Wildlife Group Tour

Baja California Cruise - Whale Watching with New Scientist

12 days

from £4,895pp
  • World renowned whale watching including grey, blue, fin,sperm and humpback whales
  • Travel with Art Taylor, who has been sailing the seas of Baja for over thirty years
  • Grey Whale research scientist Dr Steven Swartz will spend three days on board
  • Up close and personal, amongst the grey whales in Laguna San Ignacio
  • Sail the marine rich waters of the Sea of Cortez where whales and wildlife are in abundance

Join the Searcher on a twelve-day voyage around the Baja Peninsula. This is a wonderful opportunity to explore this rich marine world with some of the best naturalist guides available. Art Taylor, owner and captain of the Searcher has been navigating these waters for over thirty years and is hugely passionate about the wildlife and sharing it with his passengers. His knowledge is unrivalled. Marine conservationist and producer of the documentary A Plastic Ocean, Jo Ruxton will also be onboard for the duration of the trip. She will be on hand to offer an insight into the damage being done to our oceans and how we can help mitigate this.

While this is predominantly a whale watching cruise, there is a huge breadth of experiences to be had on this trip, ranging from snorkelling and hiking to birding and wildlife photography, as well as the chance to swim with whale sharks if conditions allow.

The Searcher is one of the smallest expedition vessels for just 24 passengers. The Searcher boasts three pangas of its own so guests can be sure the very best will be made of every sighting opportunity. Moreover, it provides one of the most complete itineraries of the west coast of the peninsula, travelling south from San Diego to the tip of Baja at Cabo San Lucas and extending into the Sea of Cortez for further breath-taking wildlife opportunities.

Why should I join this whale watching cruise?

Opportunity to join a small skilled expedition vessel to experience one of the most exhilarating whale watching encounters on the Pacific Coast. Our travel expert John has recently returned from Baja, on board the searcher. Read his blog and find out why he agrees entirely with Jacques Cousteau's description of the Sea of Cortez as "the aquarium of the world". 

How fit do I need to be?

You do not need to be particularly fit, but agile enough to climb in and out of pangas and occasionally hike on uneven terrain.

What wildlife will I see?

There will be grey, blue, fin, humpback, sperm, Bryde's and pilot whales with many more species possible, including dolphins, reef fish, sea lions, elephant seals and fur seals. And a plethora of birdlife from a variety of habitats including mangroves, deserts, shore and open ocean.   

Will we have the opportunity to snorkel?

Yes. Absolutely. Islas San Jose, Santa Catalina, and Los Islotes are lovely places for snorkelling with a great reef life including sea stars, sea fans and tropical fish. There may also be an opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks, weather permitting. (At an additional cost).

How rough will the water be?

The crossing from San Diego and the first night travelling north in the Sea of Cortez are likely to be the roughest stretches of water, but for the rest of the trip you are relatively close to shore where the water is calmer and of course even more sheltered when in the bays.

Is January the best time of year to travel?

Yes.  Between December and April, the Grey whales make Mexico their winter home and the Pacific coast of Baja California is the nursery where the whales calve and nurture their young, before continuing their long journey north to Alaska.  January and February are considered the prime months.

Who Is the new scientist?

The New Scientist is a world leading science and technology brand reaching consumers and readers through print with its weekly magazine, and online. It is a primary voice on all things technological revealing the latest developments and discoveries of the science world.

What is the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Programme (LSIESP)?

The LSIESP is an organisation that monitors the ecology of San Ignacio Lagoon and the surrounding environment.  Through a number of initiatives they strive to protect and conserve the region:

• Recruiting volunteers and students and offering graduate research programmes.
• Provide scientific facts on the ecosystem as human development continues to impinge on the area. Its research can influence the financial and social growth in the area.
• Create community based projects for the local population to become involved in protecting the marine and bird life as well as the surrounding wetlands. 
• Provide a teaching resource to educate the rising generations and create awareness of their beautiful but fragile ecosystem.

Departing on:
  • 23rd January 2018

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour LecturerStatus 
23rd Jan 2018 3rd Feb 2018 £ 4,895 £ 995 call Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • 12 Day / 11 night voyage
  • All beverages, including wine and beer during the voyage
  • All meals during the voyage
  • Naturalist guides onboard Searcher
  • Services of special guest Jo Ruxton
  • Wet suits (shorties), snorkel and mask

what is excluded

  • Accommodation in San Diego
  • Fuel surcharges if applicable
  • Gratuities
  • Internal flights
  • International flights
  • Pre/post voyage accommodation
  • Snorkelling with whale sharks
  • Transfers


Itinerary at a glance

Collapse all
Day 1

San Diego embarkation
Morning at leisure to explore San Diego independently. Drop off your bags at the Fisherman's Landing mooring early this afternoon and ensure that you are back on board before 20:00. Lines away and depart San Diego at 22:00, heading south.

San Diego on the coast of southern California is a relaxing place with year round warm, sunny weather. Despite being a large city it still retains a small town friendly feel and has miles of sandy beaches offering options for surfing, sailing or relaxing. If you tire of the coast, there are many activities to keep you amused - trekking, biking or climbing as well as a number of gardens, museums or theme parks.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 2

Islas Todos Santos
Early morning stop at Ensenada Harbour for Mexican Customs and Immigration clearance. Cruise along Todos Santos Islands to view nesting sea birds, dolphins, elephant seals and harbour seals. The Searcher is likely to be accompanied by bow riding dolphins as it continues along the peninsula with an afternoon whale watching opportunity for migrating greys heading southwards to the lagoons.

This unique region is one of the most interesting and diverse geographical areas of the world and is still very much a frontier. 760 miles long and as narrow as 30m in some places, the Baja Peninsula is home to some of the earth's most beautiful deserts, along with semi-tropical and mountainous regions, pine forests, and hundreds of miles of untouched beaches and coastline. The waters off Baja are one of the world's finest marine destinations and during the months of January to April they offer the best opportunity for whale watching.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 3

Islas San Benito
Hike to an old lighthouse and observe elephant seals crowded into most of the coves. It's early breeding season and jousting males, nursing pups and resting females make for wonderful photography. Observe nesting birds, such as osprey and ravens, as well as unique desert plants, such as the legendary agave (or century) plant. Recent seasons have seen the return to San Benito of the endangered Guadalupe fur seal.and it's hoped to have a viewing on this hike.

Return to the decks of the Searcher with camera and binoculars in hand to scan the horizon for spouting humpback whales.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 4

Laguna San Ignacio
Anchor among the grey whales in this famous lagoon. Board smaller fishing-style boats called ‘pangas’ for up-close encounters. Here you may see particular mating groups as well as females caring for their young. Spend two whole days in this area, where whale sightings are considered by many to be the best in the world.

There will be up to four x 90 minute panga excursions each day, during which your very experienced guides will ensure that you make the most of this extraordinary wildlife interaction. There are strict rules about how close your panga can approach the whales although mothers seem to encourage inquisitive calves to swim to the pangas and any interaction is entirely controlled by and on the terms of the whales themselves. Participants consistently feed back that this is one of the most extraordinary natural encounters they have experienced.

Expect to also witness multiple breaches and spy-hopping.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 5

Laguna San Ignacio
Continue to explore San Ignacio today with further whale watching excursions. Part of the lagoon is fringed by mangroves and there will be a boat trip this morning to seek out waders and warblers in this magical, marshy environment. The mangroves give way to a huge salt pan and there will be the opportunity to disembark the skiffs, look for coyote tracks and walk around the edge of this expansive plain that regularly floods, depositing a white crust of salt. This is a great spot to appreciate the horizon-warping effects of mirages.

Depending on tidal levels, you may have the chance for a late afternoon walking and beach-combing session along one of the pristine and remote sand bars that protect San Ignacio Lagoon from Pacific swells.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 6

Day at Sea
Spend time motoring south, observing whales, pods of common dolphins, sea turtles, sea lions and pelagic seabirds, with the peninsula as a truly scenic backdrop for photography.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 7

Cabo San Lucas
As the sun rises, the Searcher will pass the famous rock arches of Cabo San Lucas - the most southerly tip of the Baja Peninsula. This area is well-known for groups of humpbacks that spend time around the submerged mountain chain of Gorda Banks. Humpback whales are the most acrobatic of whales - breaching, spy hopping, and lunging and thus spectacular to observe and photograph.

The Searcher now enters the Sea of Cortez and the crew will be scanning the waters for further marine life, including whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, marlins, manta rays and the highly entertaining and acrobatic mobus ray. Skipper Art will occasionally drop hydrophones over the side in order to try and listen in to whale song.

The Sea of Cortez offers lots of opportunities for shore landings in order to explore the topography, plant, bird and mammalian life of Baja California. The flatter, more sheltered waters are also better for snorkelling and this afternoon, at Los Frailes, there will be a great opportunity to bird watch on the mainland, seeking out hooded orioles, silky flycatchers, northern cardinals and cactus wrens amongst a panoply of other birdlife. This will be followed by the first snorkelling trip of the journey and a chance for those without experience to practise and become accustomed to the activity. From here on, there will be daily opportunities to snorkel and explore Baja's marine life.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 8

Isla San José
Arrive at the spectacular red sandstone cliffs of Punta Colorado in time to photograph the sunrise. Take a skiff ride into a cave and along the cliffs for close views of nesting brown and blue-footed boobies, pelicans, yellow-footed gulls, osprey and white-throated swifts. Shore walks will reveal ancient pelagic fossils and a striking weather sculpted landscape. Afternoon whale watching for the chance to see blue, fin and sperm whales, as well as the large pods of bottlenose dolphin that frequent this area.
If the weather permits there may be a change to the itinerary to make a stop in La Paz Bay in the morning to snorkel with and observe whale sharks.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 9

Isla Santa Catalina
An early morning walk is a great way to see this island, famous for its four metre barrel and giant cardon cacti among other desert plants that grow along the canyon (or arroyo). Birdlife is abundant and you should see and hear cardinals, gila woodpeckers, ravens and verdin. Other famous residents are the rare endemic Santa Catalina rattle-less rattlesnake and the abundant emerald-tailed lizards. There will be snorkelling opportunities off this island, where the shallow reefs are home to many species of fish, sea stars, sea fans and further marine life. This is also a favourite playground for large pods of bottlenose dolphins.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 10

Bahia Agua Verde
Stop at this beautiful bay on the peninsula to bird watch and snorkel among giant sea fans, with time to whale watch for blue, fin and other whales.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 11

Isla San Jose & Islas Los Islotes
Bird watch in the early morning at one of Baja's best locations with terrific scenery. Then travel to Los Islotes, two islets and underwater rocky reefs used by sea lions as haul-out sites. Skiff rides around the islets give great views of the Californian sea lions, Sally Lightfoot crabs, nesting boobies, frigates, ospreys and other birds.

Late afternoon, there will be the opportunity to get into the water with sealions. This is one of the many highlights of this trip and a hugely entertaining and exciting way to finish up with curious sealions demonstrating their superb swimming skills as they check-out the snorkellers.

Tipping notes
Please bear in mind that, as with most cruises, at the end of the trip you will be invited to leave a tip if you were happy with the service provided. This is completely discretionary and confidential although a guideline is provided of around US$30 per person per day and if you choose to tip, any contributions will be shared between the crew and guides. This can be done by cash or credit card.

You will be staying at Searcher, full board

Day 12

Disembark Searcher in Cabo San Lucas early this morning. Transfer to San Jose del Cabo airport, a journey of 40 minutes, for your return flight connections. You may choose to extend your stay at one of the beach hotels between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo or continue to explore Baja or another region of Mexico.

Located on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, San Jose del Cabo (more commonly referred to as Los Cabos in conjunction with Cabo San Lucas) is a real mixture of an authentic Mexican town with cobblestone streets radiating from the zocalo and mission church and the marina area, which is the modern face of Mexico with a host of bars, shops and restaurants.


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.



The 30 metre long Searcher was built in 1970 in the USA as a sports-fishing vessel....

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For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Baja California

John Faithfull, Travel Expert

"Personalised service. Seemed to really want to get it right for us. Very impressed when I first called and John spent 40 minutes finding out what we wanted to do and tailoring it for us."

"The expertise that John has really gave us faith in where we were going, the regions, the hotels, the trips. John knew about it all, he described them in detail, and when we asked for different regions he was straight in there with suggestions and ideas. The way the whole trip was planned and presented to us, never any pressure to book or any problem to change plans /ideas."

"John Faithful was wonderfully helpful and conscientious in arranging the itinerary and was always ready to suggest alternatives or rearrange matters without any hesitation; this and his detailed knowledge gave one great confidence."

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Sue Grimwood, Travel Expert

"It was tremendously helpful to be able to speak to someone who had been to Antarctica before - Sue had been on the ship we had booked, so was able to give us some very useful information. We felt that at every stage of the booking process that we were in safe hands. "

""I was uncharacteristically worried about this trip - neurotic some might say - and I was given 110% support and help with everything. I had been disappointed by not being able to get a space on the 2014 trip and so Sue was stuck with me for 2 years - a testament to her patience and professionalism. I was confident in Sue - she knows Antarctica and speaks from experience, that is worth a huge amount. Emails, which I would send were responded to almost immediately.""

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.


Art Taylor

Art Taylor
Art Taylor has owned Searcher since 1982 and has been guiding vessels in Baja’s waters for over 30 years. He is intensely dedicated to the people and wildlife conservation of Baja California and receives immense enjoyment sharing that with his passengers.

Often referred to as the 'whale whisperer' Art has an extraordinary knack of finding the whales before anyone else. Experiencing Baja California with Art is both an education and a pleasure.

Jo Ruxton

Jo Ruxton
Jo began her work in marine conservation back in 1990 when she joined WWF in Hong Kong to begin their Marine Conservation Programme; a significant task in a place that had no laws to protect the coastal waters and where massive development was taking place before the handover to China. During her seven years with WWF, she was instrumental in bringing in new legislation and setting up four Marine Protected Areas.

Jo joined the BBC Natural History Unit in 1997 and was part of the celebrated Blue Planet team. Over the past 18 years she has been involved in numerous underwater filming projects around the world, from Antarctica to the pristine reefs of the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. After leaving the BBC, Jo decided to combine both careers and produced a documentary feature, A Plastic Ocean, after initially learning about the plastic problem in 2009. She began raising the funds to start filming and the film was released globally in January 2017. She co-founded the Plastic Oceans Foundation in 2010 not only to help the fundraising process but more importantly to take the message of the film beyond its release.

Dr Steven Swartz

Dr Steven Swartz
Author of Lagoon Time, Dr Steven Swartz is widely published on grey whales and their breeding lagoons. In 1977 Steven was one of the first scientists to conduct systematic studies on grey whales in the San Ignacio Lagoon and went on to work as a consultant to the Mexican Government’s Ministry for the Environment among many other organisations. He remains today, working for the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Programme (LSIESP) monitoring the ecological health of the lagoon and the surrounding environment.

Bonnie Monteleone

Bonnie Monteleone
As the Director of Science, Bonnie’s research has required the collection of plastic marine samples across the globe. In 2010 Bonnie joined the 5 Gyres Institute in a first ever South Atlantic transect sampling for pelagic marine debris travelling 4,270 nautical miles from Brazil to South Africa. She has to date five years of data sets from the North Atlantic and in 2012 she continued to collect samples from the South Pacific as part of the film project A Plastic Ocean. Bonnie works on many projects including lab analysis looking at the plastic leachates (liquid that drains from landfill), organic pollutants and the plastic ingestion by marine organisms.

Additionally, as an accomplished artist, Bonnie creates incredible pieces of artwork as part of her exhibit ‘What Goes around Comes Around’ where she creates her own version of the ‘Great wave’ painting by Hokusai from the 1830s portraying how very different our oceans are today.
Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 19 / Max 24

Tour Expert:

Art Taylor, Bonnie Monteleone, Dr Steven Swartz, Jo Ruxton

Departure Date (S):

  • 23rd January 2018

  • Moderate Activity - The tour may occasionally involve slightly longer walks, but nothing over 4 hours. The tour will involve visits to a variety of sites throughout the duration of the itinerary and be at a moderate pace.

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