Baja Ocean Wildlife Expedition
Will I Love This Holiday?
Travel Style: Active, Volunteer
Where: Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Cost: $2,695 USD per person
*Kids under 18? See "Costs" below
Length: 8 days
Physical Rating: Active
Right For: Solo, families, small groups
Children: kids 6+, tweens, & teens (under 18 accompanied by adult)
What: Sea Turtle & Ocean Wildlife Adventure
This is a Volunteer holiday, working with sea turtles as well as other non-working activities.
Group Size: Maximum 15
Accommodation: Rustic - Basic
1. Get personal with wild sea turtles. As a volunteer for sea turtle conservation you will be joining Grupo Tortuguro a network of scientists, fishermen, and local residents in important ongoing in-water sea turtle research. Help to catch, tag, gather data, and release black sea turtles.
2. Explore the marine life around Magdalena Bay. Explore the wonderful variety of wildlife that makes their way to Magdalena Bay, from sea lions to whale sharks, dolphins and shore birds from land, the boats or snorkeling in Magdalena bay! You may even see coyote tracks.
3. Meet “friendly” grey whales: The grey whales here have a reputation for being “friendly” and sometimes come right along side of the boats to check out the folks inside. Sometimes they even introduce their calves.
4. Snorkel with unusual companions: There will be opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks (plankton eaters) and sea lions off Isla Espirìtu Santo.
5. “Glamp” under the stars. Witness the night sky in full natural glory, then let the gentle sounds of the bay become part of your dreams snug in your cozy, comfortable tent on the sand.
Is This Trip Right For Me?
This is a trip for adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts. In Baja, you’ll be camping (3 nights), spending lots of time in boats, and eating new foods (some fresh from the ocean). There are no guarantees to see wildlife (though our chances are good most participants do see them) and activities are dependent on weather.
The schedule can be fluid and all activities may not start on time. There may be bugs around including mosquitoes. The camp includes a private outdoor bathroom and shower.
Accommodations at the gray whale and turtle camp include: spacious, walk-in canvas tents with private patio area, elevated mattresses on platforms or raised cots, compost toilets integrated into the landscape, and a walk-in tent with Japanese-style ladle shower with hot water available on request. Please see the Accommodations section for more information.
We will try to pair any individuals up with another traveler of the same sex but we can't guarantee that option will be available.
This company was launched in 2008 as the world's first effort to protect sea turtles through (community based) ecotourism. Originally fiscally-sponsored by the Ocean Foundation and most recently Oceanic Society, it is now an independent 501c3 non-profit. Their programs provide support for important turtle nesting beaches and has helped save more than 1 million hatchlings. They are also responsible for the creation of a campaign working to end the demand for turtle shell products. School programs help teachers and students learn about these incredible animals and how to protect them. Your guide is an expert in sea turtle conservation and volunteer tourism.
DAY 1: ARRIVE TO LA PAZ
Fly into Cabo San Lucas and meet your shuttle to La Paz (2 hour drive) (round trip shuttle service included), a great way to view the area’s desert landscape. Meet your guide for dinner after you arrive and have an orientation meeting to learn about the wildlife you will see and the research programs you’ll visit. Overnight at Hotel Catedral, a beautiful modern hotel in the city center.
DAY 2: LA PAZ TO MAGDALENA BAY
Today you will head across the peninsula to start your exploration of this beautiful region. The guide will pick up the group at the hotel after breakfast to head across the peninsula to the Pacific (about a 3 hour drive). Arrive to beautiful Magdalena Bay and head by boat to our partner RED Travel Mexico’s stunning tent camp, where you will camp for the next three nights. This camp is the base of operations for the turtle research efforts and is staffed by fishermen who formerly caught turtles but now work to protect them. Expect fantastic meals and great service in a beautiful location.
If weather allows, you can look for gray whales on the way to the camp. Once settled in, there will be a camp orientation, followed by happy hour and a delicious dinner after sunset.
DAY 3: GREEN TURTLE RESEARCH
Today is turtle day! After breakfast, the group will head out by boat for the turtle research to study the black turtle, a sub-species of green turtles. You will be accompanied by researchers from Grupo Tortuguero, a network of residents around the region that study and protect several species of sea turtles. The efforts of this network have helped bring the black turtle back from near extinction by working with local communities, fishermen, and others to reduce poaching and entanglement in fishing gear. Under their supervision and guidance, the turtles are caught in nets and brought ashore to study. Participants help measure their length and width, weigh them, and collect other data. Once complete, the turtle is released back into the water.
We will bring a picnic lunch and some shade and spend most of the day with the fishermen and the turtles. Afterwards, feel free to head out in a kayak to explore the Bay and look for dolphins or seabirds. After dinner, your guide will lead a star gazing lesson or make a campfire; you won’t often find a better place!
DAY 4: FRIENDLY GRAY WHALES
Magdalena Bay is also a great habitat for gray whales, where they come to mate and calve. Baja’s gray whales are unique in their “friendly” behavior; they will sometimes approach boats to be touched and the mothers are known to push the young calves closer, which can make for an incredible interaction between two species. Gray whales are also making a comeback in this region since the ban on commercial whaling and visitors coming to meet these amazing animals has become a key source of income for local communities.
We will take small boats known as pangas that will take us out into the channel and spend most of the day on the water watching these majestic mammals. We will have a picnic lunch on an island and head back late afternoon to relax at the camp.
DAY 5: MAGDALENA BAY
We complete today our exploration of the greater Magdalena Bay complex and its vast, rolling sand dunes and mangrove canals teeming with birdlife. Climb up a dune for a great view of the area and to play in the sand, you may even spot a dolphin in the distance. We may also see more whales or dolphins as we explore. We head back to La Paz early afternoon and will have some downtime before dinner to shop or explore the town. Dinner is on your own to explore the town's great offerings.
DAY 6 MARCH 7th - WHALE SHARK RESEARCH & ESPIRITU SANTO ISLAND
Whale sharks are the true “gentle giants” of the oceans. The largest fish on the planet, these gentle beasts return yearly to feed on plankton in La Paz Bay. You'll have several opportunities to snorkel with these incredible (but not aggressive) animals and learn more about these magnificent creatures and support their protection. Our partners helped to create new guidelines to make sure that the observation limits any stress on the animals.
Afterwards you will head out to the beautiful island of Espiritu Santo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. First you will have the opportunity to snorkel with sea lions, who are incredibly graceful in the water. Afterwards, head to the island for a picnic lunch and a hike through the desert landscape to learn how the ocean and land interact in this land of contrasts. Dinner is on your own.
DAY 7: TODOS SANTOS
Sea turtles need to be protected both in the water and on their nesting beaches. One important nesting beach is near the town of Todos Santos, an artist community about an hour drive from La Paz, managed by Tortugueros Las Playitas. We will explore the history of this town with a walking tour and then visit a turtle hatchery (where the eggs are protected) to see if they have any hatchlings ready for release. If time allows, take a hike to a nearby pond to look for birds and other wildlife. Tonight the group will have a celebratory dinner.
DAY 8: DEPARTURE
Take the morning shuttle back to Los Cabos for your flight home or explore other parts of this incredible region. You will head home knowing you helped contribute to learning about the wild animals of this incredible place and supporting efforts to protect them.
What to Expect
Dates: March 7 - 14, 2020
Costs: $2,695 USD per person
$50 off per person for paying by check
Kids under 18 receive 25% off when sharing with guardian
Reserve Your Place: $300 per person
Included: In-country transportation, accommodations, meals as noted, activities, guides, round trip airport pick-up & transfer from Los Cabos, donation to turtle conservation
Excluded: Air fair to Los Cabos, 2 dinners, personal items, tips & travel insurance
Minimum recommended age is 6 years old. (Ask us about sea turtle student field trips)
Got a Group?
This trip can be done as a student field trip or a private trip for families (minimum of 8 people). Club, organization, or like-minded friends, too. Contact us here to inquire about dates and pricing for student and private trips.
Camping along the remote shorelines of Magdalena Bay may not involve 300-thread-count sheets, marble floors, or even plumbing. But it is highly luxurious by backcountry standards, and it is a spectacular experience for anyone enthusiastic about the outdoors.
Accommodations at the gray whale and turtle camp include: spacious, walk-in canvas tents with private patio area, elevated mattresses on platforms or raised cots, compost toilets integrated into the landscape, and a walk-in tent with Japanese-style ladle shower with hot water available on request.
We will try to pair any individuals up with another traveler of the same sex but we can't guarantee that option will be available.
Guests’ Tents (Las Carpas):
When you arrive, the roomy two-person tents are already set up, your bed is made, and on your pillow are two welcome gifts: a personalized card and a small trinket. Each guest gets a twin-sized, slightly firm but delightfully thick mattress with clean sheets, blankets, and a soft pillow. Between the mattresses is a broad aisle, and a small wood slatted nightstand, perfect for stashing an alarm clock (battery or solar-powered) and headlamp, and anything else you want handy during the night. The tents have zippered vents to provide air circulation during the heat of the day and a rain fly to keep out the wind and dew at night (the desert can get chilly after sundown). A bamboo mat serves as the “front porch,” a convenient place to remove and stash shoes. A small brush is provided for each tent to manage the sand that will get tracked inside.
Kitchen and Dining Area (La Cocina):
There are two large kitchen tents – out of which come healthy, delicious meals with local flair. The large, long dining tent is next door, and contains three wooden tables, plenty of plastic deck chairs, a cooler with purified water, and a bookshelf featuring tomes on plant, bird and animal identification, Spanish language, and other useful topics. The walls of the dining tent can be tied back to catch a breeze during the day, or closed to block the wind at night. To protect fragile desert vegetation, walkways are lined with white stakes, stuck in the soft desert sand every few feet. Interspersed with the stakes are solar-powered lamps, which provide enough illumination at night that one doesn’t need a headlamp or flashlight to walk through camp.
Camp Toilet (Los Baños):
Enclosed by three walls and a roof, the composting toilet faces away from the tents into the vast, uninhabited space that surrounds the camp. A flag alerts people when the bathroom is in use for privacy.
There is no plumbing at a camp in the middle of the desert, so once you are done, you sprinkle a handful of woodchips into the toilet. The woodchips help the composting process, masks smells that may attract animals, and keeps the baños smelling fresh. There is also a bucket full of clean, fresh toilet paper rolls next to the toilet. All used paper is then deposited into a sealable bucket next to the toilet (the paper does not easily biodegrade and has to be disposed of separately).
Camp Sinks (Los Lavados):
There are two, one near the baños and one by the doorway to the kitchen. Stepping on a pedal under the sink causes water to squirt out the delicately arched faucet and splash into the bronze-colored bowl. This sink even has large clamshells lining the bottom. Biodegradable soap is provided in a bottle next to the sink. The used water drains through plastic tubing and into the nearby brush. A small towel hangs alongside the sink, and there is a small counter.
Shower (La Ducha):
We have a large tent set aside for showers. Warm water awaits in metal containers for rinsing and a wood floor keeps your feet away from the sand while showering.
Wildlife You May See
Wildlife You May Work With:
Black sea turtles, green sea turtles.
Additional Wildlife You May See:
Grey whale, black sea turtle, green sea turtle, leatherback turtles, dolphins, whale shark, sea lion, shore birds, and more.
About The Project
Red Travel Mexico works with Grupo Tortuguero de las Californias to recruit, train and employ fisher conservationists, creating sustainable employment alternatives, funding the monitoring, and in the process generating important data about the health and movement of sea turtle populations. By putting the monitoring in the hands of local fishermen, and funding the participation of students from surrounding communities in sea turtle monitoring, RED is helping to create local stewards of Magdalena Bay’s natural resources.
What Is Special About This Project
Most people visit sea turtle nesting beaches to see sea turtles. This trip is different in that you are visiting an “in-water” research project, which means the turtles are caught in the water as opposed to waiting for them to come ashore. The turtles that live in Baja’s Magdalena Bay don’t nest here, so the only way to learn about them is to catch them with nets to study and release.
The researchers with Grupo Tortuguero, a network of scientists, fishermen, and local residents, set out nets in the areas where the turtles hang out. Once a turtle is found, the research staff will bring them up into the boat and then onto shore to do the research (it’s much easier that way). You will have the opportunity to help bring the turtles ashore and assist researchers to collect data such as length and width of the shell, its weight, its tag number, and its physical condition. If the turtle isn’t already tagged, researchers will apply either a metal tag to the flippers or inject a microchip into their shoulders. This information helps researchers to understand how many turtles there are, how their health is, and the importance of the area for sea turtle foraging.
Please note that seeing a turtle is never guaranteed but this project has a high percentage rate of catching turtles on these outings.
Under supervision and guidance, you will help catch sea turtles are caught in nets and bring them ashore to study.
Participants help measure their length and width, weigh them, and collect other data.
Once data gathering is complete, the turtle is released back into the water.
Grey whale watching, explore Magdalena Bay, birding, snorkel with or watch whale sharks from the panga, visit a sea turtle hatchery. (See Itinerary)
How This Trip Makes a Difference
Wildlife and the Environment
On this trip, you will join these conservationists to participate in research efforts of sea turtles and see some of these extraordinary animals closeup. This trip helps to fund turtle research and benefit local communities while providing an unforgettable hands-on experience. Profits from this trip will help to save at least 200 hatchlings at a turtle nesting beach per participant.
This trip is in partnership with Red Travel Mexico, a local ecotourism company working to protect sea turtles by offering alternatives to fishing and promoting research programs. By joining this trip, you will be directly supporting community-based conservation of sea turtles by providing alternative income to poaching .
RED works with Grupo Tortuguero de las Californias to recruit, train and employ fisher conservationists, creating sustainable employment alternatives, funding the monitoring, and in the process generating important data about the health and movement of sea turtle populations. By putting the monitoring in the hands of local fishermen RED and funding the participation of students from surrounding communities in sea turtle monitoring, RED is helping to create local stewards of Magdalena Bay’s natural resources. Red also provides small business training and incubation, and technical assistance through out rural Mexico. They are an important local provider and leader in non-extractive employment. Since its inception in 2009, RED has evolved into a recognized leader in the field of sustainable tourism, winning ATTA’s young operator scholarship award for its innovative model combining socio-economic development with conservation through sustainable tourism