If you really want to go off the grid and venture where nature reigns, head to Baja’s Sea of Cortez. Spot the splash of a whale tail, snorkel with sea lions, ride mules through aroyos, kayak through crystal green waters, hike the desert canyons with cacti forests, glimpse dolphins swimming in sparkling bioluminescence and star gaze at night. Here is the highlights of our Uncruise Baja Adventure.
Our first UnCruise Adventure was on the Baja Bounty 7-day island hopping cruise. The 1,100-mile-long Baja peninsula stretches across arid desert landscapes and volcanic ridges to crescent sandy beaches with turquoise waters at the Sea of Cortez.
UnCruise Captain Jon Sheppard (aka “Shep”) told us cruising on the MV Safari Endeavor is the best way to see the Baja wilderness and abundant species in this area. Called the “Galapagos of the North,” he said that “Most of the highlights on the cruise are unexpected like seeing bioluminescent dolphins at night, thousands of dolphins leaping through the waters, and landings on islands where nothing has been mapped. It’s an explorer’s dream to experience this style of cruising in the natural world!”
Sharing our itinerary, highlights and a few details to help you plan your UnCruise adventure. Check out more photos and videos from our adventures in Baja on our Instagram account, click here!
Captain “Shep” and his warm-hearted crew welcomed us with a glass of bubbly as we boarded the MV Safari Endeavour in La Paz and met other cruise mates. We turned off our devices and prepared to go “off-the-grid” for 7 days.
Daily Adventures…each day’s activities are dependent on Mother Nature, so the Captain and Expedition Leader coordinate the destination and activities based on wildlife sightings, weather and safety.
- Day 1 – We started in La Paz where whale sharks are spotted in the winter months, then continued to Bonanza Beach in Isla Espiritu Santo, a natural marine park – home to many birds and reptiles, half-moon beaches.
- Day 2 – We continued north along the west side of the Sea of Cortes to Agua Verde where we anchored near small fishing boats and sail boats. The turquoise bay is surrounded by red-rock cliffs and the dramatic Sierra de La Giganta mountain range.
- Day 3 – Then onto Puerto Los Gatos where we learned about the red fossilized sandunes. Our adventures continued as we cruised north past Isla Monserrate and Isla Carmen to Puerto Escondido.
- Day 4 – Puerto Escondido to Bahia Magdalena where Gray whales migrate from Alaska during the winter months to birth their calves.
- Day 5 – Isla San Francisco opens up to a desert landscape dotted with cacti and a sandy beach lining a crescent bay.
- Day 6 – Los Islotes islets are known for their white guano-covered rock, and the barking of hundreds of sea lions on the rocks and craggy cliffs.
- Day 7 – Return to La Paz
We signed up for every activity possible to explore the cacti landscape and see the underwater rock formations and canyons. Shortly after leaving La Paz, there were sightings of pelicans, frigates and dolphins. We saw dozens of birds and wildlife species, some endemic, like the Vermilion flycatcher, and snorkeled with huge schools of fish.
Expedition Leader Jessika Picinich highlighted “There are few ways to experience the desert and ocean – it’s unmatched. There’s a magical luminal space where guests can experience gentle forays into the wild. Some places we have no information and UnCruise is flexible enough to go to places that haven’t been mapped geologically. It’s a comfortable and intimate way to experience Baja via the sea, no roads to get to the places we do.”
Don’t Miss! Highlights of the Uncruise Baja adventure…
- Celestial star gazing into the clear night skies where we could see the Milky Way, Orion’s Belt, shooting stars from the bow of the ship.
- Dolphins loved the bow of our ship, and we watched them speed through the bio luminescence waters one night, the images left us spellbound.
- Hiking the mountain ridges at Agua Verde – we hiked an unmarked trail and saw Cholla Cactus, Pitaya Agria, & Cardon cacti, green vegetation, orange and purple flowers with yellow butterflies swirling around us. Spotted a few lizards darting along our path, but didn’t see any rattlesnakes. Our hike ended in the small village of Puerto Agua Verde, home to about 80 villagers.
- Kayaking through the Bay of Agua Verde
- Beach combing at Espiritu Santo
- Hummingbirds getting their nectar from desert flowers
- Sighting hundreds of common dolphins and their young leaping out of the water and swimming in unison off the shores of Los Gatos. It looked like the water was boiling.
- Listening to our naturalist guides present on board lectures and learning about the endemic species in this area.
- Sitting at a sunset bonfire on the Agua Verde shore listening to the Ranchero Julio Romero play the guitar and sing traditional tunes.
- The mule rides at Agua Verde with local rancheros.
- Snorkeling with sea lion pups and colorful reef fish like damselfish, pufferfish, sergeant major fish.
- Gray whale watching at Magdalena Bay
- Open Bridge – visiting the Open Bridge and chat with the captain and crew.
Our guide Mareth noted, “In order to connect with nature, you need to be still and listen.” We turned off devices, stopped our conversations and stood still and discovered the sounds and sights of nature.
Did You Know?
- There are 900 islands in the Sea of Cortez (of which UNESCO declared 244 islands protected areas)
- There are hundreds of species of fish, including the whale shark and more than 25 species of marine mammals.
- It’s a breeding ground for sea lions, marine turtles, whales – there are 9 whale species, 22 dolphin species and 5 turtle species.
- It’s home to 30% of the world’s marine mammals and 39% of the world’s fish species.
- About 4,848 species of macro-invertebrates and 626 forms of macro algae are here.
Details for the Uncruise Baja adventure….
Deck Plans & Cabins: Each of UnCruise 9 ships have different deck plans and vary in size. Our ship, the MV Safari Endeavour, had 4 decks, 44 cabins and accommodated 88 guests and 37 crew, so there was a 2.5:1 guest-to-crew ratio. Check out deck plans – click here.
Cabins: Cabins are cleaned every day, plus there’s an evening turn down service.
Dining during your Uncruise Baja adventure: What’s included…
- Early-riser breakfasts of fresh fruit and baked-on-board pastries
- Full breakfasts with hot and cold options and specialty items
- Lunches range from salads, sandwiches and homemade soups to regionally influenced dishes
- Dinners offer a choice of entrees including fresh local seafood and meats
- Chef-selected wine pairings that complement the meal
- Desserts like tiramisu and lavender panna cotta made by the pastry chef
- Hors d’oeuvres at cocktail hour
- Beverages are all included from sodas, juices, teas, coffee to fine wines, beers, and mocktails or cocktails.
- Vegetarian dishes available at every meal
- Special dietary needs available upon advance notice
Most of the produce and fresh seafood are locally sourced from the Baja region. Each meal was artfully plated and delicious. On board dining was casual and comfortable where you can dress as you like.
Chef Matt and kitchen crew did a superb job catering to each guest’s dietary needs. The pastry chef, Katie, surprised us each day with an array of breads, desserts, snacks.
Guides & Crew: UnCruise has attracted the finest guides and crew who are passionate about travel and have a deep respect for the wilderness, wildlife, culture and the heritage of each place they visit. From the Captain to the crew – engineers, chefs, expedition guides and hotel, galley and deck staff, the entire team practices “Leave No Trace” and ensures guests are well taken care of.
Daily Schedule: Guests wake up to an optional stretch class and most guests are off for a day of adventures – hikes, skiff boat tours, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding or lounging on the sundeck with a good book. There are hot tubs on the Upper Deck that we enjoyed soaking in after our snorkeling adventures. The ship supplies guests with yoga mats, trekking poles, binoculars, reusable water bottles, rain gear, rubber boots, snorkel gear and full wet suits.
The Lounge & Library: The lounge is the ship’s “family room” where shipmates can attend presentations, lectures, play board games, or order cocktails. The ship’s library offers a nice selection of books and DVDs to borrow, including guidebooks on plants, birds and animals in the region.
Fellow Adventurers: Other guests range from young to old, come from around the world – couples, singles, families, even honeymooners. UnCruise guests share a love for nature and discovering new places in the world.
Tips for Crew & Staff: It’s recommended to tip the crew $25-35 per day, per person. We were happy to leave this tip, especially when we realized the level of service and attention to details for every guest was excellent.
More about UnCruise Adventures: This American owned small ship adventure cruise line was founded in 1996. UnCruise Adventures is about small ships and BIG adventures. They offer small ship cruises focused on wilderness, wildlife and culture. Cruises include Alaska, Costa Rica & Panama, the Hawaiian Islands, Galapagos Islands, Columbia & Snake Rivers, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Northwest.
UnCruise small ships get to places that big ships can’t go. Their aim is to help guests “change the way you see the world” through unique experiences and connections with nature, wildlife and local people. Somehow this magically happens in a different way for each guest.
If you want to see whales – gray, humpback, blue, sperm, dolphins, sea lions, seals, rays, blue-footed boobies & more… you’ll want to sign up for this cruise, available between November through March.
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Acknowledgements: Global Adventuress thanks UnCruise for hosting our cruise. All opinions are our own. Some information and details above provided by UnCruise.