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“Whale Watching at its Best”
Review of Baja Ecotours

Baja Ecotours
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Seemingly perched on the edge of civilization “Campo Cortez” offers many modern amenities while maintaining a clean, comfortable and eco-friendly environment. The base camp provides a modern solar and wind generation system in our dining palapa and library that provides 110 ac or 12 volt dc power for all of your charging needs. You can connect charge up your video and camera batteries anytime in the dining palapa day or night. Constructed from local materials and by traditional building methods, our palapa is the gathering point for all of our daily activities.
Useful Information: Bathroom facilities, Activities for older children, Wheelchair access
Sequim, Washington
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Whale Watching at its Best”
Reviewed October 10, 2013

We flew privately to the lagoon, circled first to see the whales, landed and took a small boat out. The whales actually came up next to the little boat, we were able to touch them with no problem. My kids enjoyed the experience, as anyone would. It was a great experience, one anybody would enjoy. Thanks Johnny

Visited February 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Quantum88
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Date | Rating
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English first
San Diego, California
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“trip of a lifetime”
Reviewed April 21, 2013

Ok, don't take the bus if you can get there ANY other way, BUT--everything about the camp--the people--Paco, Rubi, Maldo, Roberto, the wonderful kids!!, the food, the cabins--just amazing. You have to experience the whales to believe it!! Beyond words. Can you imagine kissing a whale??? The other guests were all wonderful too! I can't wait to go back (hmmm, possibly by air!)

Visited April 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank vneerg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hong Kong, null, Hong Kong
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“life altering”
Reviewed April 15, 2013

Thanks to all the staff especially Ruby & Maldo- what an amazing experience. Great food also. You are wonderful people sharing the most beautiful experience. We can't wait to come back !

Visited April 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Deb853
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol, United Kingdom
Level 2 Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Excellent whale watching experience with one reservation”
Reviewed April 11, 2013

We carefully researched and planned this once in a lifetime holiday, and we concur with the positive reviews posted by others. This was our first trip to Mexico and we were delighted with the experience and found it to be a safe and welcoming country. Camp Cortez is accurately described within their website. All the facilities are well designed, comfortable and spotlessly clean. The eco cabins are snug and warm, and offer good protection when needed against the almost constant breeze. Anyone who expects en-suite will be disappointed; this holiday is not about that. By its very nature an 'ecotours' type of holiday will differ markedly from a conventional one; that is part of the experience. The camp is situated in the desert, and water is in very short suppy. Tourists to the camp will get the most from the experience by immersing themselves within the ethos.

The authentic Mexican food was delicious and wholesome, and there was plenty of it, as well as extra snacks, fruit, hot and drinks and cold beers available at all times. One of us is vegetarian and the staff produced some very creative veggie dishes.

We experienced 7 whale watching trips, and requested alternative activities in place of an 8th one. During all the whale watching trips we felt entirely safe and secure; the staff were well trained and experienced, and always ensured everyone's safety. The pangas are small, seating a maximum of 10; however on most of our trips the numbers were much less than this. On each trip we experienced several grey whale calves and their mothers coming up to the pangas 'wanting' it appeared to be patted/scratched/touched. They remained around the boats for extended periods of time before deciding to leave. We also observed a wider range of natural whale behaviours - breeching, diving etc.

In place of one whale watching trip we requested the opportunity to undertake a kayaking trip across the lagoon to the mangroves, and a beachcombing walk. Rubi and Paco facilitated and accompanied us on both of these activities.Although both were enjoyable, there was little we could learn about the environments as neither Paco or Rubi have the specific expertise. Rubi also took us on a most interesting visit to the local community during which we visited the school and medical facilities and meet with a few individuals. This visit was most helpful as some revenue from Camp Cortez is used to support this community.

Our reservation about the holiday relates to the non-avialability of the wider activities that are offered to visitors on the Baja Ecotours website. As well as seeing the whales, we were also interested in exploring the local ecology, flora and fauna, and were were eagerly anticipating the possibility of 'Naturalist lead field bioligy excursions and discussions', 'guided tide pool exploration and critter hunts', 'science workshops and research participation', 'guided kayacking excursions', 'beach combing', and 'bird watching'. The reality for us was that non of these were available. We mentioned this to Rubi while we were at the camp, and following our stay had an opportunity to meet with Johnny Friday. He apologised and stated that a number of staffing issues were the cause of this. We suggest that he reviews and revises the website to ensure accuracy of information for future travellers We remained disappointed about this issue, as we are unlikely travel to Camp Cortez again.

Despite this one reservation overall we had a most enjoyable time. The staff were at all times helpful,professional and attentive. We would suggest that this is not an suitable holiday for small children, or (perhaps) for those who have serious disabilities that restrict easy movements. (You need to be able to climb in and out of boats and up and down steps to cabins and toilets). You also need to be reasonable fit and prepared to walk 2 - 300 metres (when necessary) to access the pangas that take you to the whale watching sites.

Visited March 2013
Helpful?
8 Thank aubrey186220
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Central Coast of California
Level 2 Contributor
9 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
“Unimaginable excitement, fun, and wonder”
Reviewed April 1, 2013

This was my second year going to Baja Ecotour's whale camp at Campo Cortez at San Ignacio Lagoon. The up-close and physical contact with the Gray whales makes every time as exciting as the first time. I was there 3 days with 2 whale watches (each 2 hours) per day...so 6 whale watches. And each time, we were able to touch the whales; several times, and more than one mother/calf pair. And again, what's fantastic about it is the whales initiate the contact. The awesome panga drivers just put the panga out in the general vicinity of the designated whale watch zone, and the whales come to the boat. The Gray whales obviously find some benefit from their encounters with people on the pangas. It's a win/win. The dimples on the rostrum of the baby Gray whales; the tiny hairs coming out of those dimples; viewing the whale's SPECTACULAR eye (the highlight for me. That, and touching them, of course) as they turn on their side to look up at you as they glide by and roll in playfulness; the barnacles and whale lice; getting sprayed in the face by whale exhalation out of their blowholes (2 of them) -- a right of passage....it's all unforgettable. There are occasions where the designated 2 hour time limit is met, and YOU have to leave the WHALES until the next whale watch. They hang around and want more contact, but it's time to go. Fortunately for the whales, there are several other pangas out there with which to socialize. Don't worry about sea sickness. San Ignacio Lagoon is big, but generally calm. The biggest Gray whale winter lagoon to the north -- Scammon's Lagoon (aka Ojo de Liebre) near Guerrero Negro, is much bigger and rougher (although it has good whale watching, too. But San Ignacio is the best). We also saw leaping porpoises, a few seals, a turtle or two, and lots of terns and ospreys/fish eagles. Oh, and as we drove in to camp, we saw 3 coyotes off in the brush, about 200 yards from camp. San Ignacio is the only lagoon they migrate to that looks like it did for the last...however many years the Gray whales have been migrating here...millennia. Undeveloped, natural, and beautiful. Many visitors (including me) have commented that just being out in San Ignacio Lagoon in a boat is a great experience -- nice weather, slight breeze, clear azure water, sand dunes and volcanoes off in the distance, peaceful....a contemplative experience. But with the whales, it's unimaginably spectacular.

The guides at Campo Cortez make you feel at home and are filled with information about the Gray whales. During my time there, the guides were Pamela, Chris, and Rubi. They were great; very kind, helpful, considerate, informative, and just really nice people. They were happy when we were happy. Great hosts.

Maldo and his family were as generous and hospitable as always. What a nice guy, with a really nice family. They really are fantastic and are experts at what they do. Rest assured, you're in good hands; the best. Maldo is a gracious host, and his family provides fantastic meals (I actually eat better at Campo Cortez than I do at home. I'm single, so I don't have a wife to hit me on the back of the head when I say that, ala Gibbs and DiNozo from NCIS lol). Excellent healthy meals. Clean, cozy, perfect cabin units to sleep in with solar-powered plug-ins to charge your camera, camcorder, cell phone, CPAP device, anything. At night, you can hear the wind slightly howling, but inside your cabin (which has 4 windows -- 2 of which open to give a perfect cross-breeze during the day) you're safe and sound, knowing that the Gray whales are just out your door and out in the lagoon, doing what they do under a moonlight night sky, waiting for daylight when their socialization with humans can recommence.

As I mentioned, the panga drivers are phenomenal. They know exactly what they're doing, and do it very well. Really nice guys who inspire total confidence. They know where to go, what to do, and how to do it. And again, these guys don't chase down the whales. They position their pangas in the general area where the Gray whales are at that particular time, and then let the whales initiate contact. And they do. There's lots of speculation as to why the Gray whales at the 3 main lagoons of Baja California (San Ignacio Lagoon, Scammon's Lagoon, and Magdalena Bay; the best being San Ignacio) socialize with humans in pangas. Several of the possibilities that have been suggested are: the mothers are letting their babies frolic with the panga and people on it while the mothers get a brief respite from care-taking their young calf; they're scratching on the bottom of the panga; they're attracted to the sound of the motor; the mothers were socialized to humans by THEIR mothers when THEY were young and are simply carrying on the tradition; or...that they genuinely are curious and enjoy the socialization. Most everyone (including me) believes they do it for the socialization, because although sometimes they do appear to scratch on the underside of the panga, etc., they ALWAYS enjoy the petting and touching, and actually seem to be drawn more to an enthusiastic crowd on the panga, than a non-enthusiastic crowd. I've seen this time and time again. After awhile, you have to concede that the Gray whales love the human interaction; very often physical. After you do a few whale watches, you start to comprehend that there's a tacit connection; a desire on the part of the Gray whales to interact. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other species where the mother offers her newborn to another species for socialization/play. Most mothers are extremely defensive and protective of their newborns. But it appears the mother Gray whales understand that the pangas in the lagoons are not only not a threat to them, but present a curious opportunity at inter-species relations. In whaling days, Gray whales were called "devil fish" for their ferocity toward the whalers in small whaling boats (similar to pangas, interestingly) when they were pursued and harpooned. Imagine the gall of nicknaming a species based on how it acts in response to being pursued and mortally wounded. What animal (humans included) WOULDN'T respond with aggression to that harassment?!

Thank you, also, Johnny and Nancy.

Baja Ecotours' Campo Cortez whale camp cannot in any way be improved upon, in my opinion.

Incidentally, my friend and I drove down from San Diego. It's a long drive, but it's not as bad if you break it up and stay the first night in Guerrero Negro (9.5 hours). Then continue leisurely to San Ignacio Lagoon the next day (4 hours). And the scenery is nice. And it's safe. Of course, they also have the option of flying in to the dirt airstrip at San Ignacio Lagoon (I've never done that, but people who have say it's great -- great pilot; safe, comfortable flight; very scenic flying with the ocean to the west and the mountains to the east, following Baja California Highway 1; and viewing San Ignacio Lagoon from above! I might do the fly-in next year. Campo Cortez has specific dates when they do the fly-ins. Check their website), or you can ride a bus down with a group. Anyway you get there, you'll be glad you did.

Tip: Take video. In my opinion, it's better than still pictures for whale watching. You can see their fluid movements, hear them exhale, see the eye open and close, see them spy-hop, breach, fluke dive, see the babies roll on the backs of their mothers.

Recommended reading: "Eye of the Whale: Epic Passage From Baja To Siberia" by Dick Russell.
Some other books: "Sightings: The Gray Whale's Mysterious Journey" by Brenda Peterson & Linda Hogan. And: "Hunting the Desert Whale: Personal Adventures in Baja California" (1960) by Erle Standly Gardner (yes, the creator of Perry Mason)

You never know who'll be at Campo Cortez. Jesse "The Body" Ventura was there for a day. Very interesting, entertaining guy. He and his wife were very nice. He was meeting the co-author of his books, Dick Russell (also the author of "Eye of the Whale" mentioned above) for some whale watching. He loved it.

See you there in 2014!

Visited March 2013
Helpful?
9 Thank ibh1730
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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