Sunrise Birding LLC - Birding & Wildlife Tours
Home | Tours | Trip Reports | News |  Team |  Calendar | Links | Contact | Store | Mailing List
Blue-footed Boobies by Gina Nichol.BAJA
Whales & Endemics!

                       February 6 - 17, 2019

Trip Cost & Travel Planning>    Registration Form>

Contact to reserve your space!


The Baja Peninsula in Mexico stretches 760 miles south from the California border to Cabo San Lucas with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez on the other. Famed for its unique landscape and wildlife, Jacques Cousteau named Baja California, the “Mexican Galapagos" and the Sea of Cortez, "The largest living aquarium of the world". For birders and wildlife enthusiasts, it is a dream.

Our itinerary will provide some of the best whale watching and birding that Baja has to offer. From the dry habitat of the Cardon Cactus "forest", where wintering birds add to the excitement of searching for endemic and resident species, to one of the best whale watching areas in the world.

We will explore the three most important habitats of Baja California by land and sea. First we will discover the remote and wild Sierra de la Laguna, which harbors a number of very special birds. Then we visit idyllic National Park of the colorful Xantus's Hummingbird by Paul LathsburyEspiritu Santo Island. And finally we will concentrate our efforts in the dry lands around the beautiful Todos Santos. Endemic land birds include Gray Thrasher which is common throughout in desert scrub as is the little Xantus's Hummingbird. although Belding's Yellowthroat is not widespread, it can be found in remnant marsh habitats. We can also admire the beauty of unique Mexican giant cardon or elephant cactus, agaves and other succulent plants against breath-taking landscapes, sunrises and sunsets, all framed by the ocean. We will be search for cetaceans and seabirds in Bahia Magdalena and other important bays, with the hope of encountering Gray, Humpback, Long-finned Pilot, and perhaps Blue Whale or maybe an Orca, as well as Whale Sharks, rays and sea-lions.

Join us to experience the great whales, endemic birds, fabulous food,
lovely people, wonderful scenery and some very special boat trips
in the "The Earthy Paradise" of Baja California.

Photos: Blue-footed Boobies and Humpback Whale by Gina Nichol. Xantus's Hummingbird by Paul Lathsbury

Heermann's Gull. Sunrise Birding ITINERARY
Day 1: ARRIVAL LA PAZ – Feb 6

Please plan a flight to arrive today at La Paz (LAP) International airport, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Here you will transfer to our seaside hotel at the edge of the city, where depending on the tide and time there will be chances to see gulls, egrets, shorebirds and maybe Black Skimmer, Reddish Egret or White Ibis. The tour will start with a welcome dinner and introduction to our local guides. Overnight in La Paz. D.


Day 2: SEA OF CORTEZ – Feb 7
After breakfast we will drive to the nearby La Paz Harbor where a 25 meter boat will be waiting to take us for a full day pelagic and whale watching tour. The Sea of Cortez is a haven for wildlife and a naturalist’s dream destination. This diverse Whale Shark by Josele Saiz.habitat is often referred to as the Galapagos of Mexico and is home to more than 650 tropical and temperate fish and one-third of the world's whale and dolphin species.

As an introduction to further boat trips in the following days we will navigate beyond La Paz Bay in search of Whale Shark, Humpback Whale, the mighty Blue Whale and maybe our first Gray Whales. Californian Sea Lion should easily be found and among the many bird species we will expect to find Yellow-footed, Bonaparte's, California and Heermann's Gulls. With an exquisite lunch on board, we will later return back to La Paz where we should be able to find Brandt's Cormorant, Black-vented Shearwater, Blue-footed Booby, Western Grebe, and with luck maybe the rare Red-billed Tropicbird.
Overnight in La Paz. B,L,D

Gray Thrasher by Josele Saiz.After an early breakfast we will set off toward Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve. Our first stop along the way will be a lake where in winter there are good numbers of herons, ducks and hopefully some shorebirds, and with luck maybe the rare Thick-billed Kingbird. A visitor center has been created from one of the former Ranchos – "San Dionisio".

Here we'll be the guests of Don Cata, Doña Luz and their son Rogelio, of one of the long-time families living in this area. On their ranch we'll enjoy the impressive landscapes and walk to a remote waterfall where we'll have a picnic lunch. Along the way we'll be searching for many species of birds, such as the endemic Gray Thrasher, Greater Roadrunner, Canyon Wren, Gray Vireo, Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee, California Towhee and California Gnatcatcher. Later we will be treated to a fabulous dinner made by Doña Luz, who will also show us how to make "tortillas" from scratch. For those that wish, we will then go on a night walk in search of Great Horned Owl, the tiny Elf Owl and the endemic Baja Pygmy Owl. After the owling we will drive to Lo Barriles for overnight. B,L,D


After early morning breakfast in Lo Barriles, we will head to another area of the reserve and visit (by vehicle) the highest area. When we reach the end of the track we will stop and take a short walk through a ravine where we can see several waterfalls. The solitude of this place is overwhelming and birding can produce Acorn and Gila Woodpeckers, Western Scrub Jay, Cassin´s Vireo, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Lazuli Bunting to mention a few. We'll take a picnic lunch under the shade of some oak trees, and then after lunch we'll drive down around the Rancho, which is the entrance of the nature reserve and walk along a stream looking for several birds that we will not have any more chances to see in lower lands, such as Green-tailed Towhee, Western Tanager, Yellow Breasted Chat, Lesser Goldfinch, and possibly Northern Pygmy Owl in on a day roost. Before dusk we will leave the area heading to La Paz where we will overnight. B,L,D


Days 5 & 6: ESPIRITU SANTO ISLAND – Feb 10 & 11
Blue-footed Booby by Gina Nichol.After breakfast we will collect all of the equipment for the next two days. Those wanting to swim and snorkel with the Whale Sharks and Sea Lions can choose their equipment for snorkeling; dry suit, goggles, flippers etc., before we head to the harbor to board our boat. We'll head out into the Sea of Cortez for the beginning of our 2 day/1 night "glamping" trip on the Isla Espiritu Santo.


Espiritu Santo and the Sea of Cortez is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts a wealth of wildlife and is of course a total bird magnet! On our way out we will pass several small islands that serve as rookeries for Blue-footed Boobies and Great Blue Herons, and we'll take our time to explore these wonderful places. Around lunch time we'll arrive at our African safari-style tented camp at Candelero Beach where a terrific lunch spread will be waiting for us. After a lovely lunch we'll settle into the accommodations which are very comfortable walk-in tents with raised beds, mattresses, sheets and pillows. This luxury camping set up offers sun showers, compost toilets, excellent food and incredible surroundings.


Glamping in Baha by Josele Saiz.


In the afternoon we'll explore the island by boat, then settle in for a happy hour and a great birding display at sunset as parades of birds searching for their suppers include Brown Pelicans, Yellow-footed Gulls, Caspian Terns, Franklin's Gulls, Bonaparte's Gulls, Royal Terns, and more. We will then enjoy a lovely cooked dinner. Please note that this night on the island is part of a very unique and very special day, and without exception everyone that has participated has commented that it is most definitely a highlight of the tour.
Overnight on the island. B,L,D


Frigatebird by Gina Nichol.The next morning, after breakfast we'll head (by boat) to the permanent Sea Lion colony of Los Islotes, which is also a major Blue-footed Booby rookery. For those that wish, you will be able to snorkel and swim with the marvelously curious and playful sea lion pups, while everyone can enjoy the great array of bird life attracted to the island. We'll return to camp for lunch and a siesta and then spend our last afternoon on a boat traveling from the island to La Paz.

Along the way, we will visit a colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds, formerly the biggest in the world with more than 30,000 individuals but today with around 12,000 members. This site on a remote island where the birds build their rough nests constructed in low trees and due to the guano accumulated on the trees for years has formed bizarre sculptures. Adult males with their red throat pouches attend the nests with the females and the juveniles in a noisy and chaotic harmony, all providing an unforgettable experience.


Slowly sailing toward La Paz we will be exploring and searching for whales and hopefully the quiet and beautiful Whale Shark. We will then watch another great birding display as the sun sets. Dinner in a local seafood restaurant and Overnight in La Paz. B,L,D


Day 7 & 8: TODOS SANTOS – Feb 12 & 13
Xantus´s HummingbirdAfter an early breakfast we'll head to Todos Santos for an historical town tour. Todos Santos has a rich and varied history, from the early missionaries, through the booming sugar years, through to its current incarnation as an artists' colony, agricultural center and surfing hotspot. On this guided tour we will visit many of the historic homes and buildings throughout town, learning fascinating stories of the global forces and colorful personalities that brought these buildings into existence and shaped Todos Santos over the years.


After lunch at an amazing local restaurant we will eventually enjoy our first local desert birding at a nearby palm fringed pond. The fresh coastal waters are one of the most important habitats in Baja for the endangered endemic species, the Belding's Yellowthroat, and we stand good chances to see this special bird. We will also have opportunities to see Magnificent Frigatebird, Black-necked Stilt, Black Phoebe, Eared Grebe, Pacific Loon, Tricolored Heron, White-faced Ibis and more.

In the late afternoon we'll head into the palm oasis for more bird watching, where we're likely to see the delightful Xantus´s Hummingbird, Lark Sparrow, Gila Woodpecker, Hooded and Scott's Oriole, Western Tanager, MacGillivray´s Warbler and more. Later we walk to a nearby local restaurant for dinner where they mix modern and Mexican cuisine. Overnight at Todos Santos. B,L,D


After breakfast on this day we will drive to the coastal desert. We will do a pleasant walk through a palm grove and into the desert. The Palm trees are the favorite nesting sites of orioles, and woodpeckers and the desert here has abundant bursera microphylla trees which provide food for wintering Gray Vireos and Ash-throated Flycatchers, while the resident California Quail, Greater Roadrunner, Costa's Hummingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Cactus Wren, California Gnatcatcher, and Black-throated Sparrow are all possible.


At the end of the walk is a coastal lake where many birds specially flocks of wintering sparrows visit to drink, other birds we can find here include Cinnamon Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Snowy Egret and a variety of shorebirds.

After our walk we will drive back to Todos Santos for a fresh lunch in one of the local restaurants followed by a delightful Italian style ice-cream. Depending on temperatures we will either take a siesta or revisit the same area as in the morning where there is also a good chance of encountering Harris' Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, plus Common and Ruddy Ground Doves. Almost anywhere we might stumble into flocks of wintering Brewer's and Clay-colored Sparrows, and some years Lark Buntings are numerous. We could also see Loggerhead Shrike, Ash-throated Flycatcher, California Scrub Jay, Cactus Wren, Northern Mockingbird and many other birds. We will learn about plants such as cacti, agaves and other succulent varieties. And then we will wait until just before dusk, when the Lesser Nighthawks leave their roosting sites to feed over a nearby lake. Overnight in Todos Santos. B,L,D

Day 9 & 10: MAGDALENA BAY – Feb 14 & 15
Today we'll leave Todos Santos and drive up to Magdalena Bay, the largest wetland ecosystem on the west coast of Baja and one of the most important in North America. The World Wildlife Fund ranks Magdalena Bay as one of the most important coastal habitats in Mexico. The Bay is the prime calving ground for the Gray Whale, and between January and March it is possible to see large number of whales, including mothers and calves. This is the place where memorable close encounters can often bring the whales so close that you touch them. Magdalena Bay also has mangrove forests, barrier reefs, beaches and sand dune islands, all of which contribute to the incredible scenery and biological diversity of the area.




Brandt's Cormorant by Josele Saiz.It is a four and a half hour drive from Todos Santos to Magdalena Bay, so when we arrive we will be ready to enjoy the first of many wonderful meals. We'll then get into our boats and head out into the lagoons where we could find Mangrove Warblers, nesting Ospreys and Peregrine Falcons, and no doubt some other surprises, along the way. We will continue further out to enjoy some pelagic birding and will look for Masked Boobies, Craveri's Murrelet, shearwaters, storm petrels, and cormorants. We're also very likely to encounter Gray Whale mothers and babies, whose curious nature often means they come right up to the boat to investigate and play. Overnight at Magdalena Bay.


Depending on the winds and tides we will decide where the boats will take us on our next adventure. Birding and whale watching are the options for another wonderful day on Magdalena Bay. After lunch in one of the local restaurants by the harbor, we'll head out in the motor boats and check out some of the dunes in the lagoon where we're likely to spot Brandt's Cormorants, Little Blue Herons, Heermann's and Bonaparte's Gulls, Whimbrels, Wilson's Phalaropes and more. We'll also have plenty of time for more interactions with the Gray Whales. Overnight at Magdalena Bay. B,L,D


Day 11: RETURN TO LA PAZ – Feb 16
Today is a flexible day as eventually we need to return to La Paz. Depending on what we have seen and what we would like to see we will decide on our activity. Maybe more birding in the mangroves in Magdalena Bay in the morning or return to La Paz and check the local sewage ponds where birding can produce an incredible density of waders, ducks, egrets, ibis and passerines before heading back to our hotel. Again depending on the tides we can spend the afternoon birding around the hotel gardens facing the sea. Overnight La Paz. B,L,D


DAY 12: END OF TOUR – Feb 17
Today is day of departure and the tour concludes after breakfast. Depending on your return flight time you may have chance to look around La Paz or go shopping. B

Leaders:  Gina Nichol, Steve Bird and local guides

Photos, top to bottom:
Heerman's Gull, Whale Shark (JS), Gray Thrasher (JS), Green-tailed Towhee (SB), Blue-footed Booby (GN), Glamping camp (JS), Frigatebird (GN), Xantus's Hummingbird (Paul Lathsbury), MacGillivray's Warbler (SB), Loggerhead Shrike (GN), Gray Whales (JS), Brandt's Cormorant (JS), Whale fluke (JS) (JS=Josele Saiz; SB=Steve Bird, GN=Gina Nichol)

Fluke by Josele SaizBAJA CALIFORNIA
Whales & Endemics!

February 6 - 17, 2019

Registration Form>    
Contact to reserve your space!

TOUR PRICE:  $3950.00 per person based on double occupancy from La Paz, Mexico.  Single occupancy price: $4595.00 per person subject to availability.  Price based on exchange rates at the time the tour was posted (**see note below).

Deposit: $500.00 per person per tour. Note: Tour deposits can be paid by credit card via PayPal.  Use this link to make your credit card payment.  Please advise when you have made payment. 

Included in cost: Group transfers on arrival, accommodation based on twin occupancy, all meals from dinner on 6 Feb to Breakfast on 17 Feb, all community fees, park entrance fees, transportation throughout, boat trips, detailed pre-trip materials and checklists, services of local guide and tour leaders throughout the trip, drinking water.

Not included: International airfare, insurance, drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature.

Tour Code: This is a standard birding tour with all day birding. No particular strenuous walks are planned but there are some uphill treks.  Birding is mostly from open roads, wide tracks and boats. To see a good amount of specialties you need to be prepared for full days. We will generally start early and either have an early breakfast or return for breakfast. Lunches will be either picnic or at the lodges depending on our schedule.


RESERVATIONS: Contact to reserve your space!  Then follow up with your completed registration form and deposit of $500 per person per tour within two weeks to secure your place. Credit card deposits are possible with no added fees.   Please inquire.   Reservations are held with a deposit on a first-come, first-served basis.   
>Download & print the Registration Form 

Once the tour is confirmed to go ahead, we will send you information about booking your flights. Please do not book flights until you receive this information from us and are notified that the trip has sufficient numbers to run. Final payment is due October 2, 2018.


**Please note: Tour prices are based on quoted costs from ground operators (in their local currency), estimated fuel costs, and the rate of exchange the time of itinerary publication. The erratic nature to global financial markets makes it difficult to predict changes in costs and foreign currency exchange rates over the long term. Since tours are priced well in advance of the actual operation of the tour, tour costs, fuel costs and exchange rates can change, sometimes drastically. Depending on the extent of such changes, it may be necessary to implement a surcharge on this tour. If a surcharge is necessary, every effort will be made to minimize the amount.

Cancellations and Refunds: All cancellations must be made in writing. In the event that you must cancel your booking at any stage, all payments you have made to Sunrise Birding, LLC will be retained by us, except at our discretion. You may have the opportunity to transfer your booking to another tour or another person, provided you are unavoidably prevented from coming on the tour. In this case, you will bear any extra costs that such changes may incur. There are no refunds once the trip is confirmed to go ahead and no refunds will be made for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features. Sunrise Birding, LLC cannot accept liability for airline cancellations or delays or penalties incurred by the purchase of non-refundable airline tickets or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for this tour.

Insurance: Sunrise Birding, LLC recommends that you purchase a travel protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more.

For more information on the available plans or to enroll, click on the link below or contact Travelex Insurance Services at 800-228-9792 and reference location number 07-0025.

The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. Travelex CA Agency License #0D10209. All products listed are underwritten by, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. 11.17 E7N

Questions? Contact Gina Nichol at 
Phone: 203.453.6724