A week-long island adventure in the Sea of Cortez designed to teach students about marine ecology through exciting outdoor adventures and amazing animals encounters.
“What truly amazes me about the Gulf of California is how alive it is. Its islands— populated not by people but by seabirds, sea lions, and lovely, life-asserting desert plants—give an impression of wilderness far beyond the proximity of the U.S. and mainland Mexico. Despite serious over fishing for some species, the Gulf is largely a safe haven. For us it is a safe haven too, an easily accessed place to marvel at wild abundance, wide horizons, and intense desert beauty.” – Author & Scientist Carl Safina
Just 7 million years ago, the Baja Peninsula began to separate from mainland Mexico. Sea water from the Pacific filled the low-lying basins to form the Gulf of California, or the Sea of Cortez. It is one of the youngest marine systems, but due to the constant sunlight, deep nutrient up welling, and mixing of tides and currents, it is an oasis for marine life, and one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth! There are over 900 species of fish, 30+ species of marine mammals, 170 species of shore and marine birds, and 1700 species of invertebrates.
Our camp is set on an uninhabited island and World Heritage Site 26 miles from La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico. Surrounded by a marine preserve, it is a classroom in the wild, with a living laboratory to explore, play, and discover! Far from roughing it, the camp provide all of the creature comforts you are used to except that you are sleeping in a tent. A 6 person crew, 1-2 guides, naturalist, and boat captain will ensure that participants are well fed, cared for, and that they have a positive experience that they will remember forever. Amenities include, solar power, manual flushing toilets, solar showers, and all equipment is provided! During free time, students can enjoy the use of kayaks, paddle boards, and beach volleyball net.
Educational day trips combined with student centered research projects, and evening presentations will teach young adventurers about the ecology of the Sea of Cortez, and ways to protect the world’s waters no matter where on Earth they live.
The Expedition Team Program gets students thinking like scientists and using technology in the field to explore hidden environments. Led by a scientist from the University of WI – Extension, students dig deeper with data conducting their own research with thermal imagers, light meters, ipads, GoPros, digital thermometers, Google Maps, digital microscopes and other tools of the trade to produce an authentic narrative of their expedition using media platforms and digital artifacts. Because the trip is designed around the interests of the participants, no one trip is exactly like the other.
Research that matters. Students spend half the day in the field helping a local scientist with whale shark research in the Bay of La Paz. Students help with photo ID to help monitor whale sharks.
- Learn to snorkel and explore coral reefs, rocky reefs, and sandy bays.
- Dive in with 500 wild and playful wild sea lions.
- Experience beach-life while glamping on an uninhabited island.
- Kayak through sea caves and along rugged desert coast.
- Hike through pristine desert and learn about seemingly otherworldly creatures that have adapted to this extreme environment.
- Daily whale watching and dolphin spotting boat trips at sunset.
- Think and explore like a scientist with technology that helps you dig deeper into hidden environments.
- Work side by side with a whale shark research scientist to learn about whale shark biology and participate in their conservation.
- Visit the Gray Whales of Magdalena Bay for an unbelievable whale watching experience.
- SCUBA dive or Learn to SCUBA dive! (Additional Fee)
Airport Los Cabos
Costa Baja Marina & Hyatt
Candelero Dive SIte
Jawfish Dive Site
Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos
Meet Your Guides
Trip Facilitator / Guide
Tara has 17 years of experience in eco-tourism, guiding and educating students of all ages in the Americas, the Caribbean, and Iceland. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Natural Resource Management with an emphasis in Environmental Education/Interpretation. Tara has worked for notable educational, scientific, and conservation organizations and institutions such as the John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, USDA Forest Service in the Chugach National Forest in Alaska, and Wild Studies in the Bahamas. Tara is a PADI Open Water Diver, Advanced Diver, Rescue Diver and has specialty certifications as Underwater Naturalist, Deep Diver, Multi-Level diver and Night Diver.
Divemaster / Fun Baja Diving & Eco-Adventures, LaPaz, Mexico
Chabelo (Pronounced Chaah Bell-O) is a Divemaster for Fun Baja Diving & Eco-Adventures based out of La Paz. Chabelo has been instructing and leading SCUBA divers for 15 years with Fun Baja and instructing snorkeling and free-diving with Green Edventures for 8 years. Our guests consistently tell us how they appreciate the care and attention he gives to everyone in the group. Chabelo is funny, playful, and loves to share everything he knows about his backyard, the Sea of Cortez and his home, La Paz. Chabelo is talented at finding marine life so participants can see the most of the reef. He is also a sea lion whisperer. With him, you will see and interact with the sea lions in a very special way. Your friends won’t believe the pictures!
►Where Do We Stay?
- Night 1: Camp
- Night 2: Camp
- Night 3: Camp
- Night 4: Camp
- Night 5: Hotel near Puerto Lopez Mateos
- Night 6: Hotel near Puerto Lopez Mateos
- Night 7: Hotel in La Paz
►Day 1: Arrival to San Jose del Cabo, journey to Espiritu Santo Island.
Groups arrive from the US at Los Cabo Airport (SJD) between 11am-2pm. We’ll board the 15-passenger vans and drive 1.5 hours north toward La Paz with a stop for lunch in San Bartolo. After lunch we’ll continue north another 1.5 hours. In La Paz, we head toward the marina and the Fun Baja Dive Shop. Here, dive gear is issued and the boats are loaded for the journey to Espiritu Santo Island, your home for the next five nights! We will arrive at camp before dark, just in time for a fabulous dinner! The tents will already be set up and ready for you to move in.
►Day 2: Snorkeling in Ensenada Grande and Las Cuevas.
Participants will learn basic snorkeling skills and then free-diving techniques in the shallow bay of Ensenada Grande.
Participants will use their snorkeling skills to explore the rocky shoreline at Las Cuevas and their free-diving skills to see garden eels in the sandy flats at 25ft.
Survival of the Finnest: Fish are the most abundant vertebrate animals which dominate nearly every habitat in the hydrosphere. Why are they so successful?
►Day 3: Cross Island Hike and Snorkeling at El Candelero Island
The Cross Island Hike is a 2.5 to 3 hour round trip hike which is relatively flat with a few boulders to scramble up or slide down. It terminates at the opposite side of Isla Partida and reveals stunning views of the eastern side of the island.
Escape the heat and jump into the cool water at Isla El Candelero. This tiny island is a great spot to get up close to birds like cormorants, gulls, and pelicans; as this island serves as a small rookery.
Gulf of California: Introduction to an ocean oasis: 40 minute slide show presentation that introduces students to oceanography and the physical processes which formed the Gulf of California and the biotic and abiotic factors that make it one of the most biological diverse marine systems on the planet.
►Day 4: Sea Lions at Los Islotes
Get up close and personal with our favorite underwater “dogs.” Named the friendliest sea lion colony in North America, Los Islotes is the best place to interact with them in their natural habitat. They dart past you, nibble on your fins, and get whisker-to-dive mask with you for great photos and videos, too.
We return to Los Islotes to explore other habitats for those who want a little more time with the sea lions. SCUBA divers and DISCOVER SCUBA divers will have a chance do their dives at this time, too.
There are many different habitats around Los Islotes, we may visit several times. On the North side of the island is a shallow reef of hard and soft corals. The water is so clear that the sunlight brings out the natural colors of the corals and fishes. It is so easy to take photos here with even the most basic of cameras. At the arch, large boulders the size of cars, are piled on the bottom forming habitat for very large groupers, eels, and Amarillo Snappers. Bright Orange Cup corals, barnacles, tube worms, and other sessile inverts cling to the rocks. This site will be your favorite for the week, if not your favorite for life!
Empty Ocean: Human caused environmental issues threatening biodiversity of the global ocean.
►Day 5: Whale Sharks & Journey to Lopez Mateos
We’ll spend half a day searching for whale sharks in the Bay of La Paz where they are typically found in the plankton-rich waters. You will work along side a whale shark scientist and help contribute to her research while getting to snorkel with the largest fish in the world!
We will drive 3 hours north, along the Pacific Coast to the town of Lopez Mateos and overnight here.
►Day 6: Gray Whales of Magdalena Bay
Morning & Early Afternoon:
This is a whale watching trip like no other! Here, the gray whales come from Alaska to give birth and to mate in the shallow waters of Magdalena Bay. Our guides will take us into the lagoon in a 20ft panga (traditional fishing boat). You will learn about and see gray whales displaying a variety of behaviors in their natural habitat such as spy hopping, breaching and tail lobbing. The whales are accustomed to human visitors and are as curious as you are. They often come so close to the boat you can reach out and touch them. It is not uncommon for a 45ft mother whale to let her 15ft calf swim up to the boat to interact with cheerful tourists who are splashing the water for its attention. Your friends will not believe your pictures. If you are lucky, you may be able to get close enough to kiss a whale. It is important to note that each venture on the boat is different. These are wild animals and we do not chase or harass them to get close enough to touch. The probability is high that you will be able to interact with them, but can’t be guaranteed.
Overnight in Puerto Lopez Mateos
►Day 7: La Paz: Shopping and Cultural Day
We will drive back to La Paz to visit some of the cultural attractions of La Paz including the Whale Museum & Anthropology Museum. Then shopping for souvenirs along the malecon.
Free time at the hotel and finish up research projects.
We’ll gather once last time at Rancho Viejo Restaurant for a mouth watering dinner of their famous arrecherra style meat with fresh salsas and tortillas.
►Day 8: Departure Day
We will meet in the hotel restaurant for a hearty breakfast for your big travel day. Depending of departure times and arrival times of the next group, your group may depart La Paz as early as 9am. You will journey by 15-passenger van to Los Cabos Airport. Flights depart after 4pm.
Please note: The activities and schedule may change without notice as practical considerations arise during program development, or onsite for the safety of participants.
Inclusions & Exclusions
- All activities schedule activities.
- Group ground transport from Los Cabos Airport (SJD) or La Paz (LAP)
- Group meals from lunch on arrival day to breakfast on departure day.
- All activities and lodging.
- Professional guide service
$300 deposit then equal monthly installments. Final payment is due 30 days prior to travel.
All payments are non-refundable if cancelled by the participant. Participants are highly encouraged to purchase travel insurance to cover unforeseen circumstances that may interrupt or cancel the trip.
Students will need a valid passport to travel to Mexico that is valid for the duration of the stay and has one blank page. Participants are also required to have a notarized form signed by both parents providing permission for minor children to travel.