The narrow peninsula of Baja California extends southward from the Californian border to the town of Cabo San Lucas, stretching some 800 miles, flanked by the Sea of Cortez on the east and the surfy Pacific on the west. This region is home to unique flora and fauna, including blue-footed boobies, whale sharks, and flying manta rays. Last winter, President of Scott Dunn USA, John Spence hosted a small group trip to explore the wilds of Baja in complete luxury. Following John’s successful venture, Scott Dunn is offering this incredible Baja wildlife safari again this February. Here, John tells us all about this incredible trip.
A few years ago, Scott Dunn arranged for me to visit Mexico for the first time. They put me up in a luxurious hotel in Cabos San Lucas, the One & Only Palmilla, and arranged a day trip with a local guide. I was given a choice of activities and I picked the one that involved the wildlife. You cannot starve a safari guy his fix of wonderful beasties.
We took a long drive to La Paz and in only one day I was simply blown away by what we saw and did. Boat trips to islands whose only residents were sealions, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, cacti and succulents. Stunning beaches that could beat many of the most famous resorts in the Indian Ocean stretched as far as the eye could see. But, the real stars that day were what lurked under the water.
Wonderful snorkeling produced a long list of multi-sized marine life and a myriad of colors. The big, unsubtle stuff was what really knocked me out. Super pods of hundreds of dolphins, humpback whales breaching the surface and crashing back in the water, flying rays and the main attraction, whale sharks. I have been lucky enough to do quite a bit of diving all over the world and this is one creature that had eluded me. So, to spot one from a boat and then to be able to leap in and swim alongside it was a surreal and wonderful experience. I have since repeated it three more times and it never gets old.
We all know, the most important ingredient of any safari is the guide. Being an ex-ski, white-water rafting and safari guide, I am passionate we work with the best. Since joining Scott Dunn, I now know this is not just the case in Africa but as important when visiting Mexico or Iceland or beyond. Our guides in Baja California are passionate, enthusiastic and so proud of what this sliver of Mexico has to offer.
My first trip had teased my appetite and I knew I wanted more. There was so much of this interesting peninsula I had not seen, and I had to return. I worked with Latin Expert, Alison Carey in our San Diego office and super guide Pahoran to plan what I hoped would be a perfect small group hosted trip. We were in search of blue whales, grey whales, humpbacks, whale sharks, sealions, dolphins, turtles, jumping rays, thriving coral reefs, blue-footed boobies and frigate-birds, great towns, wonderful food and if it exists, the perfect margarita. This is quite a greedy list, but we were going for it.
Time of year if the most important factor for whale watching as many of the whales in the area are seasonal and few are there year-round. Therefore, we decided to travel over the prime viewing months of January to March to see as many species as possible.
Next was where to visit? The towns of Loreto and La Paz, are on the eastern side of the peninsula (the Sea of Cortez) and these waters attract whales galore. The Western side on the peninsula takes you onto the Pacific Ocean and many of the protected lagoons here are packed with grey whales and their calves. This region provides incredibly close encounters where, if you’re lucky, you can even touch one of these wonderful creatures.
Using this knowledge, we flew into Loreto and stayed for three nights. We visited most places by modest-sized panga boats and saw blue whales, pods of dolphin, sealions, humpbacks, frigate-birds and booby birds. Next, we drove west to the Bay of Magdalena and saw many grey whales. Then, after a lobster lunch to celebrate, we made our way to La Paz.
After a long drive, we arrived in La Paz to an amazing, full-blown raucous carnival. Our quaint boutique hotel so carefully picked by Scott Dunn, overlooking the sea, was surrounded an all sides by live music stages and crowds of people ready to party. It actually ended up be good fun and added to the interest, but I did think a last minute and expensive hotel change may be about to happen. Note to self -avoid first week of Feb!
La Paz delivered on the incredible magic that drew me back there. There were tons of whale sharks, humpbacks and sealions. Next, we drove to Todos Santos and stayed in another charming hotel in the center of this beautiful little town. We did one last, finale day trip from here and headed to Cabo San Lucas for some whale watching. Cabo is regarded as the place in the world to see humpbacks. Our last boat did not disappoint, it was a mini power yacht called, ‘Sugar Lips’, and wow, the whales were everywhere.
We covered over 600km by road, we stayed in three great hotels, our group was still enjoying each other’s company by the end, our guide Pahoran never lost his enthusiasm and we saw more than we could have hoped to see. We had eaten wonderful food, the towns of Loreto and Todos Santos, both firsts for me, were wonderful, charming places to stay. As promised, we battled through and tried margaritas everywhere and had a clear and unanimous winner. The Cadillac Margarita at ‘Tequila’s Sunrise Bar’ made by the head barman and manger Dess Valdez, who has won the last seven national margarita competitions. I said Scott Dunn worked with the best guides and people. This is definitely a name to have in your black book.
We will be repeating this trip in February 2019, let us know if you would like to join.