On the final full day of our voyage around the southern coastline of the Baja Peninsula, a dense fog surrounded National Geographic Venture. For those making their way to the bow with morning coffee, the sun’s rays dissipated the water vapor, revealing the coastline and the hillsides residing beyond. With the warm light illuminating the contours of the landmass, passengers and staff watched as diurnal wildlife started their days.

After breakfast, we geared up for a day of searching for gray whales, with a break for lunch. To help us access this protected area, local pangaleros – or boat drivers – loaded us into their fiberglass boats. With their local knowledge, they shuttled us into Bahia de Alemejas. In these protected coastal waters situated between islands, wildlife abounds. All guests were treated to multiple gray whale sightings. A myriad of whale behavior was observed, and each group’s experience varied from one group to the next. Some curious whales approached boats, while some breached and raised their heads above the surface in a behavior known as spyhopping. At least one boat was fortunate enough to witness two whales in the act of courting and mating!

The presence of a few California sea lions and thousands of seabirds spoke to the capacity of this ecosystem to support fish-eating animals. Spits of sand were crowded with hundreds of brown pelicans, thousands of Brandt’s and double-crested cormorants, gulls, royal terns, and shorebirds. Dozens of kleptoparasitic magnificent frigatebirds patrolled the skies, looking to steal the catches of passing gulls and terns. Meanwhile, a peregrine falcon patrolled the beaches for shorebirds such as sanderlings.

Boat trips ended in the late afternoon, and the last guests and staff returned to the ship to freshen up before cocktails and dinner. New friends mingled over libations, and the evening was capped with a slideshow made up of photos contributed by the guests onboard. National Geographic Venture made its way to the closest port. In the morning, we will bid farewell to this cast of Baja fanatics, who will disperse homebound with tales of warm sunsets, clear night skies, abundant wildlife, and a deeper connection to a small slice of the world where the desert meets the ocean.