Expedition cruises to the Sea of Cortez run from November through to April, avoiding the hottest summer months and the hurricane season, and timed for the best wildlife viewing opportunities.
The area is home to pods of thousands of common dolphins and hundreds of bottlenose dolphins. You can snorkel with inquisitive sea lion pups, spot orca and pilot whales from deck, and bird life abounds with cormorants, brown pelicans, magnificent frigatebirds, egrets, herons, sandpipers, plus brown-and blue-footed boobies all found here. Under the blue-green water a vibrant world awaits, with sun stars, sea urchins and a myriad of fish, from velvety black king angelfish and comical porcupinefish to silvery yellow-and-black sergeant majors.
However, there are some key differences across these months, with certain migratory whale species only seen at selected times. To help you plan your trip we've put together a month-by-month guide to visiting the Sea of Cortez by expedition cruise:
After the late summer/autumn rains, November sees the desert landscape transformed as flowers carpet the normally barren ground. This is also the best time to see blue whales and fin whales, plus elephant seals before they begin their migration northwards.
As the desert bloom fades, humpback whales arrive to the region's warm waters, which they use as their calving grounds. Whale sharks, commonly seen throughout the expedition cruise season, are best spotted at this time and into January or late March.
The beginning of the peak season for expedition cruises, January is the start of the area's best weather, with low rainfall and pleasant daily temperatures. It's also the time of year that gray whales begin to arrive to Bahía Magdalena, located on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula, to calve. Most operators run excursions to the bay as it offers consistent up-close encounters with the whales, especially the young, known for their curiosity towards boats and often seen breaching the surface of the water.
The peak of the whale watching period, February is the best time to see gray whales and their calves at Bahía Magdalena and a great time to spot humpback whales and sperm whales. A lucky few might even glimpse the elusive blue whale, the largest animal on the planet, as they make their way to the islands off Loreto (part of the Bay of Loreto National Marine Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) from deep in the Pacific in February and March in order to give birth, raise their young and mate. Whale shark sightings at this time are usually sporadic, but despite this February is considered by many to be the best month for travel.
In March gray whales begin to move on, and by the latter half of the month excursions to Bahía Magdalena are no longer offered. It is, however, the best time of year to see the red-billed tropicbird and blue-footed boobies. Although March is towards the end of the peak travel season there is still a wealth of wildlife to be seen, including huge pods of dolphins, sea lions and a number of whale species.
Considered the end of the expedition cruise season, April is a great time to see a variety of whales including humpbacks, fin, minke, sperm, Bryde's and pilot, plus huge clusters of mobula rays which are known for leaping out of the water.