to mid-January and March, the ship will visit Bahía de la Paz where whale sharks—the largest known species of fish—are known to frequent the bay. Keep watch for the watery ‘footprints’ of these gentle giants, and conditions permitting, gear up to enter the water for an unforgettable swim alongside the colossal creature or, if you prefer, observe them from above in your skiff.

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Day 9

Discover Los Islotes and Isla Partida.

At Los Islotes—a dramatic craggy seamount leaping straight from the sea—you can observe a sea lion colony of over 200 members from the boat and skiff, or slip into a wetsuit for an early morning snorkel with agile young sea lion pups. They are playful and doe-eyed, but won’t hesitate to outstare you, sneeze in your face or maybe even nibble your toes. Afterwards, heave anchor and set sail for Isla Partida, for an afternoon in the water or striding off on a hike along deserted beaches or into dry rocky riverbeds, accompanied by lizards slithering across the rocks and desert birds flitting above.

You may come across vestiges of the camps of the original indigenous  inhabitants of Baja, the Seri. These hardy people travelled large distances across the Gulf of Cortez seeking out resources and establishing shelters and small settlements.

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Day 10

Cross a narrow channel to Isla Espiritu Santo.

Isla Espiritu Santo is the jewel in the crown of the Sea of Cortez. So important is it ecologically that it is protected by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve. Ranges of arid craggy hills are sliced through by steep ravines and cactus-studded valleys. Settlement is virtually prohibited here, but visitors can camp and stroll along the flour-white beaches. The scalloped coastline is composed of a necklace of bays and coves defined by rocky headlands and lapped by dazzling aquamarine waves. You might just enjoy the velvety soft sands between your toes but you may be tempted by a guided hike on one of the walking trails up a narrow valley to a headland where you are rewarded with sweeping island and ocean vistas. Back on board, you will celebrate your voyage with a special farewell dinner.

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Day 11

Return to La Paz and overnight there.

The boat sails back to the port of La Paz, where you will disembark. The capital of Baja California is home to a quarter of a million inhabitants but still has a small town feel, and maintains a Mexican ambiance somewhat lacking in the other more US-influenced towns of southern Baja California. Your hotel is well located so you should have time to explore the town and maybe take an evening stroll along the picturesque seaside promenade – although the town is on the eastern side of the peninsula the coastline wiggles incongruously here allowing for spectacular displays of purple and tangerine as the sun sets over the sea.

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Day 12

Fly from La Paz to Mexico City to connect with your international flight.

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