In December 2019, Stephanie Arne, explorer, speaker, and host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, joined us on Wild Baja Escape: Serenity & Sea Life in the Sea of Cortez, along with her social media manager Sing Weist. Here, they shared their experience of reveling in pure nature and recharging among pristine desert isles and a sea teeming with marine life.
As we step aboard the pristine, 50-cabin National Geographic Venture, we cannot help but marvel at the beauty and grandeur of this spacious and absolutely stunning expedition ship. After hours of travel by plane and bus, we’re filled with the excitement of embarking on an expedition that allows us to unplug and immerse ourselves in the adventure of exploring Mexico’s vast Gulf of California.
We depart the dock at midnight and wake to a delectable breakfast buffet, fully stocked with bacon, quiches, potatoes sauteed with grilled peppers, and an omelet station. Each morning, we have the choice of joining a meditative, yoga-flow with our onboard wellness specialist to help us set our intention for the day. We are greeted with a stunning ombre sky as we watch the sunrise on the deck while posing in our Warrior 1 and Warrior 2. We end our session with a relaxing Shavasana with the morning wind’s melody humming quietly in our ears.
Each day, we have our choice of remote locations to explore by boarding Zodiacs. On our first day of adventuring, we journey to Bahía La Paz en route to San Jose Channel, where we embark on a guided hike with National Geographic photographer, Rich Reid. We are surrounded by a stunning variety of vibrant colors, the reds of the petrified sandstone and the greens of the many varieties of cacti painted against a mesmerizing blue sky and crisp ocean views. We hike up the sandstone to the peak overlooking the entire, vast ocean, where we can see our fellow guests kayaking, paddleboarding, and doing yoga on the beach. It’s impossible not to be enamored by the stunning shades of primary colors throughout this location.
On the second day of our expedition, at San José Channel on Isla San José, we board the Zodiacs and excitedly disembark into the water to snorkel with sea lions. These playful marine mammals curiously swim around the Zodiacs and gleefully explore each snorkeler with puppy-eyed wonderment. They gracefully glide around in circles showcasing their acrobatic ease in their natural habitat. Throughout the day, Zodiacs escort guests to and from the boat to Isla San José , where naturalists offer guided tours to explore the tide pools, to hike up the ridges to capture photos of wildlife, or to simply bask in the sunshine with your choice of paddleboarding, snorkeling, kayaking, or yoga.
As we sail from Isla San José to Isla San Francisco, we are greeted by a large pod of common dolphins. They eagerly swim in the wake of the boat, while playfully breaching to say hello. Not readily seen with the human eye, but with binoculars, you can see sting rays, flat bodied with wing-like pectoral fins, swooping through the air from a distance. We’re truly surrounded by the beauty of nature. Out in the open ocean along the Sea of Cortez, we are given the opportunity to observe these beautiful creatures in their element.
During the third day of our expedition, docked at Isla San Francisco, we’re given an entire day to choose our own adventure. Whether before the delectable lunch or after, you can choose to go ashore where soft, sandy beaches welcome you to exfoliate your toes. In the evening, the crew sets up a delicious bonfire, prepared to absolute perfection.
One of the highlights of the entire trip was sitting around the warmth of a fire, roasting s’mores, and sharing laughs and stories with guests and crew members, all while under a stunning star-lit sky. Guests can also take a black-light evening scorpion tour, where two groups are led by naturalists to search for the glowing bark scorpions
On our fourth and last day of adventuring, we are docked at Isla San Francisco. We begin our day with yoga and watch as the sun slowly peeks over the canyons, greeting us with its stunning rays of light one last time. Our naturalists and certified photo instructor greet us in the ship’s main lobby, providing us a list of excursions we’ll be able to embark on for the day. Guests line up to board the Zodiacs and eagerly await being escorted to Isla San Francisco where the weather is absolutely perfect for a short or long hike, yoga on the beach, soaking up the sun, or snorkeling with fish in pristine, clear blue water.
The hours fly by and we are escorted back to the ship for a final cocktail and dinner with the crew and guests. Tears of joy and happiness are shared amongst friends as we discuss our favorite memories from the past four days. An important element of the expedition that cannot be fully described in words is the connections and life-long friendships that were made with the crew and other guests on the ship. These friendships and memories will be forever cherished.
No adjective will truly portray the heartfelt conversations exchanged around the bonfire, or during the ridge hikes, or the numerous laughs that were shared over cocktails during dinner. We laughed, and cried from laughing, so vigorously until our bellies and faces hurt, and hugged like lifelong friends, reunited again. These relationships have been built on the serendipitous meeting on a Lindblad ship, all based on the foundation that we’re all adventure-seekers. Each guest embarked on this expedition for different reasons; whether for a retirement or birthday celebration, a spiritual, meditative retreat, or a vacation, we all shared a common want, the want to connect, through nature and relationships. This expedition, Wild Baja Escape: Serenity & Sea Life in the Sea of Cortez, can hardly be summarized in one word, but there’s no question that it’s absolutely extraordinary—and an adventure that leaves you longing for more.