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The Festival of Whales takes place during the annual gathering of grey whales off Baja California’s Pacific Coast, where they socialise, mate and calve. Join Wildlife Worldwide's Chris Breen on this memorable trip for the ultimate wildlife experience!

As a result of its varied topography, Mexico is rich in wildlife habitats and most notable is the desert peninsula of Baja California, which extends for 1,760 kilometres south of the California border and encloses the sheltered waters of the Gulf of California – known also as the Sea of Cortés – which supports a diverse cetacean population, and is one of the last sanctuaries for fin and blue whales. Between December and March each year most of the world population of grey whales gathers in their winter breeding grounds – the shallow lagoons along Baja’s Pacific coast. Here they socialise, mate and calve, before making the long trip north along the west coast of North America to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic.

“Grey whales are widely regarded as the friendliest of all the world’s whales: it’s often hard to tell who is supposed to be watching whom. Spending quality time with them is arguably one of the greatest wildlife experiences on earth… For several months each year, practically the entire world population of grey whales gathers in four magical, mangrove-lined breeding lagoons beside the desert, along the Pacific coast of Baja, to socialise, mate and calve. My favourite is San Ignacio. All encounters are from 8-seater or 10-seater pangas, small fibreglass boats, operated by local fishermen, which are amazingly stable and perfect for close encounters.” Mark Carwardine, zoologist and author.

Read more about this fascinating experience from Mark Carwardine, or our latest tour report.

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Fly to San Diego, overnight

    Daytime flight from London to San Diego and transfer the short distance to your overnight accommodation at The Bay Club Hotel & Marina. The remainder of the evening is free to relax after the flight. 

  2. Day 2: Charter fight to San Ignacio in Baja California

    After breakfast you transfer across the border to Ensenada in Mexico for the flight south by chartered light aircraft to the peninsula of Baja California. The three-hour flight to San Ignacio takes you over the peninsula, with fantastic aerial views that help set a context for the next few days. On arrival at San Ignacio airstrip you are met by camp staff and transferred by vehicle to your accommodation at San Ignacio Lagoon – a drive of around 30 minutes. Perched on the edge of civilisation, at the heart of the Viscaino Biosphere Reserve, on the west coast of Baja California, Cabanas San Ignacio offer modern amenities in a comfortable, eco-friendly environment.

  3. Days 3-7 : Two whale watching boat trips per day, evening talks and presentations

    After breakfast, you will don a life jacket, board a skiff and (weather permitting) set off for a designated whale watching zone for around two hours of contact time with grey whales, possibly encountering mothers and their calves. These boat trips allow you to get extremely close to the whales, but are closely controlled to minimise any possible disturbance.

    Depending on the tide, you usually set off for your second whale-watching trip of the day at around 1500. In between times you can enjoy a full range of activities. After a dinner you can star gaze before being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the lagoon: whales breathing in the distance and coyotes howling at the moon.

    The experienced and knowledgeable staff includes marine biologists, zoologists and naturalists, and during our stay there will be a full programme of evening talks and presentations.

  4. Day 8: Charter flight north back to San Diego

    After a final breakfast at camp you retrace your steps to the airstrip and board a chartered light aircraft for the three-hour flight back north to San Diego where you transfer to your hotel for the last night.

  5. Day 9: Depart San Diego

    Free day in San Diego before taking the shuttle bus to the airport and an overnight flight back to the UK

  6. Day 10: Arrive UK

Key info

  • Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 10 days from £5,295 pp
  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 9 days from £4,395 pp
  • Single supplement: From £695
  • Group size: 14
  • When to go: Feb-Apr
  • Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
  • Included in the price/package:
    • Charter flights between Tijuana and San Ignacio
    • 2 nights hotel in San Diego
    • 6 nights Eco-lodge cabins with shared facilities
    • Most meals (breakfast only in San Diego)
    • Airport transfers
    • Services of local naturalist guides while in Baja
    • Evening talks & slideshows
    • Vizcaino Biosphere fee
  • Activities available:
    • Photography

Expert leader

Chris Breen

Photo of Chris Breen

Chris studied Geographical Sciences in Plymouth, however his first encounter with the wider world was in 1983, when he headed off to Zambia.

Under the tutelage of the late Norman Carr, the pioneer of walking safaris, he worked as a wildlife guide and managed a wilderness camp. On his return to the UK, he had a spell at a major tour operator before setting up Wildlife Worldwide in 1992.

Since then he has travelled the world in search of first-class wildlife experiences. He devised the Festival of Wildlife concept, which has spawned the Festival of Bears and the Festival of Whales that now both operate on an annual basis. An ardent conservationist, Chris has co-led each of these since their inception. He dedicates several weeks each year to communicating his irrepressible passion for nature to those who travel with him.  

Featured locations:

San Ignacio Lagoon

San Ignacio Lagoon is located in the Mexican province of Baja California and is one of the winter sanctuaries of the eastern Pacific grey whale. Here, males and females congregate looking for mates and newborn calves prepare themselves for the long journey north to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic.

  • Where: West coast
  • Ideal for viewing: grey whale, Cape pygmy owl, Harris hawk, leatherback turtle, olive ridley turtle
  • Excellent for: Wildlife festivals, Whale watching

Sea of Cortez

The Sea of Cortez (also known as the The Gulf of California) is a UNESCO World Heritage site that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet with the widest variety of whales and dolphins, and nearly 900 species of fish.

  • Where: West coast
  • Ideal for viewing: blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, whaleshark, Bryde’s whale
  • Excellent for: Wildlife festivals, Whale watching, Dolphin watching
Featured accommodation:

Cabanas San Ignacio

Sat on the shores of San Ignacio lagoon, these cabanas offer rustic yet comfortable wilderness accommodation in an outstanding location. Food is freshly prepared daily by the resident Mexican family, and a naturalist guide is on hand to talk about the lagoon's grey whale migration phenomenon.