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Mexico Expedition Cruise: Baja California and the Sea of Cortez

12 days from £4,375pp

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Mexico Expedition Cruise: Baja California and the Sea of Cortez:
Trip Dossier

Baja California is a ribbon of rugged desert which snakes its way through the Pacific Ocean parallel to the Mexican Coast from which is it separated by the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) which your expedition ship will explore during this spectacular week-long cruise. The peninsula attracts millions of visitors every year, lured by Cabo, with its luxury resorts, fishing, golf and the water-sports.  However there is another world out there: the wildlife refuges of the Sea of Cortez, the lagoons where whales breed in tranquillity, uninhabited islands inundated with seabirds. You’ll be immersed in a riot of colour: perfect white-sand beaches are lapped by turquoise waters framed by tangerine sunsets. This is the magic you are going to discover on your cruise holiday which starts in Mexico City. 

The cruise will suit most people who love adventure, water sports, walking, landscapes and wildlife. Throughout the season there are departures with invited specialists in biology, photography, ornithology and wellness. If you are particularly interested in any of these we can point you towards the right cruise.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Mexico City, transfer to hotel in historic core.

Day 2

Guided city tour with Museum of Anthropology.

Day 3

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

Day 4

By road to La Paz and embark the Safari Endeavour.

Day 5

Visit Isla San Francisco.

Day 6

Explore Bahia Agua Verde.

Day 7

Exploring the islands off the coast of Baja.

Day 8

Whale-watching In Magdalena Bay.

Day 9

Discover Los Islotes and Isla Partida.

Day 10

Cross a narrow channel to Isla Espiritu Santo.

Day 11

Return to La Paz and overnight there.

Day 12

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

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Mexico City, transfer to hotel in historic core.
 
Mexico City

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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Mexico City

Day 2

Guided city tour with Museum of Anthropology.
 
Mexico City Street

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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Mexico City Street

Day 3

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

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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Cabo San Lucas

Day 4

By road to La Paz and embark the Safari Endeavour.
 
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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safari endeavour

Day 5

Visit Isla San Francisco.
 
baja

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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baja

Day 6

Explore Bahia Agua Verde.
 
Baja California Mexico

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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Baja California Mexico

Day 7

Exploring the islands off the coast of Baja.
 
safari endeavour

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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safari endeavour

Day 8

Whale-watching In Magdalena Bay.
 
whale watching

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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whale watching

Day 9

Discover Los Islotes and Isla Partida.
 
Baja California

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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Baja California

Day 10

Cross a narrow channel to Isla Espiritu Santo.
 
Baja California

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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Baja California

Day 11

Return to La Paz and overnight there.
 
la paz baja

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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la paz baja

Day 12

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

Essential information

Transport

Two domestic flights. 8 day expedition/adventure cruise.

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates an adventurous cruise on board a comfortable mid-range expeditionary cruise ship, Safari Endeavour, accommodating 84-88 guests and 34-37 staff and crew. The many facilities includes covered wine bar, two hot tubs, sauna, exercise equipment and massage rooms. Equipment is available for the following activities: snorkelling, paddle boarding and kayaking.  

Your hotels are good quality mid-range properties with plenty of Mexican character.  

Meals

Breakfast daily; full board on the cruise ship days 4-11.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 30 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return. Your guides on the Safari Endeavour cruise are specialists in adventure activities, wildlife, geology and history. Themed departures feature guest lecturers prominent in their fields: biology, ornithology, wellness, photography. 

Included excursions

• Full-day guided tour of Mexico City and Anthropology Museum
• A choice of activities from the ship - all are included in the price..

Summary of nights

12 days, 11 nights: Mexico City 2; San José del Cabo 1; cruise 7; La Paz 1.. 

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Mexico is the Mexican peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40 (for the days when you are not on the cruise, will cover food, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants in Mexico City and you may pay more.. 

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

The cruise staff and local guides onshore will welcome a gratuity: they often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. Most service industry workers will hope for a tip so it is useful to have spare change for waiters, hotel porters, taxi drivers etc. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.
 

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors. If you have doubts about your fitness for the cruise, we will send you a medical questionnaire. 

Families are welcome but children must be over 8 years old. There is no special entertainment programme on board for children. Children and and teenagers who are interested in the wildlife and nature as well as water sports should enjoy the cruise. 

Climate

In Mexico City and the mountains towns the climate is temperate all year round and, because of the altitude it never gets too hot. Temperatures can drop to freezing in Mexico City over the winter months.

The islands of the Sea of Cortez enjoy 300-360 days of sunshine a year, year round temperatures in the 20°s and 30°s C tempered by sea breezes, and little rain. The sea is colder on the Pacific side because of cold currents. 

Clothing and special equipment

Bring practical, comfortable clothing and a light-weight jumper. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants in Mexico City, although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate. 

For the kayaking light and protective clothing, a sun hat and practical sandals (they will get wet) are advised. For both the evenings and nights, bring warm and comfortable clothing; a light fleece jacket. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. 

Strong, comfortable shoes or trainers are advisable and you should bring insect repellant, sun block, sun glasses, goggles and swim wear. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. For specific requirements you must consult your GP.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.   Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. 

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US, you will need to fill in an ESTA application online at ESTA online.

This costs $14 per person, and must be applied for by you personally.

Passports must also be e-passports with an embedded digital chip  Avoid locking suitcases when transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

Clients with a different nationality should refer to our Briefing Dossier and check with the Mexican Consulate.
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