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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 06 February, 2024
Expert travel writer: Sue Bryant

Dubbed ‘the world’s aquarium’ by Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez, shimmering between the arid mountains of the Mexican coast and the long, skinny finger of Baja California, is a wildlife haven like nowhere else.

You’ll swim with boisterous sea lion pups and snorkel among colourful reef fish. Watch out for super-pods of hundreds of dolphins, or rays flipping across the sparkling surface like pancakes. Kayak into caves, or watch red- and blue-footed boobies courting.

Days are spent kayaking, hiking and snorkelling, with a chance to leave the ship for a day and drive across the peninsula to Magdalena Bay, to get close to surprisingly relaxed grey whales and their calves. Also expect guided desert hikes, a mule trek into the arroyos, and beach bonfires under a glittering sky.

There are no busy ports along the way, just rustic villages, so these expeditions tend to attract lovers of the outdoors and wildlife enthusiasts.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: Min 7 days

Getting there & doing it

Expeditions start from La Paz, with the airport of Los Cabos the only gateway. Most ships follow roughly the same itinerary, hugging the coast of Baja California Sur and sailing as far north as the sleepy town of Loreto.

Ships on some longer West Coast itineraries call at Los Cabos and head into the Sea of Cortez as far as La Paz. You wouldn’t get the immersive experience of the region as you do on a dedicated Sea of Cortez expedition, though.

Given a recent surge in popularity, most major cruise operators run routes here now, but small ship is by far the best way to explore this area, particularly because the marine life is so spectacular. UnCruise Adventures, a small ship expedition specialist with a ship stationed here, offer an annual season out of La Paz, featuring snorkelling, kayaking, whale-watching and desert hikes with a team of expert guides.

When to do it

The expedition season is from January to April. You’ll need a wetsuit to swim in January, but these are usually provided. January to March is calving season for grey whales and an experience not to be missed.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Aurora Expeditions [Sea of Cortez]

Aurora Expeditions [Sea of Cortez]

Sydney, New South Wales, Indonesia

Offer intimate expeditions varying in length from 10 to 26 days in remote destinations around the world. They offer science-led voyages around the Sea of Cortez on the futuristic expedition ship Sylvia Earle, named after the famous conservationist.

Scenic [Sea of Cortez]

Scenic [Sea of Cortez]

Mexico

Offers Sea of Cortez expeditions from Los Angeles by ultra-luxury yacht, all-inclusive on board, led by an expedition team of 15 experts.

UnCruise Adventures [Sea of Cortez]

UnCruise Adventures [Sea of Cortez]

Mexico

Small ship expedition specialist, offering an annual season out of La Paz, featuring snorkelling, kayaking, whale-watching and desert hikes with a team of expert guides.

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