Un-Cruise Adventures: Baja’s Bounty in the Sea of Cortez

My photographer and I are always searching for destinations with unique “critter encounters,” which has led us to swim with humpback whales in a sanctuary off the Turks & Caicos, dive Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, cruise Alaska’s wilderness areas, and explore the islands of the Galapagos.

Our first experience with Un-Cruise Adventures (then American Safari Cruises) was in Alaska’s Glacier Bay, where the 18-cabin Safari Explorer was one of the small ships allowed to anchor in the national park. The ship’s easy access and flexible itinerary allowed us to spend all the time we wanted in inflatable boats or kayaks, getting close to wildlife.2016_bajas_bounty_lrg_rev_web

The same is true for our upcoming Un-Cruise Adventure in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, an area Jacques Cousteau called “the aquarium of the world.” He described the islands of the 800-square-mile Loreto National Marine Park as “the second Galapagos.” It’s possible to travel 100 miles by boat in the Sea of Cortez without seeing anyone other than our shipmates–but we’re looking forward to visiting Loreto, a village founded in 1697. Most days we expect to kayak and snorkel with dolphins, sea lions, mantas, turtles and several species of whales, and see a variety of exotic birds on the islands in the park.

Our “home” will be the 42-cabin Safari Endeavour, a luxury vessel equipped with all the adventure toys — kayaks, skiffs, paddleboards, snorkel gear, wetsuits and, of course, a hydrophone and underwater camera for tracking what’s going on underwater. When we’re on board, the ship’s three decks offer lots of vantage points for viewing and photographing. Inside, there are ample spaces for reading or mingling with fellow passengers, including the library and wine bar–and the lounge, with its fully stocked bar, which is the center of social activity. All of the cabins have window walls or balconies and all of the amenities we’d expect, such as toiletries, private bath, a flat-screen TV/DVD, iPod docking station, writing desk and generous storage areas. There are five categories of cabins, and accommodations for singles, doubles and triples.

The 232-foot-long vessel carries 84 guests and 35 crew members. Based on our previous experience with the company, we expect the trip to be like cruising on a private yacht with a group of friends who appreciate wildlife, a good chef and the personal attention that comes with a 2.5:1 guest-to-crew ratio.

Unlike some adventure destinations, this one is relatively easy to get to; the boat is docked about five miles from the Los Cabos airport. We depart Washington-Dulles at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in San Jose del Cabo about 1:35 p.m., so we’ll have time to rest and adjust to the time change before we board the ship in the morning.

Here are a few aspects that drew us to this trip, which is aptly named “Baja’s Bounty.”

  • The success story. While ecosystems the world over are deteriorating, the Sea of Cortez is in better shape now than it was 20 years ago. Since the formation of the Loreto National Marine Park in 1996, the fisheries have rebounded and the marine mammals have returned in abundance.
  • The exclusivity. There are countless large ships cruising the world’s waters, but travelers who want more flexible, intimate luxury/adventure experiences have fueled a rise in small ship cruising.
  • The weather. The Endeavour sails in the Sea of Cortez from November through March, when we’re happy to trade the cold and snow of the Washington area for daytime temps ranging from 70 to 85 degrees.
  • The convenience. Everything, including drinks, is covered in the trip price except a gratuity for the crew at the end of the cruise.

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