By Greg Aragon
If you like lost islands, deserted beaches and magical hideaways with wonderful wildlife and unforgettable scenery then now is a great time to look into an UnCruise Adventure to a destination such as the Sea of Cortes in Mexico. The Seattle-based cruise line has an exciting list of itineraries in the region that are sailing now through March.
Famed oceanographer Jaques Cousteau once described the Sea of Cortes as the “world’s aquarium” and called it the “Galapagos of North America.” And after seven days sailing these Mexican waters aboard the 232-ft Safari Endeavor cruise ship, I have to agree with him. The area is a wonderland of natural beauty, wildlife and adventure.
My UnCruise getaway through Baja California began at Los Cabos International Airport where a friend and I met representatives with the cruise line, who transported us to the Safari Endeavor ship at a small, rustic harbor in the city of Los Cabos, Mexico. Once aboard the 84-passenger vessel, we met the captain and his crew, and enjoyed a welcome cocktail. We were then escorted to our cabin on deck 3.
After a brief and mandatory safety drill we lifted anchor and sailed north up the Sea of Cortez, into the Mexican sunset. As the ship motored it hugged the rugged coastline, giving passengers a preview of the week-long adventure ahead. There were endless miles of deserted beaches, jagged mountains and hidden coves to explore. And since this was an UnCruise expedition, aboard a small ship, it meant docking in tiny bays, using snorkeling gear, kayaks and paddleboards to explore by water, and our feet to discover uncharted land.
Our first stop was gorgeous and deserted Ensenada Grande. Located on Isla Partida, Ensenada Grande is part of a protected UNESCO biosphere reserve. With the Endeavor anchored a few hundred feet off shore we took small skiffs to the beach, set up camp and went exploring. Along the hike, I discovered desert cactus hiding behind large sand bluffs, puffer fish skeletons along the beach, and clear turquoise water.
Back aboard the 230-ft-long Safari Endeavor, I enjoyed a lunch of Cuban sandwiches and Mexican beer in the dining room; while the captain pulled anchor and set sail for Agua Verde. While following the coastline, I found a window seat in the lounge and watched the majestic scenery go by. In the morning, we opened the cabin door and found a postcard picture of craggy mountains, turquoise water and unspoiled beach before me, almost close enough to touch.
After a short skiff ride to the beach, we met a local rancher, who took us on a burro ride through the canyons and mountains to experience the “real Baja.” Along the way, we encountered a desert oasis, numerous types of giant cactus, a lost beach, and listened to our guide sing traditional Mexican Ranchero songs.
From the backs of burros we boarded an UnCruise bus and headed to Bahía Magdalena in search of gray whales. To get to this whale wonderland, the vans drove two hours across the beautiful Baja peninsula, past mountains, valley, lakes and deserts full of towering cactus. When we arrived at the bay, we boarded small panga boats and floated into the serene, 30-ft deep lagoon.
In a few minutes our captain/guide pointed to a “footprint” along the water’s tranquil surface, an indicator that a gray whale was about to appear. And sure enough one did appear, and then another and another and even a couple babies. Soon, our 20-ft panga was “swimming” alongside a giant, 45-ft-long mother and her 15-ft baby.
After chasing whales, it was back aboard our private yacht to relax. And with comfortable cabins, a gourmet kitchen and dining room, a social lounge, fitness equipment, hot tubs, nature viewing areas, and a sports platform for swimming and launching kayaks and skiffs, the four-deck Safari Endeavor made this easy.
Another highlight of my week aboard the Safari Endeavor was a stop at Los Islotes, a jagged and mysterious rock formation jetting from the sea that is home to a colony of friendly barking sea lions. While here, I hopped in a small skiff for an up-close look at the creatures from above water, while other, more adventurous passengers donned wetsuits and joined the animals as they swam through underwater arches and swaying sea coral.
UnCruise Adventures is currently booking cruises to the Sea of Cortez and other destinations such as the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Columbia & Snake Rivers, Costa Rica & Panama; Galápagos Islands, or Hawaii. For more information and current rates and dates, visit: www.un-cruise.com