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Baja: Whale Shark Diving, Snorkeling, and Research

Bring your snorkel and fins to help study whale sharks while sailing the Sea of Cortez aboard an award-winning catamaran. Varied daily activities include snorkeling, diving, hiking, and kayaking.

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Overview

  • Look for and learn about whale sharks with help from one of the world’s leading whale shark experts, and lend your hand to her research.
  • Beyond whale sharks we may see magnificent whales, colorful fish, spectacular bird life, dolphins, sea lions, and endemic plants that make the Sea of Cortez Islands and Protected Areas a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Varied daily activities include snorkeling, diving, hiking, and kayaking.
  • Family-friendly program for ages 8 and above.

Join marine biologist Dr. Dení Ramírez for this one-of-a-kind expedition to look for and collect data on whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez. These gentle giants visit the Bay of La Paz to feed on plankton and then migrate to deeper waters around Espíritu Santo Island to give birth. Bring the whole family (ages 8 and up) to swim, hike, kayak, snorkel, dive, and investigate nature in between whale shark sightings. Like many shark species, these animals are threatened with extinction, and Dení’s research contributes to the knowledge base needed to save them.

Our ship is a 45-foot catamaran with four double bed cabins, each with private baths and air conditioning. The boat is equipped with swim steps for easy water access, as well as kayaks and dive equipment upon request.

Beyond whale sharks, our goal on this expedition is to observe and experience the diverse and productive marine environment of the Sea of Cortez, the Earth's youngest and richest sea. The waters here teem with countless invertebrate species, abundant and diverse fish species, and one-third of the world's whale and dolphin species. On land, an exceptional 695 vascular plant species are scattered among colorful and rugged desert landscapes.

Wildlife Highlights

The goal of this expedition is to observe and collect data on whale sharks (Rhincodon typus)—slow-moving, filter-feeding sharks that are the largest known fish. Whale sharks are threatened with extinction worldwide, classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

On our journey we may also see humpback, blue, and finback whales, dolphins, sea lions, "flying" rays, and other marine megafauna. You'll also have the opportunity to snorkel in waters where arrays of wondrous tropical fish thrive. More than 650 species of tropical and temperate fish inhabit the Sea of Cortez, 90 of them endemic.

The birdlife in the Sea of Cortez is also spectacular and many tropical seabirds are common. Magnificent Frigatebirds, Brown and Blue-footed Boobies, Brown Pelicans, Heermann's Gulls, Yellow-footed and Western Gulls, Royal and Elegant Terns, and Red-billed Tropicbirds can all be found here and add to the excellent diversity of this expedition.

Trip Dates & Cost

2018: May 27 – June 3. $2,600 / person in shared double-bed cabins.* Group limit 7; family friendly for ages 8 and up.

* Trip price does not include international airfare. There are two single cabins available on each departure, for a single supplement fee of $800. All other cabins have one double bed. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.

Photos
Naturalist

Dení Ramírez has been studying whale sharks in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) since 2002, and now studies whale shark population genetics around the world. She uses DNA sampling, photographic identification, and observation to understand whale shark population demographics and behavior. So little is known about the sharks in her study area that the research she is conducting is vital to understanding and protecting this threatened species.

Itinerary

Day 1: La Paz
Arrive in La Paz, transfer to the marina and spend the night aboard the catamaran. Dinner is at your leisure, with time to explore the colorful city of La Paz.

Days 2–6: Cruising the Sea of Cortez
Early in the morning of Day 2, our search for the whale sharks begins as we head out to the Sea of Cortez (also called the Gulf of California). The periodic aid of a spotter airplane will help direct us to any animals found in the area. Our onboard naturalist and researcher, Dení Ramírez, will be on hand to help you learn about this magnificent fish. So little is known about the whale sharks here that the research she is doing is vital to understand and protecting this threatened species. Obtaining DNA samples, taking photographic IDs, and observing whale sharks to obtain sex ratios and sizes has allowed Dení to begin the process of defining the population. Participants will have a chance to assist Dení as she works with the sharks and to learn about the global effort to protect them through talks, discussions, and demonstrations.

Not only will we encounter whale sharks, but we will visit some of the best snorkel and/or dive sites in the area, explore the Sea of Cortez's legendary islands, snorkel with playful sea lions, and investigate odd and mysterious plants that somehow thrive in the rocky desert. The daily itinerary depends on the groups' experience level, the location of the whale sharks, weather conditions, and other variables.

Some of the islands we may visit include Isla Catalan, Isla San Francisco, Isla Santa Cruz, Agua Verde, Isla San Jose, and Isla Espiritu Santo and Los Islotes.

Day 7: La Paz
After a morning dive (optional) to savor the last moments of this incredible expedition, it's time to say goodbye. Arrive in the afternoon to La Paz and transfer to your hotel. The afternoon is at your leisure to relax or explore the town.

Day 8: Fly home

Accommodations

For the first six nights, travelers will stay on board an award-winning 45 foot catamaran, which has four cabins, each with double bed, private head and shower, and air conditioning available day & night.

There is a large galley up front with a saloon and seating, and a large seating and dining area outside, under the canvas bimini. The width of the boat allows for plenty of deck space and one can always find a quiet, private spot. Aft there is a wide walkway across the boat and steps down for easy water access. The boat sails incredibly well, is very stable and is equipped with complete electronics and high powered engines, giving great performance and reliability under power as well as sail.

On the final night of this program participants will stay in double occupancy rooms in a comfortable and conveniently located hotel in La Paz.

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