Meaning ‘Below California,’ the Baja California peninsula which extends from southern California is a state that belongs to Mexico. The Baja California peninsula is separated from the Mexican mainland by the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, a 1,126-km / 700-mi sea that is home to some 900 species of fish and sharks – 90 of which are endemic – 2,000 invertebrates, 39 per cent of the world’s total species of marine mammals and 30 per cent of the world’s marine cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are found here. Many species of resident and migratory birds can be found here, with some small islands hosting much of the global population of Heermann’s gulls, blue-footed booby and black storm petrel.
Designated as a Hope Spot by Mission Blue – an organisation led by renowned oceanographer and namesake of our second vessel, Dr Sylvia Earle – dedicated to inspire action to explore and protect the ocean, Baja California, and the Sea of Cortez in particular, is an ideal destination for expedition cruising. It is not surprising that UNESCO has recognised The Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California as a World Heritage site.
Here, you can explore some of the region’s spectacular 244 islands, islets, and colourful coastal areas that are teeming with diverse wildlife including the spectacular sight of flying mobula rays. In addition to the region’s abundant marine biodiversity, the World Heritage site is also home to some 700 vascular plant species, more than in any marine and insular property on the World Heritage List, with numerous species of succulents, including some of the world’s tallest cacti, exceeding 25 metres in height.
In the winter months from December to March, the lagoons on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur become a nursery for gray whales that migrate to Baja’s sheltered bays to give birth to calves, before embarking on the treacherous journey to the Arctic via Alaska, where they remain during summer. Pods of dolphins are often spotted along the Pacific coast, the mangroves, tidal areas and sand spits attract enormous numbers of birds such as cormorants, pelicans and great blue herons, and the sculptural sand dunes and dune ecosystem are covered with tracks of lizards, coyotes and jackrabbits scuttling among desert plants and ancient middens.
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