Day 1: Drive through Sierra La Giganta Mountains, Visit San Javier Mission, Continue on to San Miguel de Comondu
Departing Loreto, we head upwards into the Sierra La Giganta for our first stop at the hamlet of San Javier home to Baja’s third oldest mission, dating to 1699. After a walk through the small town, we visit the mission and its gardens. After a traditional Mexican lunch, we continue across the Baja Peninsula to the agricultural oasis of San Miguel de Comondu, where palms, grapes and other fruits grow. Here we find a small and cozy hotel and are welcomed by the town locals for heartfelt conversation and tales of the long history of this isolated agricultural community.
- Accommodations: Local Hotel
- Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Day 2: Explore the Desert Palm Oasis of San Miguel
In the morning we meet some of the villagers who are eager to share their way of life with us. We might milk a goat, help pick grapes or learn how to weave palms. Then we’re off to hike to a fantastic geologic wonder known as the “prism.” Some 14 million years ago volcanic eruptions cooled, forming hexagonal basalt columns that look like a giant pipe organ. We explore other parts of this lush paradise in the desert before returning to San Miguel for another night at our homespun hotel and a dinner and evening filled with stories and legends.
- Accommodations: Local Hotel
- Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Travel to Lopez Mateos, Whale Watching, Arrive at Whale Camp
We depart early for a 2 ½ -3 hour drive to the Pacific Coast and the town of Lopez Mateos. This is the epicenter of whale watching tours in Magdalena Bay. Our private boat whisks us from the dock, heading north in the bay for our first 2-hour whale watching session. The gray whales have migrated all the way from the Arctic to these warm Pacific waters to calve and nurse their young. It’s the longest migration that any mammal on earth undertakes. The mothers spend about 3 months here nursing their calves and strengthening them for the epic swim north to Arctic waters where they will spend 3-4 months feeding in the nutrient-rich ocean waters.
Gray whales were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1800’s. Once whaling ended (because oil replaced the need for blubber) the population slowly recovered. Today over 20,000 gray whales ply the waters off the Pacific Coast of North America and around 150-200 come each year into Magdalena Bay. For reasons unknown, some seem to enjoy interaction with humans, and approach our whale watching boats as we sit idly by. The mothers will even push their calves towards the boats. To look into the eye of these massive 35-40’ (12-13 meter) animals is one of life’s most emotional experiences.
After our morning whale watching session, we arrive at our exclusive whale camp on a long barrier island that separates the wide Pacific from the protected lagoon of Mag Bay. We unload gear into our stand-up canvas tents, with cots and sleeping pads, and then sit down for lunch. Sea birds fly overhead, and the smell of salty sea air fills the senses. We take a walk across the island to the Pacific where miles of empty beach await our bare feet. Waves lap as we look out across the immense sea, often seeing whales spout.
Back at camp it’s soon time for hors d’oeuvres made of a local fisherman’s catch, some traditional Mexican punch and then dinner. After dinner our naturalist guides give a presentation on the natural history of whales and gray whales in particular.
- Accommodations: Whale Camp
- Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4-5: Whale Watching, Retun to Loreto (Or Extend Your Stay)
After a hearty breakfast our pangas (local fishing boats) arrive to gather us and our luggage up. We spend the next 2 hours plying the waters of Magdalena Bay for more time with the whales. By late morning we’re back at Lopez Mateos. A fine lunch in a local restaurant fills us up and off we go back to Loreto.
- Accommodations: NA (Whale Camp, if choosing to extend to a 5-day trip)
- Meals: Breakfast (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner if choosing to extend to a 5-day trip)
Day 5 - Optional
Add one more day at our whale camp for our most popular 3-day/2 night stay. In this case there is one more whale watching session on the afternoon of Day 4 for a total of 4 whale watching sessions. Return to Loreto by 4:00 PM on Day 5.
- Accommodations: NA
- Meals: Breakfast
Note: Our whale camp has 10 tents and a capacity for up to 20 guests. While you may be in a much smaller group during the mountain portion of this trip, there may be other people sharing the whale camp. Each tent is separated from other tents by 20-50 feet (7-15 meters). Meals are served outdoors, weather permitting. Otherwise they are served in our large 30’ diameter dome tents where we also give our evening naturalist presentations.
Please see our Baja Travel Guide for full details on travel to and from Baja.
Baja has a desert climate. The weather is typically dry, warm, and sunny, with temperatures ranging between 60 - 90 F. While it may be very warm during the day, temperatures can drop down to the 60’s (50’s at Whale Camp or in the mountains) during the evening hours. Please plan to pack appropriate layers for the evenings. If you are interested in more specific information regarding the weather in Baja, we highly suggest the Weather Underground site. If you put in the location you are traveling, and the date, it will provide you with historical weather data that you can use to plan for your upcoming adventure.
Here at ROW Sea Kayak Adventures our first and foremost goal is for you to have an enjoyable and safe experience. While most of our trips are suitable for beginners, some of our trips are more active than others and it’s important that you understand the physical requirement of the trip you choose.
All of our multi-day kayaking trips are active adventures that involve some level of physical exertion and possible exposure to the elements including but not limited to wind, rain, heat, sun, cold temperatures and cold water conditions. ROW Sea Kayak Adventures is able to accommodate people with physical limitations, disabilities and medical conditions; please speak with your Adventure Consultant if you think you will require any additional assistance while on the trip. We ask that you consult your Doctor if you have health or medical conditions that could impact your ability to participate in an active and outdoor adventure. In general, all trip participants must be able to do the following:
- Wear all protective and safety equipment that are required by ROW Adventures and recommended/required by industry wide standards.
- Load and unload, on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion, the bus and/or van providing transportation for ROW Adventures activities.
- Reach the water access points (put-in and take-out) on their own, or with the aid of a qualified companion.
- Enter and exit the raft, kayak and/or inflatable kayak on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion.
- Remain seated and balanced in a floating raft, canoe, kayak or inflatable kayak w/ the aid of adaptive equipment, if necessary.
- Float on their back when entering moving and still water. The participant must be capable of turning from face-down to face-up in the water with the aid of a Personal Floatation Device and must be able to hold their breath while under water.
- Remain calm and keep breathing under control in the event of a swim.
- Climb into the kayak, with the help of another person, should an involuntary swim happen at any point on the water.
- Make progress toward the shoreline or a boat by swimming in moving water and must be able to exit the water and ascend the shoreline once reached.
- Participate as an active paddler when instructed by the guide for the duration of trip.
- Move about the campsite on their own or with the aid of a qualified companion on all trips that include overnight camping and/or lunch.
Whether you are an avid sea kayaker, or it is your first time, you’ll enjoy these incredible trips, and share in our passion for adventure, commitment to conserving the environment, and relishing unique experiences. For those new to the sport, kayaking is easy to learn in the sheltered waters that we visit, and we provide all of the camping gear, kayaking equipment and guidance needed. In addition, we keep our groups small to allow you to not only travel intimately among nature, but to ensure you receive the necessary attention from our guides.
Baja Whale Watching Packing List
The packing list outlined below is meant to serve as a guide to help you plan, prepare and outfit yourself for your upcoming travels. We have provided our best recommendations and suggestions. These suggestions are broken down by your tour type and are based on the outlined itinerary, the geographic region, our knowledge of Baja, and our personal experience. We hope you find this list helpful, use it as a guide and feel free to amend it with your favorite travel items too!
Gear Provided by ROW Sea Kayak Adventures
Sea Kayak Adventures provides all necessary equipment for your whale watching tour. This includes all necessary camping equipment: tent, cot, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, and pillow with pillow case.
Sea Kayak Adventures trips are best enjoyed if you travel light. We think it is wise to avoid checking any luggage under the plane. If you do check a bag, make sure that you have everything that is either essential or would be hard to replace, with you in your carry-on.
We recommend packing in one soft sided, roll-on (ideally a non-hard-sided version) or duffle luggage that meets carry-on requirements. Alternatively, if you must have a checked bag; make sure your personal item is packed with your “hard to replace items.” You will be able to leave luggage not needed for your kayaking trip in hotel storage.
We also recommend bringing one small day pack. This dual purpose pack can serve as your personal item during your flights as well as your day pack for hikes during the tour. Outside zippered pockets are nice and allow you to organize your travel gear. Carry medications, travel documents, important personal items and other essentials or “hard-to-replace” items in this on the plane.
Baja Whale Watching Packing List
- Passport – must be valid for at least six (6) months after the date of your arrival
- A photocopy of your passport, inside a ziplock bag and stowed elsewhere in your luggage (As an additional precautionary measure, consider leaving a photocopy with family or friends at home as well)
- Copy of your air tickets with ticket numbers, placed elsewhere in your luggage
- Plan to use cash (pesos) for small purchases, taxis and gratuities
- Credit and/or Debit/ATM card that works internationally, ideally with chip technology (Before leaving home, notify your bank of your travel to help prevent any fraud detection holds on your card)
- Watch or small travel clock with alarm (if you are taking a phone, this can serve as your alarm clock)
- Money belt or concealed passport carrier to carry your passport, travel documents and money, hidden under your clothing
- TSA-accessible lock for luggage security when not on your person (optional- can buy these at any travel or outdoor recreation store)
The evenings and early mornings at Magdalena Bay and San Ignacio Lagoon can be chilly; therefore packing according to this list is important.
- One - three pair long, lightweight, nylon pants with zipper pockets (zip off legs give you more options)
- One- two pair nylon shorts
- Sarong (optional, but super handy for changing clothes, laying on the ground, etc.)
- One - three short sleeve button-up shirt(s) or t-shirt(s)
- One - three long sleeve shirts, ideally with SPF protection
- One wide-brim, tie-on hat
- One lightweight waterproof raincoat
- Three pair light synthetic or merino wool socks
- One synthetic or down jacket
- One pair sturdy trail shoes, or running shoes, to use for hiking and for casual camp time
- One pair of sandals with ankle straps to wear while kayaking, on the beaches, walking around towns, etc.
- Extra synthetic or wool layers (e.g. long underwear) for warmth during cool evenings
- Retaining strap for glasses and sunglasses
- Flashlight or headlamp
- One pair of paddling gloves
- Small day pack or fanny pack for hikes
- One water bottle, 1 liter or larger
- One buff or bandana for sun protection and cooling off
- Camp towel (small lightweight towel, backpacking style works great)
- Camera and appropriate charging mechanism
- Back up battery pack for electronic devices
- Waterproof camera or valuables case
- Binoculars or monocular
- Glasses or contacts if needed
- Polarized sunglasses
- Reusable/clean gear bags for wet or soiled items
- Small reusable, leak-proof bags for liquid or spillable personal items
- Books or E-reader, pen and notepad, headphones, etc
Toiletries and First Aid
- Standard toiletry kit including general hygiene products, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. (keep liquids under 3.38 oz.(100ml) for carry-on)
- Insect repellent
- Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 15-30
- Pre-moistened toilette packets or disposable shower wipes to refresh
- Prescriptions and any necessary personal medicines (please be sure to bring necessary prescriptions and any needed emergency medicine such as an EpiPen, Benadryl, etc)
- Heavy duty skin lotion for dry, sun-baked, and salted skin
- Small squeeze bottle of hand-sanitizer gel
- Shampoo and soap (we recommend biodegradable, multi-purpose options)
Mosquitoes and no-see-ums (sand flies) are sometimes present during our Baja tours. Please ensure that you pack a quality insect repellent and consider full coverage clothing for the evenings and time around camp. The full coverage clothing will provide great sun protection as an added bonus. We recommend repellent with DEET or Picaridin Insect Repellent (Picaridin is less toxic and less harsh on gear/clothing than DEET. Here is one example of a Picaridin-based repellent.
Some of our Favorite Books about Baja
Reveles, D. (2004). Tequila, Lemon & Salt from Baja...Tales of Love, Faith and Magic
The border town of Tecate comes to colorful life and the lives of its inhabitants unfold, full of surprises and a few broken dreams in this collection of stories from Daniel Reveles.
Reveles, D. (2007). Guacamole Dip: From Baja...Tales of Love, Faith and Magic
The beloved storyteller takes readers back to Tecate, Baja California, for another helping - his tales are always humorous, often magical, and sometimes poignant. Reveles captures the Hispanic culture and flare perfectly.
Minch, J. (2017). Roadside Geology and Biology of Baja California, 2nd Ed
The book contains road logs that provide kilometer-by–kilometer highlights of the roadside geology and biology of specific areas.
Botello, J. (1998). Other Side: Journeys In Baja
A tale of two journeys, one outer and one inner. The outer explores the length, breadth, and depth of Baja and its rich history, its vibrant people, and the haunting beauty of the land. The inner journey involves a border world where cultures clash illuminating the landscape of the soul.
Swartz, S.L. (2014). Lagoon Time: A Guide to Grey Whales
An extraordinary first-hand account of the experiences and discoveries made by Dr. Steven Swartz and his colleagues in San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California Sur, Mexico, that provides visitors a look into the human and natural history of Laguna San Ignacio
Crosby, H. (2010). Cave Paintings of Baja California
The Cave Paintings of Baja California are considered one of the 5 most significant areas in the world for pictographic murals and the only one in the Western Hemisphere.
Keir, D. (2016). Baja California Land of Missions
This book contains a detailed history of the activities by the Spanish and others attempting to colonize the peninsula of California from 1535 to 1855.
Aitchison, S. (2010). The desert islands of Mexico's Sea of Cortez
The desert islands in the Sea of Cortez are little known except to a few intrepid tourists, sailors, and fishermen. Though at first glance these stark islands may appear barren, they are a refuge for an astounding variety of plants and animals
Alderfer, J., & Hess, P. (2011). National Geographic backyard guide to the birds of North America
Essential for the millions of Americans who watch and feed birds in their backyards—whether experienced birders or new birding enthusiasts.
Berger, B. (1998). Almost an island: Travels in Baja California
Berger takes readers beyond the Baja of guidebooks and offers a wildly entertaining look at the real Baja California.
Carwardine, M. (1995). Whales, dolphins, and porpoises
The perfect introduction to 96 species of whale, dolphin, and porpoise. This pocket-size guide is essential for the family reference shelf, helping you to identify each species and discover more about them.
Day, T. (2006). Whale watcher: A comprehensive guide to the whales of the world and where to see them
Every year, more than four million people go whale watching, and the numbers keep growing.
Dedina, S. (2000). Saving the Gray Whale: People, Politics, and Conservation in Baja California
Once hunted by whalers and now the darling of ecotourists, the gray whale has become part of the culture, history, politics, and geography of Mexico's most isolated region.
Gotshall, D. (1998). Sea of Cortez marine animals: A guide to common fishes and invertebrates, Baja California to Panama
Howell, S. (1999). A Bird-finding Guide to Mexico
With a rich variety of stunning avifauna, Mexico provides the first taste of the Neotropics for many birders. At last here is a guide to Mexico's best birdwatching sites, from Baja California to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Hupp, B., & Malone, M. (2008). The edge of the Sea of Cortez: Tidewalkers' guide to the upper Gulf of California
Krutch, J. (1961). The Forgotten Peninsula; a Naturalist in Baja California
Krutch describes the desert plants and marine animals as well as the human and natural history of Baja California.
McPeak, R. (2000). Amphibians and Reptiles of Baja California
Covers species that occur on the Baja California Peninsula, islands of the Gulf of California, and the islands along the Pacific Coast.
Niemann, G. (2002). Baja Legends: The historic characters, events, and locations that put Baja California on the map
Perlo, B. (2006). Birds of Mexico and Central America
This is the only field guide to illustrate and describe every species of bird in Central America from Mexico to Panama, including Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. This handsome work covers more than 1,500 species.
Rebman, J., & Roberts, N. (2012). Baja California Plant Field Guide (3rd ed.)
This new edition of the Baja California Plant Field Guide discusses or describes over 715 different plants in more than 350 genera in 111 families.
Russell, D. (2001). Eye of the Whale epic passage from Baja to Siberia
Named a Best Book of the Year by three major newspapers upon its initial publication, and now available for the first time in paperback, Eye of the Whale offers an exhilarating blend of adventure and natural history as Dick Russell follows the migration of the gray whale from Mexico's Baja peninsula to the Arctic's Bering Strait.
Steinbeck, J., & Ricketts, E. (1976). The log from the Sea of Cortez: The narrative portion of the book, Sea of Cortez
1941, here reissued with a profile "About Ed Ricketts" In search of a respite from the national stage, Steinbeck and his close friend, biologist Ed Ricketts, embarked on a month long marine specimen-collecting expedition in the Gulf of California, which resulted in their collaboration on the Sea of Cortez.
Thomson, D., & Findley, L. (1979). Reef fishes of the Sea of Cortez: The rocky-shore fishes of the Gulf of California
Wilson, B., & Wilson, A. (2006). The complete whale-watching handbook: A guide to whales, dolphins, and porpoises of the world
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