12315
Mexico
Mexico: The Great Gray Whale Migration and Baja’s Natural Wonders
Witness the gray whale migration, one of nature’s most phenomenal events, and see these gentle giants up-close in the heart of their breeding grounds.
Rating (4.98)
Program No. 12315RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
1,999
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8 days
7 nights
20 meals
7 B 7 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration & Orientation, Scripps, La Jolla
San Diego, California
L,D
Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Mission Valley/Hotel Circle

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m. Luggage can be stored at the front desk until rooms are ready. Walking approximately 1/2 mile; mostly flat, paved path; standing approximately 1 hour at aquarium.

Morning: Program Registration & Orientation: 11:30 a.m. Check the hotel event board for the location of our Road Scholar private meeting room. Register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet at the hotel front desk when you check in. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Our knowledgeable Group Leader will also serve as our Study Leader for most field trips and deliver educational content unless specified otherwise. Transportation will be via private motorcoach. While in Mexico, purified water will always be available on the motorcoach, at the hotels, and in restaurants. For meals that offer a choice of dishes, we will circulate a form in advance to note each person’s preferences and save time ordering. Both a valid passport and a personal permit are required for entry into Mexico and returning into the United States. The permit will be issued by the Immigration Bureau upon entering Mexico. Keep the permit with you. The Group Leader will be on hand to assist as needed. Participants must carry all their belongings across the border when entering Mexico and again when re-entering the United States. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Lunch: In our private meeting room, we’ll have a buffet lunch featuring pasta and sliced meats, plus coffee, tea (hot/iced), water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will then hop aboard our motorcoach and drive North to reach the exclusive La Jolla community where we will visit the world renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium. At the aquarium, a member of the education department staff will present a lecture followed by an expert-led exploration of the Aquarium that has exhibits with more than 60 environments. Next, we will ride into La Jolla and set out for a nature walk with our Group Leader along the famous coves that will take us to nearby Seal Beach, protected by cliffs and part of a marine reserve. We’ll get off the motorcoach for a leisurely walk along the famous La Jolla Coves, including famed seal beach, before returning for dinner.

Dinner: At a lively Italian restaurant, we’ll have a hearty plated meal with a nonalcoholic beverage included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
2
Enter Mexico, Tijuana, Ensenada, San Vincente, San Quintin
San Quintin, Baja California
B,L,D
Mision Santa Maria

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 200 miles (320 km), approximately 5 hours. Walking approximately 2 miles throughout the day. Standing and walking at a slow pace for up to 1 hour per activity. Must carry all belongings across the border and walk 200 feet.

Breakfast: In a private section of the hotel’s main lobby, we’ll have a breakfast buffet with beverage choices of milk, orange juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we will board a motorcoach and begin our quest for gray whales, driving through the most-crossed border in the world, separating the United States and Mexico at San Ysidro. Together with the Group Leader, we must get off the bus and walk across the border (approximately 200 feet) carrying all our belongings as we go through Mexican immigration and customs. Each participant must fill out a form to obtain a permit issued by the Immigration Bureau. In the Mexican city of Tijuana just across the border, we will ride to the Tijuana Cultural Center, known as CECUT. Since its foundation in 1982, CECUT has presented numerous art forms and themes exemplifying contemporary culture. The modern Museo de las Californias in the central building uses visual displays to present the history of both states of the Baja California Peninsula: Baja California and Baja California Sur. A member of the staff will lead our exploration. We’ll then drive on to Ensenada along Mexican Federal Highway 1 that runs the entire length of Baja California from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas. The scenic drive offers beautiful views of the coastline and Pacific Ocean. Our Group Leader will give us a presentation as we ride.

Lunch: In a private home in Ensenada, we’ll have a home-cooked 3-course meal featuring local Mexican favorites accompanied by fruit-flavored water. As we explore our hosts’ home, they will answer any questions.

Afternoon: Returning to the motorcoach, we will drive along the city’s older streets while hearing stories of past and present from our Group Leader. Ensenada rests on the shores of the beautiful Todos Santos Bay, offering a Mediterranean climate, friendly people, and a historical ambiance. Heading further south, we’ll stop for a field trip in San Vicente and visit a small community museum maintained by an enthusiastic local lady who proudly welcomes guests to her museum. The final portion of our journey to San Quintin brings us through one of the peninsula’s most important agricultural areas. We expect to reach the hotel — situated in front of a wide-open beach — in the late afternoon for check-in. After some time to freshen up and relax, we’ll gather at the bar for a welcome toast to Mexico before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will have a plated meal featuring local products and a non-alcoholic beverage; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to take a walk along the sandy beach.

DAY
3
Baja Peninsula Landscapes, Cataviña, Guerrero Negro
Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Halfway Inn

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 264 miles (425 km), approximately 5 hours throughout the day. Short walks up to 1/2 mile; slight uphill, uneven paths.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will have a plated meal with choices including Mexican and international dishes accompanied by a small fruit dish plus orange juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll see ruggedly beautiful landscapes as we ride into the desert and begin to explore its wonders. The mountainous peninsula is covered by innumerable species of flora, many of which are endemic. Among them is the cirio (boojum tree), Baja's signature plant. Our Group Leader will provide expert commentary aboard the motorcoach to introduce the varied desert eco-systems as well as local flora to help us recognize and understand the distinctive vegetation during short nature walks in these magnificent landscapes. Before lunch, we will stop at a cave with simple cave paintings in the middle of the Valle de los Cirios Nature Reserve. Cataviña is surrounded by gigantic granite boulders and unique vegetation. The scenic hike to the cave offers exceptional views both at the bottom and top of the hill where the cave is located. We will be joined by local schoolchildren who will lend a helping hand where the terrain is most challenging. The kids speak minimal English, so use your Spanish — no matter how rudimentary — or communicate in the universal language of gestures. As we interact with these youngsters, we’ll get a sense of what life is like in such a remote place.

Lunch: We’ll stop for lunch at a restaurant in Cataviña and have a choice of plated Mexican or international dishes, plus a beer or a non-alcoholic beverage; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll reboard the motorcoach and continue our drive to Guerrero Negro — Black Warrior — situated on the 28th parallel just below the border with Baja California Sur. It also marks the beginning of the Vizcaino World Biosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to whale sanctuaries, migrant birds, endemic vegetation, gigantic rock art caves, and the world’s largest salt plant. Arriving in Guerrero Negro, we’ll check into the hotel with some time to freshen up, then gather for a toast and chat with fellow Road Scholars before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will have a buffet dinner featuring Mexican dishes plus a beer or a nonalcoholic beverage; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
4
Nature Reserve, Scammon’s Lagoon & Whales, San Ignacio
San Ignacio, Baja California Sur
B,L,D
Desert Inn, San Ignacio

Activity note: Getting in/out of a motorcoach. Driving about 90 miles (145 km), approximately 2 hours. Getting in/out of a small boat (capacity 10-16); approximately 3 hours on an outboard motor boat. Dress in layers with waterproof jacket or windbreaker for our boat ride; likely to get wet.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have plated meals with a choice of Mexican and international breakfast dishes plus orange juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel early and board our motorcoach for a field trip with our Group Leader to a nature reserve. Here in an enormous salt marsh, birds migrate from Russia, Canada, and other countries. Ospreys are particularly numerous, nesting on telephone poles and even on the ground. Permission to enter the whale sanctuaries is granted only to a restricted number of companies. We will drive to the office of the whale watching company, hop onto their minibuses, and drive across part of the Exportadora de Sal, an enormous salt plant. As we ride, we’ll learn about the history and process of Baja's solar evaporation salt production process. Then our gray whale adventure begins! Reaching the pier on Scammon’s Lagoon, we’ll embark on a memorable outing to meet the gray whales. We will divide into smaller groups and join the skilled captains of panga boats who will be in charge during our field trip. In each small panga, we’ll ride out among the whales to view these massive mammals at arm's length, perhaps closer. Each year, gray whales travel some 5,000 miles from the Bering and Chukchi Seas to the warm waters of Baja’s wildlife refuges to court, mate, give birth, and care for their young.

Lunch: Aboard the boats in a tranquil lagoon, we’ll have sandwiches with fruit, chocolate, and a soft drink.

Afternoon: We’ll reboard the motorcoach and ride on to San Ignacio. We’ll explore this charming town that developed around an imposing 18th-century mission, still in use today. After we check in at the hotel, we’ll enjoy a short break to freshen up and relax. Then, before dinner, we’ll mingle with local children who will present a lively folk dance performance.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a plated Mexican dinner plus a beer or a nonalcoholic beverage; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
San Ignacio Lagoon & Whales, Town Exploration
San Ignacio, Baja California Sur
B,L
Desert Inn, San Ignacio

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 80 miles (128 km), approximately 3 hours; short portion along a graded road. Getting on/off small panga boats from the beach, possibly wading into shallow water up to knee high. Riding in pangas approximately 2.5 hours. Bring water shoes, waterproof gear, wear roll-up pants.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will have a plated meal with choices of Mexican and international dishes accompanied by a small fruit dish plus orange juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: With our Group Leader, we will hop into vans and drive to the secluded San Ignacio Lagoon for another adventuresome ride among whales. Each outing is different, offering new experiences. We will see small fishing settlements along the shore of the lagoon and some eco-camps authorized to service the whale excursions. Arriving at a designated eco-camp, we’ll prepare for a second memorable outing preceded by a short presentation by camp personnel on the whales, the lagoon, and the whale-counting process. We’ll then divide into small groups and board the panga boats with their captains and look for those blows, humps, and fins!

Lunch: On the shore of the San Ignacio Lagoon, we’ll have lunch under a traditional thatched-roof palapa and order a plated meal from the day’s menu; a beer or nonalcoholic beverage, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll have some independent time at the lagoon to look for whales, migrating birds, or simply find a spot to relax. Midafternoon, we will return by vans and stop at the hotel before setting out again on a walking field trip with our Group Leader into the tree-filled plaza. We’ll explore the well-preserved mission and observe life on the plaza where local people gather and children play. We’ll also visit a home where date bread and pie is made. In the company of our pleasant host, we’ll practice making flour tortillas by hand and taste them with local ranch cheese.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Scammon’s Lagoon, Desert Walk, Fiesta Night
Cataviña, Baja California
B,L,D
Mision Catavina

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 240 miles (386 km), approximately 5 hours. Getting in/out of small boats, riding approximately 3 hours. Walking short distances; mostly flat, gravely, uneven terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel plated meal.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel and return to Guerrero Negro for our third and final encounter with the whales, returning to Scammon’s Lagoon aboard the panga boats. Every outing is a memorable experience. Whales were slaughtered here for nearly a century during the whaling era. Since harvesting gray whales was banned in 1946, populations have rebounded. The “friendly” phenomenon among whales was first reported in 1976. Especially at the end of breeding season, “friendlies” have been known to seek human contact, often coming alongside and surfacing near pangas. Some whale mothers have even been observed apparently teaching their calves to interact with humans. These “friendly” behaviors exist only within the lagoons of Baja California where local fishermen are keen observers to be sure human behavior stays within bounds.

Lunch: Aboard the boats in a tranquil lagoon, we’ll have sandwiches with fruit, chocolate, and a soft drink.

Afternoon: Returning from our field trip we will have time to freshen up, before boarding the motorcoach and continuing our drive north. We’ll stop for a walk among especially tall cardons, then again among whimsical elephant trees before arriving in Cataviña for an overnight. Located in the middle of the Valle de los Cirios Nature Reserve, it is characterized by plentiful sun, sand, gigantic granite boulders, and combinations of boojums, cardons, and elephant trees that make this a superb desert garden. We will check into the hotel with some time to freshen up before our farewell Mexican “fiesta.”

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy a selection of traditional Mexican “finger foods” including taquitos, quesadillas, guacamole, and more, plus lemonade or a margarita; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In the hotel patio (weather permitting), we’ll participate in a small Mexican fiesta that includes a taste of tequila. While learning about Mexican traditions and how to choose a good tequila, Mexico’s national drink, we’ll have an opportunity to break open a piñata the Mexican way and learn about its significance. Prepare for check-out and transfer tomorrow.

DAY
7
Sunrise Walk, Rock Art, Ensenada, Farewell Dinner
Ensenada, Baja California
B,L,D
Las Rosas Hotel & Spa

Activity note: Early morning walking excursion. Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 230 miles (370 km), approximately 6 hours. Walks up to 1 mile; slight uphills, uneven gravely paths. Short steep hike approximately 1/3 mile to visit cave; gravelly terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will have a plated meal with Mexican and international dishes accompanied by a small fruit dish plus juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We will rise early and set out before breakfast on a walk to see the thorny, magnificent desert against the rising sun. After breakfast, we will board the motorcoach and enjoy the last of the desert scenery as we ride towards San Quintin.

Lunch: In a San Quintín restaurant, we will have plated meals with a choice of local specialties including a salad prepared with the leaf of the prickly pear cactus, Mexico’s national plant; a non-alcoholic beverage or a beer are included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will reboard our motorcoach and ride on to Ensenada with expected arrival in the late afternoon for hotel check-in. Ensenada is an active seaport and one of the most popular holiday destinations in Mexico. Relax at the hotel, enjoy its amenities, and its spectacular ocean view.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a plated 3-course meal featuring a choice of entrée, plus lemonade; other beverages available for purchase. As we dine, we will hear the rhythm of the waves against the cliffs below. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
8
Program Concludes
San Diego, California
B

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 90 miles (145 km), approximately 2.5 hours. Must carry all belongings across the border and walk up to 1/2 mile on smooth flat ground. Possibility of standing in line. Do not book flights departing before 2:00 p.m.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room facing the Pacific Ocean, we will have a plated meal with a choice of eggs, omelets, and a Mexican specialty, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We will depart Ensenada by motorcoach in the morning at 8:00 a.m. and cross the border back into San Diego. Final destinations are the San Diego Airport, arriving approximately 12:00 Noon, followed by the Courtyard Marriott Hotel. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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