Baja California and the Sea of Cortez: Among the Great Whales

Led by Ted Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Biology, and Michelle Johnson, Retired Medical Technologist

February 23–March 3, 2018

With Lindblad Expeditions on the National Geographic Sea Lion


Registration for this program is now closed. We’d love it if you to look at our other destinations (expand the Our Programs menu to the right).

Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez a “living aquarium.” Its islands are designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and are home to an impressive variety of marine mammals and birds. We invite you to join us and discover the pure wildness of Baja California and the Sea of Cortez in the most exhilarating way possible — aboard the 62-guest expedition ship National Geographic Sea Lion.

Flexibility is a hallmark of our expeditions, and nowhere is this more true than Baja California. Expedition landing craft are dropped to get close to whales, and the captain will change course to keep the ship among a pod of dolphins.

We’ll sail, kayak, and/or snorkel daily. You can head off for closer looks at pods of dolphins and whales aboard our expedition landing craft. Take a long hike with the wellness specialist if you crave exercise, or choose a shorter walk, with time for your naturalist to share the local medicinal uses of each plant you see. Stay aboard and relax if you prefer. There’s no one-size-fits-all scheduling here: you can choose your activities, activity levels, and staff members to join every day.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the islands are famous for their wildlife. You’ll see strange lizards, rattleless rattlesnakes, and oddly beautiful plant life, plus pelicans, cormorants, Frigatebirds, egrets, herons, sandpipers, and brown- and blue-footed boobies. But the big news in this area are the massive numbers and variety of whales and dolphins. There are pods of thousands of common dolphins and hundreds of bottlenose dolphins. Blue whales, fin whales, as well as Bryde’s whales, humpbacks, sperm whales, plus orcas, false killer whales, pilot whales, and many more. The Sea of Cortez and the Pacific birthing lagoons are the best, most consistent place in the world to see marine mammals.

Ted will deliver talks throughout the expedition, and wildlife talks and photography instruction will be offered by ship staff, both while out hiking or on landing craft, and back on the ship in the afternoons and evenings.

Program Leaders  

Ted Johnson, professor emeritus of biology, and Michelle Johnson, retired St. Olaf Health Center medical technologist, are veteran travelers and program leaders. Ted and Michelle led the St. Olaf Global Semester in 1998, the Environmental Studies in Australia Semester in 2004 and Term in Asia in 2006 and 2012. Ted led students on an Interim study service program in Peru multiple times.

Ted graduated from Augsburg College in 1968 and received an MS and a PhD from the University of Illinois in 1973. He has been with the biology department at St. Olaf for the past 38 years, teaching primarily courses in microbiology and immunology. He has been chair of the Health Professions Committee and has served as an advisor for many students interested in a career in the health professions. Michelle graduated from Millikin University in 1969 and received a masters in English from Mankato State University. Ted and Michelle have three children.

What to Expect  

To participate in this program you must be capable of traveling on board a 152-foot ship for several days at a time, climbing in and out of zodiac-style landing craft, hiking over uneven terrain in the day’s heat, dealing with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when traveling, handling your own luggage, and traveling with a group for several hours each day. You always have the option of skipping a group activity you think will be too strenuous and remaining on the ship.

You are responsible for reviewing the specific requirements for this program and judging the appropriateness of these travel activities to your physical, mental and behavioral capabilities. Any participant who is unable to fulfill the program requirements may have their registration cancelled. Any participant who has demonstrated an inability, in the opinion of the program leader, of keeping up with the group or of safely participating in program activities may be prohibited from participating in certain activities or excused from the program.

The atmosphere on board is casual. There is no expectation of any formal dress whatsoever; after all, it is an expedition. Clothing that can be layered is the most suitable to provide maximum versatility to your wardrobe. Packing recommendations will be provided prior to departure. The weather in late February should be delightful. Daytime temperatures will likely be in the 70s (Fahrenheit), with lows in the 60s.

You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit or

Program Fee  

The program fee varies by cabin (see below) and includes discussions led by Ted Johnson, assistance by Michelle Johnson, services of an Expedition Leader, naturalist staff and expert guides, accommodations, all meals and non-alcoholic beverages on board, 24-hour coffee, tea & soda, hors d’oeuvres and snacks during daily recap, excursions and special access permits, use of kayaks, snorkeling gear and wetsuits, and stand-up paddleboards, airport transfers if you fly on the recommended group flights, all port charges and service taxes, and some travel medical insurance coverage while overseas.

Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: All airfare • Airport transfers, unless you book the recommended flights • Any passport, visa, or immigration fees • Any recommended immunizations or vaccinations • Baggage insurance • Trip cancellation insurance above $2,000 lifetime coverage • Alcoholic beverages • Spa treatments • Internet or phone charges • Gratuities.


Category   Double*     Solo           Cabins
1                  $6,590       $9,890         #300-305 on the Main Deck
2                  $7,590       $11,390       #100-104 on the Bridge Deck and #200-212, #215 on the Upper Deck
3                  $8,590            —              #105, 106 on the Bridge Deck and #214, 216, 217, 219 on the Upper Deck
*Prices are per person, double occupancy

CATEGORY 1: Main Deck #300-305 — Conveniently positioned between the dining room & lounge, these cabins feature two single lower beds, and a large view window.

CATEGORY 2: Bridge Deck #100-104; Upper Deck #200-212, 215 — These well-located cabins include two lower single beds & a view window.

CATEGORY 3: Bridge Deck #105, 106; Upper Deck #214, 216, 217, 219—These cabins feature a seating unit with table and two large view windows. Upper Deck cabins include two lower single beds which can convert to a double bed and a pull-out single bed for a third person; Bridge Deck cabins include two lower single beds only.

NOTE: Sole Occupancy cabins are available in Categories 1 and 2 only. Third person rates are available in certain categories at one half the double occupancy rate.

SHARED ACCOMMODATIONS: Shares can be arranged at the double occupancy rate in Categories 1 and 2 only.

More Information and Related Documents   

Click here to see the Recommended Immunizations from the Centers for Disease Control or visit the CDC web site directly.

No entry visa is required for Mexico for stays of up to 180 days. It is always best if your passport is valid for at least six months following the date of your arrival. Please look at your passport now to verify it will be valid through September 2018. If your passport will expire between December 2017 and September 2018, I recommend you renew your passport by the end of 2017, latest. Visit the U.S. State Department’s web site at for renewal instructions and the necessary forms. As a general precaution, all travelers should carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from their passport.

Payment and Refund Schedule

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For up-to-date recommendations for registered participants, see the Revised Flight Information. Keep in mind that you do not have to fly through Los Angeles if you don’t want to. If you find better flights directly from your home town, go for it. You just need to make sure you get IN to San Jose del Cabo BEFORE the recommended flight and LEAVE San Jose del Cabo AFTER the recommended flight, so that you can take advantage of airport transfers.