Frequently Asked Questions

 

When to go | Whale Watching | Pre-Booking | Booking | Travel & Safety in Mexico | Around Camp | Weather | Food & Water | 5 Day Air Trip | 8 Day Big Whale Trip | Self Arrival Trip

 

WHEN TO GO

Really anytime from late January till mid April is excellent. We choose from early February till late March since that is really the bulk of the season when most of the whales and calves are at the lagoon.

You are best off to join one of our guided trips that takes advantage of the best dates during the Gray Whale Migration. Anytime from the first week in February till the first week of April is what we call the bulk duration of the migration to San Ignacio Lagoon.

WHALE WATCHING

Depending on when you come, there can be 100 to 350 whales at any given time within the lagoon. And remember, San Ignacio Lagoon is the smallest of all the lagoons by over 10 to 50 fold ... so this means there are a lot of whales in a small area.

This is the whales choice, but most of our guests will come face to face with the Gray Whales.

Often asked, and our reply is roughly 95% of our guests get to pet a Gray Whale on all of our trips lasting two or more days. Some guests are too busy taking photos though otherwise we might have 99%.

No, all of the boat drivers in the lagoon abide by strict rules that we have made and enforced amongst ourselves in order to allow close, yet safe encounters with the whales. The whales are the ones to make contact and it is always up to the whale if a close encounter is to occur - that said, some boat drivers are far better than others and we are very happy with our over 30 plus years of experience.

Yes, whale watching hours are normally 8:00 am till 5:30 pm and there is only one area at the mouth of the lagoon that we allow boats and whale watching. The entire back and middle lagoon is off limits and a sanctuary for the whales and also an area where mothers give birth.

We spend approximately one hour and thirty minutes in the whale watching area on each trip, making the total boat ride from two hours to two and a half hours total time. We make two trips daily to the whale watching area and our time within the whale watching area is regulated by the Biosphere regulations.

Our Ecolodge is ideally situated only a few minutes ride from the mouth of the lagoon and the designated whale watching area. We have a unique location that allows us a short boat ride to the whale watching area and a break from the wind.

See the "lagoon map" for details.

Simply put, there is no time to offer three trips a day when we spend four hours a day on the boats and have to work daily around the wind, weather and return for lunch during the day. Offering three trips daily is just not possible nor suggested to get the best whale watching experience and merely marketing strategy.

PRE-BOOKING

We are locally established, owned and operated. At Campo Cortez you are amongst a family that not only works at the Ecolodge, but also are the owner-operators. That said, all of the camps offer a wonderful atmosphere and you will not be disappointed with any choice of operators at San Ignacio Lagoon.

Hospitality, locally owned and operated, and our permanently based solar/wind powered Ecolodge with luxurious beds and fresh linens on every trip week. We are located on a private mangrove estuary with kayaking and whale watching at your front doorstep.

We added this question after asking returning guests why they choose to stay with us and what makes us different. The most common answers are: Solar Cabins that offer protection during strong winds. Our location: a short ride to the whale watching area and this is a major factor when the wind comes up in the lagoon. We take pride in offering a clean experience at our Ecolodge…bathrooms with real flushing toilets and showers with running water. The comment that sums it up best "people that aren't campers are comfortable".

Yes, because of our location - next to a mangrove estuary, we can kayak into the mangroves and see many species of nesting birds. We also have a very unique tidal flat with tide pools where our guides will lead you on a tide-pool exploration to see octopus gardens and their eggs and other tidal creatures - including a clam hunt if the tide is right.

Yes, it is required that everyone returning from Mexico have a valid passport when entering the USA. If you forget your passport, then you will be subject to further screening.

Yes, minors traveling with one parent or a guardian must have a notarized letter of consent from the other/both parents to take the minor out of the country specifying dates of travel and any other relevant information.

There are no minimum age requirements. Most children from ages 7 and up will have a great experience at camp.

Yes, we encourage you to offer this experience to your children. We offer discounts for children and it's an amazing introduction to the marine environment for them.

Yes, there are no restrictions on infants. We also have a camp nanny if and when needed.

Yes, check with our office for the latest details for discounts.

Yes, you just need to contact our office for details on our agent incentives as well as "operator" discounts - for those operators that book the entire camp or organize their own groups and trips.

Typically on any given trip we have between 12 and 26 guests.

Our camp's normal capacity is setup for 26 guests, however for special events and private groups/organizations, we can handle up to 40 guests.

Our normal boat capacity is 10 guests per boat. Typically we have six to eight guests on each boat.

We recommend from two to four days minimum stay at the lagoon. Two is the minimum and allows you a day extra in case of any bad weather.

Unfortunately no. As dog lovers ourselves, we had allowed pets in camp. However, the park now has restrictions and we can no longer allow pets at the camp.

Cell Service: Yes, we now have a cellular booster antenna at the Ecolodge. In order for your cell phone to work, you should call your carrier to get a Mexico plan during your stay if you plan to use your cell phone

Internet: Yes, we now offer STARLINK at Campo Cortez.

BOOKING

No, all deposits are non-refundable. Please be certain of your travel plans before booking your trip.

Trips cancelled 91 or more days prior to trip departure are fully refundable except for your deposit (groups may have a different cancel policy). Trips cancelled 90 days or less before the departure date are non-refundable. All travelers are highly encouraged to purchase trip cancellation insurance.

We accept checks, wire transfers as well as PayPal payments. PayPal offers credit card payment as well. For all credit card payments, there is a 3% fee added or 4% for international payments (non-US payments). Soon we will offer online payments via credit card and ACH pays.

Yes, most guests living out of the US usually pay via wire transfer. In some cases we can accept PayPal for payment as long as the fees are paid by the payee. Another option for non-US payments is a company called https://wise.com.

Final payment is due 90 days prior to your trip departure date.

Your trip fee will be the fee indicated on our most recent trip calendar plus any governmental, airport or biosphere fees. These are all indicated on the website, and may change, however once you book your trip, you will not be charged any additional fees if they change before your trip date.

Gratuities are not included in your trip fee. Crew gratuities are not mandatory, but they are customary in this part of the world. If you thought the service levels were deserving and the staff went "above and beyond", the crew would be appreciative of a generous gratuity. For your information, gratuities on these trips generally average 10% of the trip fee.

A tip envelope along with a comment card will be provided at checkout or in your cabin. Please give your envelope to the camp manager. Gratuities are distributed evenly among the camp staff - many of whom you do not see on a regular basis such as our hard working kitchen staff.

Yes, you can write a check for a gratuity or pay in US dollars. Checks are held until the end of the season and then cashed after season's end.

No, but they are handy if you are traveling by car as a self-arrival. You will get the best exchange rate if you purchase pesos ahead of time, however dollars are accepted throughout Baja and the exchange rate is typically only a few percent lower if you carry dollars.

100% YES!! We cannot stress more the importance of getting travel insurance in case of any unforeseen need to cancel your trip. Due to our strictly enforced cancellation policy, we strongly recommend you purchase a short-term travel insurance policy for your protection against sickness, baggage loss, trip cancellation or an accident. There are many choices for travel/trip insurance that will insure your trip against almost ANY form of cancellation. We do not sell travel insurance, however we have made special arrangements and work directly with CSA travel insurance and offer their services for OUR trips at the following website: We recommend: www.CSATravelPro.com/83332891. Make sure you use the link or travel provider #83332891 when purchasing CSA insurance to get the extra coverage and personal handling we can assist you with.

TRAVEL AND SAFETY IN MEXICO

Yes, in fact much safer than most cities in the United States.

Absolutely! Contrary to what we hear in the press, Mexico and specifically Baja is undoubtedly safe and heavily visited by tourists. Over 50 million visitors cross the border each year at the San Ysidro (Tijuana/San Diego) border crossing; and Tijuana is the most visited city in the Western Hemisphere, second only to New York City. Additionally 300,000 people cross the border each day at the San Ysidro/San Diego border crossing, making it the busiest and most secure border crossing in the world.

Imagine turning your clock back 75 years - that's the easiest way to describe Baja. Remote, strikingly beautiful scenery, vast amounts of open range and little development, but the people are what are most unforgettable, down to earth, very friendly, hospitable and helpful best describe the people living in Baja.

You should take the same precautions you would when traveling anywhere else. Keep your valuables with you at all times, don't leave valuables sitting in your car overnight in hotel parking lots and keep your bags in sight when transiting the airports.

Safe as your home. Our camp has never had any incidents since our beginnings. In fact we often find items that were left in the cabins such as cell phones, jackets, cameras etc., and we can arrange getting them back to you.

Locks along with keys are available at anytime. We don't often use them, however you can ask the camp manager for a key to your cabin. There are no safes inside the cabins.

AROUND CAMP

Yes, we offer cabins, restrooms and showers that have wheelchair access.

Yes, you only need to notify us so that we can put you to a cabin close to our main dining palapa that has power all night long and run an extension cord to your cabin. Note: there are only two cabins with CPAP availability, so these are on a first booked basis.

Yes, we assist all of our guests getting into the boats, and when needed we offer transportation to the boats for guests that cannot walk long distance due to an accident, recent operation or any physical challenges. Just let us know on your reservation form any assistance you may require.

Yes, we have seat cushions on all of our boats.

Yes, each cabin has its own solar panel and 12 volt inverter and a 12 volt light inside. You can power small electronics such as your computer as well as charge batteries for just about any device you bring; camera, phone, rechargeable batteries, etc.

No, although our cabins have power in them, they can only power small electronics and battery chargers. Blow dryers and power tools require far too much power from our solar cabins.

No, we have made the choice not to include porta-potties or chemical toilets inside of the cabins. We offer clean, comfortable and flushing toilets at one location away from the cabins with a properly built septic system permitted by the Park Biosphere. We do offer chamber pots for liquids for those that may not want to walk to the bathrooms at night.

Our restrooms are NOT out-houses. We offer four marine toilets at our bathroom station that are connected to a properly built septic system. Each contains a full-size toilet, electricity, running water and flushing toilets. These are the same toilets you find on ships. Most important is we take great pride in our restrooms and the cleanliness of them.

This is a very common question and one we cover a lot. Not to worry, we have a large selection of chamber pots next to the bathrooms for just these occasions. Take the appropriate chamber pot back to your cabin for nighttime use and in the morning you can take it to the bathroom for disposal. Don't be embarrassed, there will be plenty of others doing the same thing. Chamber pots are strictly for liquid use only.

Yes, the camp offers two shower stalls and changing rooms with on demand hot water shower systems. You’ll get fully pressurized hot water for your shower in a clean and comfortable area. There is a separate space to keep your dry, clean clothing and where you can change your clothes.

We ask that all of our guests understand that we are in a desert and water is not only a scarce commodity, but we also make our water from a very sophisticated water making system that makes fresh water out of seawater. Please plan your showers in advance and remember that water is precious here. Shower as needed and we ask you to assist us in keeping water demands to a minimum when showering. If that means showering once every two days or every day, it's up to you. We recommend once every other day and there is always plenty of water to wash your hands, face, etc., at our hand washing station.

Yes, but few you will ever see. There are sometimes scorpions under rocks or in the brush. Take precautions if turning over rocks or branches when walking around the camp.

Our base camp is a mecca of wildlife. We currently have five large Osprey nests at the camp and you’ll see them daily fishing and feeding their young. Coyotes are often in the low tide and sometimes come to camp for a sip of fresh water…but they are perfectly harmless. Bird life is incredible with over 225 identified species identified. Some of the most prolific seen daily are: Reddish Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Cormorants, White & Brown Pelicans, Brants Geese, Oyster Catchers, and a wide variety of Curlews and too many others to list.

Honey bees are often found around the showers or other areas of camp with fresh water and sometimes wasps, but typically only on hot days with little to no wind.

Not really. Mosquitoes are not usually an issue at camp this time of year.

Bird watching at the lagoon is actually incredible. Typically you will see more than 40 species of birds around the camp. There are more, but this an average of what you will see from your doorstep. You will also notice we have a few nesting areas at camp setup for our resident Ospreys. Often you'll see the adults bringing back fish for their young.

WEATHER

Weather varies dramatically in Baja Sur. We'll supply you with a suggested packing list and typical weather patterns in your itinerary. Expect mornings to be chilly and afternoons typically warm and then evenings getting cold again - typical desert weather during the winter in Baja Sur. You should always be prepared for wind at San Ignacio Lagoon and the Pacific coastline here.

December thru February: morning and evening temperatures range between 40°F to 60°F while daytime temperatures 60°F to 75°F. March thru April: morning and evening temperatures ar from 45°F to 65°F while daytime temperatures range 70°F to 80°F.

Yes, you want to be prepared for cold as well as warm conditions and be sure to bring splash resistant clothing when going out on the boats.

The water is typically around 55°F to 65°F and there are few places to swim in the lagoon. We recommend you do not pack for swimming at San Ignacio Lagoon.

No and yes. It's very rare that we have rain at the lagoon during the winter months. However it does rain occasionally and you need to be prepared just in case.

FOOD AND WATER

Yes, our drinking water comes from San Ignacio and the local drinking water company that treats all of our water via reverse osmosis, UV and filtration. Our water is clean and safe to drink.

Yes, all of our potable water at camp for cooking, showering and in the hand-washing stations comes from our local desalinization facility and is sea water converted to fresh water which is not only acceptable for household use, but drinking as well.

Yes, we cook vegetarian meals on a daily basis and can accommodate most special diets. You need to inform us by notating on your reservation form any dietary needs or restrictions you have so that we are prepared for your arrival.

Yes, just let us know on your reservation form; and while at camp just let any staff member know your dietary needs so we are prepared for your dietary needs.. Now, if your diet is beyond what we can accommodate with our normal food stocks, please bring what you need and we can either cook it for you.

It's all you can eat at camp. And always expect fresh home made tortillas, rice and beans with every meal. Our meals are varied throughout the day and usually consist of fruit, oatmeal, coffee and tea available by 6:00 am, followed up by a heavy breakfast; Lunch is typically a lite meal and followed up by a happy hour around 5:00 pm and then a heavy evening meal. Sodas, beer and wine are always available at no extra charge.

Yes, we always have on hand simple easy meals such as Kraft macaroni and cheese, oatmeal, cereal and a variety of other common simple meals. Let us know what you need and we will accommodate your child's needs.

We serve authentic, and healthy meals at camp. We don't cook with lard or other animal products. We use all vegetable or olive oils - never cheap and hard to digest oils. Expect homemade, healthy and great tasing meals. Most of our meat comes from local ranches and our fish is caught fresh from the lagoon. Our poultry comes from a local ranch in the mountains as do many of our vegetables.

5 DAY AIR TRIP

Our trip begins in San Diego at the Handlery Hotel. The trip begins and ends at this location. The hotel offers secure parking as well as discount rates for our guests.

We use the CBX border crossing in San Diego and cross directly into the Tijuana Airport where our privately chartered aircraft departs for San Ignacio Lagoon and we return to Tijuana and return using the CBX border crossing and then our charter bus returns to our hotel in San Diego.

Cross Border Xpress is a convenient pedestrian bridge connecting the Tijuana airport to a terminal in San Diego, allowing travelers to bypass long border wait times. Enjoy hassle-free travel between Mexico and the US with our secure and reliable service.

In years past we flew from San Diego (pre September 2011). It is now just an administrative hurdle to fly a charter aircraft into the USA. It can be done, however it is no longer a time saving procedure.

Yes, our charter planes are all certified and commercial aircraft and are inspected on a regular basis and kept to Mexican FAA standards which are the same as US standards.

Yes, the charter operators and pilots employed have numerous years experience flying in Baja. This is a unique area in that it is very remote and our operators fly to islands off shore and land on short dirt runways. They therefore keep their aircraft in excellent condition beyond regulated standards due to the environments they fly in. Some of our pilots have flown for us over 20 years.

Absolutely! Contrary to what we hear in the press, Mexico and specifically Baja is undoubtedly safe and heavily visited by tourists. Over 50 million visitors cross the border each year at the San Ysidro (Tijuana/San Diego) border crossing; and Tijuana is the most visited city in the Western Hemisphere, second only to New York City. Additionally 300,000 people cross the border each day at the San Ysidro/San Diego border crossing, making it the busiest and most secure border crossing in the world.

You will board our private charter bus or bus and are escorted by our guide that makes this trip twice a week with our guests to the CBX border crossing where we cross directly into the Tijuana Airport and our terminal to board our privately chartered aircraft.

Your guide will be one of our seasoned professional guides that has led our trips on many occasions. You’ll receive a guide package from your guide with all of their contact information and a photo about ten days before your trip begins. Your guide will travel with you from the hotel all the way to the airport and back when you return.

The drive is approximately 30-45 minutes to the CBX border crossing where we then have priority status to fill out paperwork for Mexican immigration and crossing on the private bridge to the Tijuana Airport. This takes approximately 1.5 hours total to go from the hotel to CBX and then crossing to the Tijuana airport.

The flight is approximately 2 to 2.5 hours from Tijuana to San Ignacio Lagoon and a very scenic flight.

Yes, we bring a variety of snacks on the trip with us including water, fruit drinks and sodas. We recommend you have a hearty breakfast on the morning of travel as we only offer snacks on the bus ride to the airport and on the aircraft and you’ll have a full day until we get to Campo Cortez for a late lunch.

We get these at the CBX border crossing on the morning of our trip. Have your passports handy.

This is paid in advance before your arrival and already invoiced to you. You won’t need to worry about this fee.

On any given trip we will have as few as eight guests and up to as many as 26 guests.

8 DAY BIG WHALE TRIP

Depending on the trip you choose, your trip begins either in San Diego or Loreto.

BW1 and BW3 trips begin in Loreto, Baja, Mexico, while BW2 trip begins in San Diego. Be sure to read the trip overview for each trip to know where each trip begins.

Loreto is a beautiful small Mexican city located on the Sea of Cortez in the state of Baja Sur. Currently Alaska Airlines and American Airlines offer service from the USA while Volaris Airlines, Calafia Airlines and Aeromexico offer service within Mexico. From San Diego we find it very easy to use the Cross Border Xpress that takes you directly to the Tijuana Airport and fly out of Tijuana. Check with us for a list of airlines.

BW1: is a guided trip once in the town of Loreto and activities in Loreto, then to Campo Cortez and back to San Diego on our charter aircraft and the Handlery Hotel.

BW2: is similar to our 5 day air trip where we begin the trip in San Diego (Handlery Hotel) and our guide will be with the group all the way to the airport in Tijuana. The trip continues guided to Loreto along with activities in Loreto. You return home on your own from Loreto by any of the commercial airlines.

BW3: Begins in Loreto, Baja, Mexico and is guided from Loreto to Campo Cortez at Laguna San Ignacio and then back to the town of Loreto.

Approximately 45 minutes from Loreto to San Ignacio Lagoon and the same for the return trip. From our hotel, the airport is 10 minutes from the hotel where we board our privately chartered aircraft.

This is probably the most scenic drive in all of Baja, Mexico - driving between Loreto and San Ignacio. The drive is approximately 3.5 hours to the town of San Ignacio and another 1.5 to Campo Cortez at San Ignacio Lagoon. We make stops along the way for scenic overlooks, bathroom breaks and lunch in the town of San Ignacio where we also visit the 17th Century mission in the village square.

BW1: Three nights hotel in Loreto, welcome happy hour in the hotel lounge, whale watching in Loreto (2 full days on the Sea of Cortez), flight to Laguna San Ignacio, 4 days and nights at Campo Cortez and whale watching (all inclusive). Lastly, your return flight from San Ignacio Lagoon to Tijuana and your CBX border pass, finally our charter bus to the Handlery Hotel in San Diego.

BW2: Meet at Handlery Hotel in San Diego, charter bus to CBX border crossing and your border pass, charter flight to Laguna San Ignacio, 4 days and nights at Campo Cortez and whale watching (all inclusive), flight from Lagoon to Loreto, three nights hotel in Loreto and happy hour arrival. Lastly, whale watching in Loreto (2 full days on the Sea of Cortez).

BW3: Meet in Loreto at the designated hotel. Three nights hotel in Loreto, welcome happy hour in the hotel lounge, whale watching in Loreto (2 full days on the Sea of Cortez), flight to Laguna San Ignacio, 4 days and nights at Campo Cortez and whale watching (all inclusive). Lastly, our return scenic drive from Laguna San Ignacio to Loreto through desert, mountains and along the Sea of Cortez shoreline.

Our Big Whale Trips are limited to 13 passengers. Our Ecolodge however has a capacity of between 20 to 26 guests at any given time.

SELF-ARRIVAL TRIP

Everything! Your fee covers our all-inclusive stay at camp: two whale watches daily, meals, sodas, beer and other drinks and your fully furnished cabin.

No, there are no other charges at the camp. There are however t-shirts and other souvenirs for sale at camp.

Yes, but only if we have space available at the camp, and if your dates are the exact same days as our guided trips at the camp. This ensures we can maintain group continuity. See the Fee Schedule for joining a guided trip. These are run much differently than our standard self-arrival trip that we offer at the beginning and end of the season.

You can drive, by crossing the border in California or Arizona and head south on highway 1; You can also fly to Cabo San Lucas, La Paz or Loreto in Baja, Mexico; or if you are a private pilot, you can fly directly to the lagoon.

We will supply you with a suggested packing list and what you need when crossing the border to Mexico and back to the USA. You will also need your passport, copy of your auto insurance, registration and be sure to get temporary Mexican insurance for your automobile through an online agent. It's the law. You must have Mexican coverage for your auto while in Mexico and it is quite affordable. Lastly, when crossing the border into Mexico, pull into the declare lane so that you can walk over to Immigration and fill out and pay for a "FM1" tourist visa.

Loreto, Baja Sur. Mexico is the closest commercial airport to San Ignacio Lagoon and a great little town to spend time at before or after your trip. Check with us for a list of airlines.

Absolutely! Contrary to what we hear in the press, Mexico and specifically Baja is undoubtedly safe and heavily visited by tourists. Over 50 million visitors cross the border each year at the San Ysidro (Tijuana/San Diego) border crossing; and Tijuana is the most visited city in the Western Hemisphere, second only to New York City.

Additionally 300,000 people cross the border each day at the San Ysidro/San Diego border crossing, making it the busiest and most secure border crossing in the world.

Between Tijuana and San Ignacio there are three military checkpoints. These are standard checkpoints that every vehicle goes through. When driving south, you usually do not encounter them, but when driving back north, we are asked to get off of the bus or out of our vehicles for an inspection. In most cases it goes pretty fast and sometimes there are inspections of bags – much like customs and TSA at an airport.

No, remember these are routine checkpoints and are a normal occurrence throughout Mexico and most of the world. There is nothing to be concerned about. You may be asked to open your bag or luggage for a visual inspection and nobody will check your bags without you being present unlike in North America with TSA or Customs.

Only in the movies! Don't believe everything you hear and remember, when traveling anyplace in the world, you need to take basic precautions so as not to be targeted for petty thievery. Our Mexican neighbors have many of the same questions about traveling to the USA when they hear about violence in schools, gang activity, and the abundance of gun violence in the USA. News happens, and is reported, but does not make it the norm. You'll find travel in Baja to be not only safe, but the locals are incredibly helpful if you break-down or need assistance.

Yes, we will be happy to help you with where to stay, how long it takes to drive from one city to the next and an overall plan for your trip.

Approximately 5.5 to 7 hours depending on how many stops you make along the way. Because the drive is so scenic, you’ll want to make many stops along the way.

14 hours from the border to Campo Cortez at San Ignacio Lagoon. You can break the drive up by staying overnight in Guerrero Negro or you can make it to the town of San Ignacio by night fall and stay overnight in San Ignacio. Check with us for suggested itineraries.

When to go | Whale Watching | Pre-Booking | Booking | Travel & Safety in Mexico | Around Camp | Weather | Food & Water | 5 Day Air Trip | 8 Day Big Whale Trip | Self Arrival Trip