Whales, Dolphins and Deserts of Mexico's Baja Peninsula

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Download Trip DetailsIf you are captivated by whales—then this is a quintessential marine mammal travel destination.  And if you love to photograph whales—even more so!  From Mexico's legendary Baja California, our exciting photo tour visits the two most important nursery lagoons of the Pacific gray whale.  With the end of commercial whaling, this charismatic cetacean was rescued from the edge of extinction.  Today the eastern population of Pacific gray whales numbers over 20,000 animals—their recovery is one of the great conservation success stories of the last century. 
Gray whale spyhopping in Baja MexicoHistorically, gray whales were known to whalers as the “devilfish” due to the aggressive response mounted by females when they or their calves were harpooned.  Inexplicably, in the early 1970s after a century of persecution, this highly defensive whale began to approach local Mexican fishermen with seemingly sociable intentions.  Today, travellers to the warm waters of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula can go boating in a quiet sheltered coastal lagoon, under a warm desert sky, surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds of 36-ton whales—breaching, spy-hopping and frolicking—often close enough to touch!  The whales migrate to coastal Mexico to spend the winter, mate, and give birth to their one-ton calves.  The curious newborns soon learn from their mothers there is nothing to fear from the small fishing boats that are used for tourism and they seem as eager as the adults to interact with humans.  Ironically, it is in these same lagoons where the majority of the gray whale slaughter took place.

The opportunities around Baja California for whale photographs at extremely close range are unique in the world.  The friendly gray whales of Baja routinely rub the underside of the small fishing boats.  They shove the boats with their snouts as if they were bathtub toys and repeatedly surface beside them seemingly for no other reason than to be stroked and petted.  When a whale’s eye—the size of a tennis ball—looks at you from two feet away, one wonders what such a magnificent creature is thinking—for surely it IS thinking and experiencing some interaction. 

Cactus at sunsetAs well as being a nursery area for female gray whales, the waters off Mexico’s Baja Peninsula are also a vital wintering location for magnificent 150-ton blue whales, the largest creatures believed to have ever lived.  Add to that the chance to see breaching humpback whales and pods of common dolphins and pilot whales—and you have a true cetacean bonanza.

The Baja Peninsula offers nature photographers even more than just a sunny, whale-filled winter photo shoot.  There are photogenic colonial Spanish missions, 3,000-year-old rock pictographs and petroglyphs, fabulous towering sand dunes, the cactus-filled splendour of the Sonoran and Baja California Deserts, and the rejuvenating azure waters of the Sea of Cortez.  "The Baja" truly provides outdoor photographers a wildlife and landscape photo experience like no other on Earth!

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Feb 16) 
Arrive at Loreto International Airport on the eastern coast of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.  Our representative will meet your flight and bring you to our hotel. Depending on your flight schedule the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the prolific coastal birdlife of the Gulf of California.  We meet this evening for dinner.  (D)

Day 2
An all-day boat trip to Bahía de Loreto National Park.  We cruise in the azure waters of the Sea of Cortez searching for gargantuan wintering blue whales and large pods of bow-riding dolphins, stopping for a picnic lunch on one of the many desert islands in the protected waters of the park.  (BLD)
 
San Javier Mission Baja MexicoDay 3
Today we photograph two of the peninsula’s famous Spanish missions built in the 1700s.  This morning we visit San Javier Mission located in the picturesque Sierra de la Giganta range.  The magnificent art, elaborate altar pieces, and wood and stone sculptures of San Javier have earned it the distinction of being the most photogenic mission on the entire peninsula.  After lunch we return to Loreto to photograph the first colonial Spanish mission built in this desert region of Mexico.  The town of Loreto, founded in 1697, was the original capital of the state of Baja California Sur.  We have time to stroll along the many quaint shaded streets or browse the curio shops.  (BLD)
 
Day 4
We drive north through the rolling landscape of the Sonoran Desert, ending in the welcoming shaded plaza of the small village of San Ignacio.  En route we make a short stop to photograph petroglyphs of fish, sea turtles and whales dating back hundreds of years.  After lunch we visit the imposing Jesuit mission of San Ignacio, as well as a museum highlighting the renowned rock art paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco range, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  (BLD)
 
Day 5
Today we travel to San Ignacio Lagoon, off the Pacific Ocean, to encounter our first female gray whales and their newborn calves.  We lunch at a local seafood restaurant and have leisure time for birdwatching along the shore of the lagoon.  The area is especially noted for its habituated nesting ospreys.  (BLD)
 
Gray whaleDay 6
Traveling north to the salt mining town of Guerrero Negro on the shores of Laguna Ojo de Liebre we arrive at the finest of Mexico’s gray whale nursery lagoons.  In March 2018 there were over a thousand whales wintering here.  En route we make a side trip into the Sierra de San Francisco range to photograph the spectacular cave paintings of Maceta del Carmen.  We drive through a beautiful desert landscape in the Valley of the Cirios, where Boojum “trees” can grow 50 feet in height or more, and by the ghost town of Pozo Aleman, where impoverished miners lived in caves cut from the bedrock.  (BLD)
 
Days 7, 8 & 9
We begin each day with an early morning whale-watching tour where “friendly” mother whales routinely bring their curious calves alongside our small boats—and close to our lenses.  In the afternoons we visit the largest salt works in the world, photograph the towering golden dunes of San Miguelito, and stroll the trails of the local bird sanctuary—refuge for thousands of wintering waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as local ospreys, peregrine falcons, pelicans, egrets and herons.  On the afternoon of Day 9 we drive back to San Ignacio.  (BLD)
 
Day 10
We return to Loreto, stopping en route at Santa Rosalia Mission in Mulegé founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1705.  From the stone mission it is just a short walk to a nearby lush date palm oasis.  This afternoon we relax at our oceanside resort.  (BLD)
 
California sea lionsDay 11
We begin the day before sunrise with a short trip to Mirador Frida, an elevated overlook above the quiet sparkling waters and desert islands of Bahía de Loreto National Park.  After breakfast we travel by boat to Isla Coronado, one of the picturesque desert islands in this 800-square-mile national marine park.  We photograph a colony of loquacious California sea lions, and, perhaps, take a swim and enjoy a picnic lunch at the finest beach on the island.  As always, we search for pods of common dolphins and whales whenever we are on the water.  In the late afternoon we end our tour with a final sunset cruise to Isla Danzante searching for blue whales and seabirds to photograph.  (BLD)
 
Day 12 (Feb 27)
Participants fly home at any time today.  (B)
 
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Whales, Dolphins and Deserts of Mexico's Baja Peninsula

Feb 16, 2020 - Feb 27, 2020


1. REGISTRATION
A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.

2. PAYMENTS, CANCELLATIONS AND REFUNDS

All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposit only, we accept Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days priors to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee


No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

3. TRIP INSURANCE
Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

4. HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

5. CONTACT SCHEDULE
Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to info@photosafaris.com.

6. PHOTO SAFARI COSTS
Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

7. LOGISTICS
Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

8. RESPONSIBILITY
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Whales, Dolphins and Deserts of Mexico's Baja Peninsula
Highlights
  • Four 1/2 day trips in small private boats to photograph remarkably “ friendly” gray whales and their newborn calves—often close enough to touch.
  • A private morning cruise on the Sea of Cortez to search for wintering blue whales, the largest creatures to have ever lived
  • A private sunset cruise on the Sea of Cortez searching for dolphins, humpback whales and sea birds
  • Shoot four picturesque and uniquely different Spanish missions built in the 1700s
  • Photograph a gallery of ancient rock paintings set in a magnificent “forest” of cirio and giant cardon cactuses.
 
Feb 16 - Feb 27, 2020
Fee: $5,595 from Loreto, Mexico
Deposit: $800
Limit: 10
 
Tour Leaders
 
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