Described by legendary underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau as the “world’s aquarium,” the Sea of Cortez teems with marine life, from acrobatic dolphins and sea lions to massive manta rays and whale sharks. Dive into this incredible underwater ecosystem alongside marine biologists and conservationists to lend a hand in preserving at-risk habitats, and witness groundbreaking conservation initiatives in action.
Our expedition begins in Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, a living laboratory for underwater explorers with National Geographic’s Pristine Seas initiative, which aims to protect the world’s wildest patches of ocean. The park is also a shining model for oceanic conservation and harbors the only living coral reef in the Sea of Cortez. Get to know your fellow travelers during our trip orientation, and break into your On Assignment teams to begin discovering the Baja California Peninsula. Learn about how conservationists are working with residents to reclaim a patch of ocean from commercial fishing, pollution, and other environmental threats. Then get out on the water, on the lookout for whale species such as blue, sperm, and fin; and cruise the coast in a traditional panga boat.
Travel to Bahía La Ventana on the Sea of Cortez and settle into our waterfront accommodations, run by a marine biologist and educator. Dive into the water and snorkel or scuba dive along the rocky coast, accessible directly from the beach. Spend your days here exploring the sea by boat, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard. Learn to identify the resident aquatic species—including fish, crabs, and sea stars—and assist a marine biologist in examining and recording their behaviors. After sunset, grab a flashlight for nighttime snorkel excursions, in search of nocturnal marine species and glowing bioluminescence.
Pack your boat for an overnight camping trip on Isla Cerralvo, the southernmost island in the Sea of Cortez. Upon arrival, set out to explore secluded land and seascapes. Hike beneath dramatic sandstone cliffs, snorkel with playful sea lions, cook meals over an open fire, and learn the basics of how to navigate by the stars.
Return to Bahía La Ventana, and meet representatives from the local branch of Reef Check, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving tropical coral reefs and Californian rocky reefs. Help the team check the health of the local reef, and collect data for projects aimed at protecting native species. Invite students from the local primary school to join in your explorations, and together perform a plankton tow, using microscopes to identify the species you collect. Spend your down time practicing your Spanish with the students and playing games on the beach. Enjoy a research presentation from Whale Shark México, then spend a day on the water photographing and identifying whale sharks—the world’s largest fish. Lend a hand with beach clean-ups, and plant native species in a nearby cactus sanctuary.
Say goodbye to the Sea of Cortez and drive to the Pacific coast. In artsy Todos Santos, chase the perfect wave while learning to surf. Spend the last nights of your trip reflecting on your adventures in Baja, and present your On Assignment projects. Depart Cabo San Lucas for Los Angeles on our final day.
Cabo Pulmo–and the Baja Peninsula in general–is a magical place where the desert meets the ocean. Here, people are protecting one of the richest and most beautiful reefs in the world.