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Mexico: The Great Gray Whale Migration and Baja’s Natural Wonders

Program Number: 12315RJ
Start and End Dates:
3/19/2013 - 3/26/2013; 1/28/2015 - 2/4/2015; 2/6/2015 - 2/13/2015; 2/8/2015 - 2/15/2015; 2/11/2015 - 2/18/2015; 2/25/2015 - 3/4/2015; 3/11/2015 - 3/18/2015; 3/18/2015 - 3/25/2015; 3/23/2015 - 3/30/2015;
Duration: 7 nights
Location: Mexico
Price starting at: $1,649.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Natural History; Independent City Discoveries
Meals: 20; 7 Breakfasts, 1 Brunch, 7 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Observe one of the most miraculous natural phenomena on the planet: the 5,000-mile winter migration of gray whales to the Baja Peninsula to mate and deliver their calves. Journey from San Diego into Mexico to trace the migration and lifecycle of the gray whale.




Highlights

• Aboard a 12-person fishing boat, get within an arm’s length of a pod of gray whales.
• Visit the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to learn about whales with marine biologists.
• In the deserts of Baja, examine the bizarre boojum tree, towering cardon cactus, contorted elephant tree and other endemic plants.



Activity Particulars

Be able to board small motor boats from pier and from beach, possibly wading into shallow water up to knee high; possibility of encountering rough seas. Walks are usually short and on relatively flat terrain, however often on uneven ground. Be able to endure a drive on a graded road for one hour.



Itinerary Summary

Arrival San Diego, Calif., 1 night; coach to San Quintin (Mexico), 1 night; coach to Guerrero Negro, 1 night; coach to San Ignacio, 2 nights; coach to Cataviña, 1 night; coach to Ensenada, 1 night ; coach to San Diego, Calif.



Independent arrival San Diego, Calif.
1 night
Coach to San Quintin (Mexico)
1 night
Coach to Guerrero Negro
1 night

Begin your deep dive into the life of the gray whale with an excursion to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla for an introductory lecture given by a marine biologist, followed by an expert-led exploration of the aquarium. Explore beautiful La Jolla’s shores, and walk to the famous coves and protected seal beach. Drive through the most-crossed border in the world into Mexico, and explore the wonders of the desert and its innumerable species of flora, including the cirio (boojum tree), Baja's signature plant. Enjoy a lecture on the Vizcaino World Biosphere, and learn about birds, whales and the largest salt plant in the world.



Coach to San Ignacio
2 nights
Coach to Cataviña
1 night
Coach to San Diego, Calif.
1 night
Departure

Each year, gray whales travel approximately 5,000 miles from the Bering and Chukchi Seas to the warm waters of the wildlife refuges of Scammon’s Lagoon and San Ignacio Lagoon to court and mate, to give birth and care for their young. Here’s your chance to get within arm’s reach of them in this Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Three outings in small fishing boats are scheduled in two lagoons on three different days. Learn about the whale-counting process and surveillance system in the whale sanctuary. In San Ignacio, visit the tree-filled “zocalo,” and enter a local’s home where you’ll enjoy the company of your host and learn to make flour tortillas by hand. Back into the Central Desert, a combination of sun, sand, gigantic granite boulders and amusing collages of boojums, cardons and elephant trees that make Cataviña a superb desert garden.




Mexico

The oldest of the land’s found by Europeans in the New World, Mexico has endured a rough history at the hands of Cortes and subsequent invaders. Despite a turbulent past, the country maintains its relaxed and inviting charm with a mix of modern and traditional from its industrious cities to its captivating wildernesses.



Accommodations
Comfortable hotels, including historic colonial style hotels in Mexico.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Esther Mitrani

Esther Mitrani was born in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. She graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, then worked in San Francisco for three years in human resources in high-tech. Missing her home, she return to her native city. Esther has been guiding since 1994, and joined the family business in 2002 as an organizer and tour leader. She is an eager traveler, and she loves sports and languages.
 
Isabel Sanchez

Although she lived for many years in the United States, Ensenada is Isabel Sanchez's hometown and where she first worked as a guide for cruise-ship passengers. She moved to Palm Springs, Calif., specializing in leading desert excursions. A desire to return to her family and home, and to instill the native culture in her children, inspired Isabel to return to Tijuana in 2004 and join Andiamo.
 
Karla Patterson

While art is Karla Patterson’s passion and ceramic production is a constant in her life, her vibrant personality, love of travel and desire to expand her knowledge has made her an expert leader. Although Baja Californian is her home, Karla has lived throughout Mexico, the United States and Europe, working in public relations, teaching, guiding and participating in art courses. Her guiding experience began with the cruise ships, leading groups in Ensenada.
 
Carlos Granados

Born in Los Mochis and one of 11 siblings, Carlos Granados’ family moved to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Living on the border, he studied English and completed high school in the U.S., as well as some studies in biological sciences at the University of Texas. In 1984, his family returned to Sinaloa to begin a cotton seed mill business, where Carlos worked as a seed analyst for 12 years. Carlos’ love of the region led him to become certified as a specialist in the Copper Canyon.
 
Audrey Evans

Audrey is an education specialist at Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the coordinator for their whale watching excursions. Spending her early childhood in northern California, she developed a love for all things marine. She holds a degree in biology, concentrating on ecology and evolution, and has a ten-year career as an informal science educator. Audrey has held past positions as a naturalist as well as an educator for an environmental non-profit where she taught members of her community to recognize chemical and biological indicators of water quality. She has always had a particular interest in marine mammals and looks forward to witnessing the annual migration of gray whales as they pass the San Diego coast. Audrey has observed these animals up-close in their breeding grounds in Baja California, and is always enthusiastic to share her experience and knowledge with others!
 
Maria Mitrani

Maria Mitrani was born in Italy, then lived in Canada, the United States and France. She finally settled in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, where she has been living since 1976 with her husband and three children. She has a bachelor’s in Italian and art history from the University of California at Berkeley. Since 1985 she has led tours through different parts of Mexico and is a specialized guide for Baja California. She is one of the owners and founders of Andiamo.
 
Meals and Lodgings
   Courtyard Marriott
  San Diego, California, USA 1 night
   Misión Santa Maria
  San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico 1 night
   Halfway Inn
  Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur, Mexico 1 night
   Desert Inn, San Ignacio
  San Ignacio, Baja California Sur, Mexico 2 nights
   Misión Cataviña
  Cataviña, Baja California, Mexico 1 night
   Courtyard Marriott
  San Diego, California, USA 1 night
 Courtyard Marriott
Type: Full Service Hotel
  Description: Centrally located, less than 10 minutes from the airport, down town Gaslamp Quarters, Hillcrest neighborhood, Balboa Park and Old Town. Fully renovated in 2009. Taxis readily available upon request.
  Contact info: 595 Hotel Circle South
San Diego, CA 92108 USA
phone: 619-291-5720
web: www.courtyardsd.com
  Room amenities: Large, ergonomic desk with no-glare lighting, ergonomic desk chair, armchair, complimentary WiFi, 32" HDTV with premium channels, pay-per-view movies, stunning bathrooms, hair dryer, coffee maker, refrigerator, ...and more.
  Facility amenities: 137 spacious contemporary all amenities guest rooms. GoBoard touch screen with weather, news, etc, at your fingertips. Meeting/event spaces. Lounge with personal booths wired for Internet and with personal LCD TVs. Bistro. Full-service bar. Outdoor heated pool and spa. Fitness room. Basic market with snacks, beverages and sundries. Valet dry cleaning, coin-operated laundry. Boarding pass printing kiosk. Safe deposit boxes at front desk.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Approx $100.00 Please make pre and post-program reservations directly with hotel by calling : Annika Decker at (619) 481 5887..
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Approx $100.00 Please make pre and post-program reservations directly with hotel by calling : Annika Decker at (619) 481 5887..
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

 Misión Santa Maria
Type: Hotel
  Description: Picturesque colonial style hotel beautifully situated on a long stretch of sandy beach outside of town. All rooms are ocean front.
  Contact info: Playa Santa Maria
San Quintin, BC,  22940 Mexico
phone: +52 (616) 165 9008
web: www.hotelmisionsantamaria.com.mx
  Room amenities: 55 ample rooms with air-conditioning / heater, satellite TV and private balconies.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, bar, patio, conference room. Phone in lobby. Complimentary Wi-Fi in common areas (Internet reception may often be weak).
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Halfway Inn
Type: Hotel
  Description: Colonial style hotel with central patio. Large lobby, bar and restaurant area. Formerly Desert Inn Hotel.
  Contact info: Carretera Transpeninsular Paralelo 28
Guerrero Negro, BCS,  23940 Mexico
phone: +52 (615) 157-1304
web: www.halfwayinnhotel.com
  Room amenities: 28 ample rooms with heater, satellite TV.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, bar, game area. Phone in the lobby
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Desert Inn, San Ignacio
Type: Hotel
  Description: Cozy colonial style hotel with central patio and pleasant outdoor areas located in the middle of a palm oasis.
  Contact info: Domicilio Conocido
San Ignacio, Baja California Sur,  22930 Mexico
phone: +52 (615) 154 0300
web: www.desertinns.com
  Room amenities: 28 ample air-conditioned/heated rooms with satellite TV.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, bar, game room, non-heated pool, phone in the lobby, complimentary Wi-Fi in common areas -Internet reception may often be weak.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Misión Cataviña
Type: Hotel
  Description: Cozy colonial style hotel with central patio and pleasant garden areas surrounded by the magnificent landscape and unique vegetation of the Cataviña desert.
  Contact info: Carretera Transpeninsular 1 km 179 desviacion Bahia de LA – San Quintin
Cataviña, Baja California,  22930 Mexico
phone: +52 (200) 124 9123
web: www.hotelmisionsantamaria.com.mx/es/catavina.html
  Room amenities: 28 ample air-conditioned/heated rooms with satellite TV.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, bar, non-heated pool, phone in the lobby, complimentary WiFi in common areas (internet reception may often be weak).
  Smoking allowed: Yes


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
San Diego, CA. The program will begin at 10:00 AM in a private room of the Courtyard Marriott. Please check hotel information board for room assignment. You will be staying at Courtyard Marriott that night.
  End of Program:
San Diego, CA. Formally, upon return to San Diego on Day 7. Hotel accommodation at the Courtyard Marriott on Day 7 and breakfast on Day 8, served from 7:00 to 8:00 AM, are included. You will be staying at Courtyard Marriott the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required. Complete and return the Andiamo's Liability Waiver (located at the end of the Prep-Material), to the following address: 482 West San Ysidro Blvd. Suite 612 San Ysidro, CA 92173-2444
  Parking availability:
Participants may leave their cars at the hotel at no additional charge
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  San Diego, California
  Nearest highway: Interstate 5 is the highway that services San Diego.
  Nearest airport:  San Diego Airport (SAN).
  From End of Program
  Location: San Diego, California
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details
 

Courtyard Marriott

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Taxi

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

$20 approximately per cab
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

It is a 10-15 minute drive 

   

Taxi cabs may be found right outside the airport terminal.

 

Courtyard Marriott

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
Super Shuttle
phone: 800-258-3826
Advanced Reservations Required

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

Approx $14.00
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

10 - 15 min. 

   

Must reserve ahead and call after picking up checked baggage. Same information is applicable for train station or bus station arrivals.

 
Driving Directions
  San Diego Airport (SAN) 1: Start out going WEST toward N HARBOR DR. 0.6 miles 2: Turn RIGHT onto N HARBOR DR. 0.9 miles 3: Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto NIMITZ BLVD. 0.5 miles 4: Turn RIGHT to stay on NIMITZ BLVD. 1.7 miles 5: Merge onto I-8 E toward I-5 S. 3.8 miles 6: Take the HOTEL CIRCLE exit. <0.1 miles 7: Turn LEFT onto HOTEL CIR S. <0.1 miles 8: End at 595 Hotel Cir S in San Diego.
Elevation Note: The highest altitude is approximately 3,500 feet.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Welcome/ Marine Life Orientation
(Tuesday, March 19)
   
 Morning: Meet in a private room of the hotel at 10:00AM for a welcome brunch and an overview of the program. Begin the journey with an excursion to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla for an introductory lecture on gray whales given by a marine biologist followed by a guided visit to the aquarium to learn about Baja's marine life.
 Brunch: Welcome buffet brunch in a private room of the hotel.
 Lunch: Enjoy a bag lunch along the La Jolla shores with a view of the ocean.
 Afternoon: Explore beautiful La Jolla shores. Walk to the famous coves, protected seal beach, and learn about the endemic Torrey Pines. Continue to downtown San Diego to get to know some of the city's most attractive landmarks. In Old Town, walk through the historical homes and have dinner.
 Dinner: Dinner is at a well-known Mexican restaurant to taste Cal-Mex cuisine.
   
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott
Meals Included: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner

Day 2: Across the Border
(Wednesday, March 20)

Note: WATER AND ICE: In Mexico, purified water and ice will be served throughout the trip, on the bus and in restaurants and hotels.



   
 Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel in San Diego
 Morning: Your quest for the gray whale begins as you drive south through the most-crossed border in the world, into Mexico. The first activity is a guided field trip through the modern visual Museo de las Californias in the attractive cultural center CECUT as an introduction to better understand the peninsula. Highway One to Ensenada offers breathtaking views on the Pacific Ocean.
 Lunch: Enjoy a home-cooked meal in a private home in Ensenada.
 Afternoon: Explore Ensenada, located on the ample Todos Santos Bay, the city was established by the English in the 1880's. It now houses one of Mexico's most important harbors. See the main streets, the "malecón" (boardwalk), and an ex-casino. Continue south to San Vicente to visit a small community museum. Drive through one of the peninsula's most important agricultural areas to reach the hotel for the night, situated in front of a wide-open beach in San Quintin.
 Dinner: Free to explore on your own.
   
Accommodations: Misión Santa Maria
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 3: The Desert Beautiful
(Thursday, March 21)
   
 Breakfast: At the hotel in San Quintin
 Morning: The day is dedicated to admire the wonders of the desert. The mountainous peninsula is covered by innumerable species of flora, many of which are endemic. Among them, the cirio (boojum tree), Baja's signature plant, is probably the most outstanding, naming the region Valle de los Cirios Nature Reserve. Stops are made for guided nature walks. The highlight is Cataviña, surrounded by gigantic granite boulders and unique vegetation.
 Lunch: In Cataviña, a choice of Mexican or international dishes.
 Afternoon: Arrive at the 28th parallel, where the State of Baja California Sur begins with the city of Guerrero Negro. Stateline also marks the beginning of the Vizcaino World Biosphere established to protect the Gray Whale Sanctuaries, important rock art sites, and a variety of flora and fauna.
 Dinner: At the hotel in Guerrero Negro. Choice of meat, chicken or fish.
 Evening: Lecture on the Vizcaino World Biosphere. Learn about birds, whales and the largest salt plant producer in the world.
   
Accommodations: Halfway Inn
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Baja's Birds/ Whales Up Close
(Friday, March 22)
   
 Breakfast: At the hotel in Guerrero Negro. Choice of Mexican and international breakfast dishes.
 Morning: Begin the day visiting a natural reserve in an enormous salt marsh where birds migrate from Russia, Canada and other latitudes. A unique, unforgettable experience is a boat ride among gray whales in Scammon's Lagoon, a Gray Whale Sanctuary in the Vizcaino World Biosphere, to view these giant mammals at arm's length; some even let themselves be petted! Each year, gray whales travel approximately 5,000 miles from the Bering and Chukchi Seas to the warm waters of this wildlife refuge to court and mate; to give birth and care for their young. To access the sanctuary, drive through La Exportadora de Sal, and learn about its history and activities.
 Lunch: Enjoy the tranquility of the lagoon during a picnic lunch.
 Afternoon: Continue the trip to San Ignacio to explore this charming town that developed around its imposing 18th century mission, still in use today, in the midst of a lush, tranquil oasis. Upon arrival mingle with the local children at a lively folk dancing presentation at the local school.
 Dinner: A Mexican dinner is served at the hotel in San Ignacio
   
Accommodations: Desert Inn, San Ignacio
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Gray Whales Continued
(Saturday, March 23)
   
 Breakfast: At the hotel in San Ignacio. Choice of Mexican and international breakfast dishes.
 Morning: After breakfast board special vehicles for the graded road that connects the town to secluded Laguna de San Ignacio, also part of Vizcaino World Biosphere, for another adventuresome ride among whales. Migrating birds can be spotted along the shore.
 Lunch: A hot meal is served in a "palapa" at the lagoon in San Ignacio.
 Afternoon: Learn about the whale-counting process and surveillance system in the whale sanctuary before returning to town. Back in San Ignacio, visit the tree-filled "zocalo", the church and enter a home where date bread and pie is made. Enjoy the company of the pleasant host while learning to make flour tortillas by hand to taste with local ranch cheese.
 Dinner: Your choice to explore local flair.
 Evening: At leisure.
   
Accommodations: Desert Inn, San Ignacio
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6: Vizcaino Desert Walk/ Farewell Fiesta
(Sunday, March 24)
   
 Breakfast: At the hotel in San Ignacio. Choice of Mexican and international breakfast dishes.
 Morning: Return to Guerrero Negro for a third and final encounter with the whales.
 Lunch: Enjoy the tranquility of the lagoon during a picnic lunch.
 Afternoon: Back into the Central Desert, a combination of sun, sand, gigantic granite boulders, and amusing collages of boojums, cardons and elephant trees that make Cataviña a superb "desert garden". Due to this setting, nights in Cataviña are memorable.
 Dinner: Enjoy Mexican finger food at the hotel in Cataviña.
 Evening: Celebrate Mexican-style at a fiesta with a taste of tequila and piñata-breaking while learning about Mexican traditions.
   
Accommodations: Misión Cataviña
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Farewell to Baja/ Return to San Diego
(Monday, March 25)

Note: To visit the small cave with simple rock art in Cataviña, a short steep hike on graded terrain is required. Participants who can't join, may stay at the base of the hill and enjoy the grand scenery.



   
 Breakfast: At the hotel in Cataviña. Choice of Mexican and international breakfast dishes.
 Morning: Begin the last stretch with a beautiful walk to visit to a small cave with fascinating rock art in Cataviña. Begin the return trip to San Diego.
 Lunch: In a "fonda" (small restaurant) of San Quintin. Choice of Mexican and local specialties. In addition, taste a healthy salad prepared with the leaf of the national plant of Mexico, the prickly pear cactus.
 Afternoon: Continue the return drive to San Diego. During a brief stop in Ensenada, stretch your legs, shop or enjoy one of its cafes.
 Dinner: A box dinner is provided to eat en route to San Diego.
 Evening: Arrive in San Diego for your final night.
   
Accommodations: Courtyard Marriott
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Departures
(Tuesday, March 26)
   
 Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel in San Diego.
 Morning: Independent departures.
   
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
 
  San Ignacio, Baja California Sur San Ignacio
Time at leisure in San Ignacio oasis may be spent visiting and strolling the small town square, its imposing 1728 Mission, or enjoying the slow pace of life in the town and the hotel.
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List


Eye of the Whale, Epic Passage From Baja to Siberia


Author: Dick Russell


Description: This is an absorbing, first-person account of the migration of the gray whale from the breeding lagoons along the pacific coast of Baja California to the Alaskan summer feeding grounds.



Field Guide to the Gray Whale


Author: Oceanic Society


Description: A brief, handsomely illustrated field guide with a focus on the behavior of gray whales.



Baja Legends


Author: Greg Niemann


Description: Entertaining and good history and stories of people, buildings, and places of Baja California.



Into a Desert Place


Author: Graham Mackintosh


Description: One day the spectacularly ill-equipped Mackintosh set out to walk around Baja California, with $150 in his pocket and a gallon jug of water in each hand. This is the vastly entertaining and typically British story of his 3,000-mile lark around the Peninsula.



Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles Through Baja California, the Other Mexico


Author: C. M. Mayo


Description: A collection of tales about Baja told by a superb story teller. Also in paperback at Milkweed Editions.



Almost an Island


Author: Bruce Berger


Description: Chronicles of the author’s three-decade love affair with the peninsula.



Roads of Baja California


Author: John Minch


Description: Provides good information about Baja California’s geology and botany.



Baja California Plant Field Guide


Author: Norman C. Roberts


Description: Best available summary with color illustrations and descriptions of Baja vegetation.



The Sibley Field Guide to Birds


Author: David Allen Sibley


Description: Easy to read bird guide.



Baja California


Author: AAA


Description: Provides information of hotels, roads, services, restaurants and brief- description of the towns.





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