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23963
Mexico

Mexico for Women: The Great Gray Whale Migration & Natural Wonders

Witness the gray whale migration and observe them up-close in the heart of their breeding grounds on this learning adventure just for women along the Baja Peninsula.
Program No. 23963RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
2,049
Mexico

Mexico for Women: The Great Gray Whale Migration & Natural Wonders

Witness the gray whale migration and observe them up-close in the heart of their breeding grounds on this learning adventure just for women along the Baja Peninsula.
Length
8 days
Starts at
2,049
Program No. 23963 RJ
climate
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At a Glance

On this learning adventure just for women, observe one of the most miraculous natural phenomena on the planet: the 5,000-mile winter migration of gray whales to the Baja Peninsula. Trace the migration and life-cycle of the gray whale and plunge into Mexico’s natural landscape. From beautiful deserts where unique flora thrive to a tranquil hike through an art cave in Valle de los Cirios, there are endless opportunities for you and your new friends to gain a unique perspective of Baja’s natural environment.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Bond with your group of fellow women as you all share the incredible experience of boarding a fishing boat and getting within an arm’s length of gentle gray whales.
  • Visit the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to learn about whales with marine biologists.
  • Examine the bizarre boojum tree, towering cardon cactus, stocky elephant tree and other endemic plants in the deserts of Baja.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Whales Know, Travels Along the Baja California Peninsula
by Pina Cacucci
A humorous and humble travelogue by writer-explorer Cacucci. He travels the length of Baja California revisiting sites seen by John Steinbeck, but becomes enamored with all things whale.
Baja, Sea of Cortez Marine Mammal Guide
by Rainforest Publications
A double-sided, laminated field guide illustrating the whales, dolphins and other marine mammals of the Sea of Cortez and Pacific coast of Baja.
Baja California Plant Field Guide
by Norman C. Roberts, Jon Rebman
We can't imagine a walk through the deserts and islands of Baja California without this book in hand. With hundreds of color photographs illustrating 715 plants of the region, this superb field guide also includes short introductory chapters on vegetation, geology and climate. This expanded third edition was revised by Jon Rebman, botanist at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
Roadside Geology and Biology of Baja California, 2nd Edition
by John Minch,Jason Minch
The book is written for the enjoyment of the average person who has little or no training but has an interest in the natural surroundings and almost unique geology and biology of the Baja California Peninsula. It will provide for your enjoyment as you travel along Baja's highways. The road logs provide kilometer-by-kilometer information on the roadside geology and biology of the highways, introducing you to this magnificent place in a way that can be easily understood.
Lagoon Time: Our Life and Times Among the Gray Whales of Laguna San Ignacio
by Steven L. Swartz
Lagoon Time is an extraordinary first-hand account of the experiences and discoveries made by Dr. Steven Swartz and his colleagues in San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California Sur, Mexico, that provides visitors a look into the human and natural history of Laguna San Ignacio. It is also a field guide to gray whale behavior and the diverse botanical and avian wildlife in the area. It presents information on the Pacific gray whales that winter in Baja California beginning in 1977 to the present. All of the net proceeds will support the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program, a project of The Ocean Foundation.
Eye of the Whale, Epic Passage From Baja to Siberia
by Dick Russell
Epic in scope, this absorbing, first-person account follows the migration of the gray whale from the lagoons along the Pacific coast of Baja to the summer feeding grounds in Alaska.
The Log from the Sea of Cortez
by John Steinbeck
The classic account of a collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez with marine biologist Ed Ricketts, first published in 1941. Subtitled "A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research," this much-loved book captures the wonders of the Gulf of California and the joys of discovery.
The Girl of the Sea of Cortez
by Peter Benchley
A heartwarming, eco-conscious novel about a young woman and her sixth-sense for ocean wildlife. Benchley’s protagonist, Paloma, discovers a secret ocean animal in a sea full of beauty, danger and adventure. First published in 1983.
Mexico Field Guide, Baja California Sea and Shore Birds
by Robert Dean
Almost an Island, Travels in Baja California
by Bruce Berger
A poet and aficionado with an irrepressible sense of humor, Berger combines anecdote, history and research to bring the deserts, towns and eccentric personalities of Baja to life.
Field Guide to the Gray Whale Paperback
by Oceanic Society
This handy 50-page booklet is the first and only practical guide to viewing the biannual migration of gray whales along the Pacific Coast. It includes fascinating information about the natural history and habits of the gray whale as well as maps and directions to whale watching sites from Alaska to Baja. Proceeds of this book help support the Oceanic Society.
Into a Desert Place
by Graham MacKintosh
An Englishman, Mackintosh fell in love with Baja California on a visit and, despite a glaring shortage of both experience and money, determined to walk its entire coast. Into a Desert Place is his account of how he equipped himself, what he saw and learned, and how he survived on this harsh and beautiful journey.
Baja California Map
by National Geographic
Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map National Geographic Adventure Baja Map Pack
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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 the rooms are ready. Walking approximately 1 mile (1.6 km.); mostly flat, paved path; standing approximately 1 hour at the aquarium.

Morning: After you have your room assignment, see the hotel notice board for the location of our Road Scholar private meeting room where the Orientation Session will take place. 11:30 a.m. 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. Our 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, 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. 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. While in Mexico, purified water will always be available on the motorcoach, at the hotels, and in restaurants. 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 Village and set out for a leisurely nature walk with our Group Leader along the famous coves that will take us to famed Seal Beach, part of a marine reserve. We will spot the endemic Torrey Pines, learn about the peculiarities of the nesting Cormorants, and be able to distinguish seals from sea lions. We’ll get on the motorcoach and return to downtown for dinner.

Dinner: At a lively Italian restaurant, we’ll have a hearty plated meal served family style with wine and a non-alcoholic 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. Information for border crossings. Both a valid passport and a personal permit are required for entry into Mexico. 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. You must carry all your belongings across the border when entering Mexico and again when re-entering the United States. When going through Customs into Mexico and returning to the US, as a general rule, no fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats nor plants are allowed. The State of California allows only one liter (one qt) of alcoholic beverages per person over 21 years of age.

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 5.5 hours. Walking approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 km.) throughout the day. Standing and walking at a slow pace for up to 1 hour. Must carry all belongings across the border and walk 200 feet. (60 m) Keep passports on hand for border crossing. No fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats nor plants are permitted into Mexico.

Breakfast: In our meeting room, choose what you like from the breakfast buffet including milk, 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. You will need to present your passport and complete a form on site to receive the required personal permit. The Group Leader will be on hand to assist as needed We will stop to visit the Tijuana market. This will be both an educational and a sensory experience as we walk through a colorful, lively market with our Group Leader to see, touch, smell, and taste local delights. 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 spectacular views of the coastline and Pacific Ocean. Our Group Leader will give us a presentation as we ride. Ensenada rests on the shores of the beautiful Todos Santos Bay, endowed with a Mediterranean climate, friendly people, and a historical ambiance. Stop for lunch.

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

Afternoon: 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; a nonalcoholic beverage included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to take a walk along the sandy beach and gaze at the uncontaminated night sky. Tonight or any night when appropriate, enjoy the “sobremesa” — lingering at the table to chat after dinner — as is customary in Mexico. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

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

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 260 miles (425 km), approximately 5 hours throughout the day. Short walks up to 0.5 mile (0.8 km.); slight uphill, uneven paths. Short steep hike approximately 0.3 mile (0.5 km.) to visit cave (may be avoided).

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 which will help us to 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. Until recently thought to be about 2,000 years old, tests have dated some of the older paintings at closer to 7,500 years. 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 to have Caldo Tlalpeño , a traditional Mexican soup, a meal in itself that includes chicken, vegetables, and cheese; a non-alcoholic beverage or a beer is included, 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; a beer or a nonalcoholic beverage included, 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 minibuses, on/off a small “panga” boat (10-16 passengers) from an inclining pier with a knee-high step; panga riding approximately 3 hours. Dress in layers with waterproof jacket or windbreaker for boat ride, likelihood of getting wet. Walking short distances; mostly flat, gravely, uneven terrain. Boat ride can be bumpy and cold if windy and cloudy, but warm on a sunny day.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will have a buffet breakfast with Mexican and international dishes including fresh fruit plus juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel early and board our motorcoach to begin our gray whale adventures! Permission to enter the whale sanctuaries is granted only to a restricted number of eco-companies. We will drive to the office of an eco-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. Reaching the pier on Scammon’s Lagoon, we’ll embark on the first of three memorable outings 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 (8,000 km.) 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: Returning to the pier, we’ll transfer again to the minibuses and return to the eco-company office with time to freshen up. We’ll get back aboard the motorcoach for a brief 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. We’ll continue to San Ignacio. The Sierra de San Francisco mountain chain rises parallel to the highway. Rolling hills of red volcanic rocks change the landscape and palms fill the canyon where San Ignacio is located. The charming, sleepy town developed around an imposing 18th-century mission, still in use today, in the midst of a lush, tranquil palm oasis. 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 will have plated Mexican dinner with soup, choice of entrée, and a San Ignacio pie made with local dates; one beer or non-alcoholic beverage is included, 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 in/out of vans, driving about 65 miles (100 km.), approximately 2.5 hours round-trip; partly graded road. In San Ignacio Lagoon, getting in/out of 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. Boat ride can be bumpy and cold if windy and cloudy, but warm on a sunny day.

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 and the lagoon. 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 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. You might like to stroll on the plaza or enjoy the warm evening air in the hotel garden. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

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

Activity note: Getting in/out of minibuses, on/off a small “panga” boat (10-16 passengers) from an inclining pier with a knee-high step; panga riding approximately 3 hours. Dress in layers with waterproof jacket or windbreaker for boat ride, likelihood of getting wet. Walking short distances; mostly flat, gravely, uneven terrain. Boat ride can be bumpy and cold if windy and cloudy, but warm on a sunny day. Walking short distances in the desert; 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 and 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 toast to the whales! Gather in the cozy bar for a taste of tequila, Mexico’s national drink. We will learn about its origin, the production process, and how to choose a good tequila. Then, toast the Mexican way: salt-tequila-lime, salud! To the whales!

Dinner: In a private set-up 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: We’ll continue to enjoy the merriment and further immerse in Mexican traditions. Prepare for check-out and transfer tomorrow.

DAY
7
Sunrise Walk, San Quintín Bay, 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 5.5 hours. Walks up to 1 mile (1.6 km.); slight uphills, uneven gravely paths.

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 restaurant facing San Quintín Bay, we will have a plated meal including a special fish and seafood soup as one of the choices; local specialties including a ceviche and a salad prepared with the leaf of the prickly pear cactus, Mexico’s national plant, are served family style; a beer or a non-alcoholic beverage is 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. Before dinner, gather at the hotel scenic bar. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell toast.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a plated 3-course meal featuring a choice of entrée; a beer or nonalcoholic beverage is included; other beverages available for purchase. As we dine, we will hear the rhythm of the waves against the cliffs below.

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 1,500 feet (450 m) on smooth flat ground. Possibility of standing in line. Do not book flights departing before 2:00 p.m. Keep passports on hand for border crossing. No fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats nor plants are permitted into the USA. The State of California allows only one liter (one qt) of alcoholic beverages per person over 21 years of age.

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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