Best of Baja 2019!
Close and Personal!
March 16-24, 2019
Best of Baja Since 1966: Reserving Now! Expect the unexpected!
March 16-24, 2019
a Great Value in Personalized natural History Travel
$2995 per person, double occupancy
Enchanted Peninsula's Central Desert is unexpected.
Comfortable Natural History Adventure in Baja California
With Experience! 56 Years in Baja.
Group of Guests is Now
Our guests admire a friendly 40' gray whale and her 16' calf beside our boat.
we sure to see whales?
BFT's guests look
This is the First Selfie with a
Friendly Whale that we've seen in all our 50+ years in the
Our delightful guest, Cydney Gus,
joined us with her equally delightful parents, Tom and Susan, in
2018. Cydney perfectly captured her own delighted smile and the
enthusiastic blow from the very happy baby gray whale who had
come to visit our guests with its Mom.
No PhotoShop here, we assure you. The
friendly whales are up close and personal; if you're as quick
and sure and level-headed as Cydney, your horizons will be
A few photos from
2018 in Baja
Anticipate...We're signing up for 2019 now! Space is limited.
Getting there along
the Pacific Coast and through Baja's unique Sonoran Desert is great fun!
During our journey south to meet the whales, Mary acquaints our guests
with the peninsula's often unique desert botany.
Photo opportunities abound!
During delightful desert picnics you will learn that
these are not the saguaro cacti you may know from Arizona, but the far
more massive Cardon found in Baja's desert forests. Can one Cardon
balance the scales with a gray whale? Absolutely!
The California Gray Whales migrate south from the
Bering Sea each year to mate and return to bear their calves the next
season. Most of the thousands of gray whales simply go about their
natural business undisturbed by the half-dozen little boats permitted in
Scammon's Lagoon during whale season. The Mexican Federal Government has
carefully regulated activity on these waters during whale season since
1974. Beginning in 1977, slowly increasing numbers of gray whales have
continued to exhibit what we call friendly behavior during their
time in the Baja lagoons. They express themselves by people watching,
by coming over to our boats and often reaching out to touch!
A common sight is a mother and baby (the smaller blow)
swimming by, in this case they are exercising by swimming against the
incoming tide near the lagoon's mouth. The baby whale, born in the quiet
backwaters of vast Scammon's Lagoon, will begin its journey all the way
up to the Bering Sea with its Mom soon. She brings her young 16' baby
whale out for exercise!
Friendly whales live in a three-dimensional world of
water, and that makes their choice to come over to people watch
most obvious indeed! However, they generally do this gently - one might
say respectfully. And they stay for minutes. Sometimes many
minutes! Above left, 2 of our guests pet the whale who has chosen to
visit. Above right, 3 guests share touches as the whale rises and
The whales are expressive, though some guests are
occasionally even more delighted than the whales appear!
On the left above, you see the very tip of the whale's
rostrum, its very front end. There's about 40' of gray whale beneath the
water as it rises carefully by our boat to exchange this gentle touch
with our guest. Speaking of whale watching, the unusual image to the
right above is a close photo of a whale actually watching me. Yes, that
is the whale's eye and my shadow as I take the photo. We are looking
right at each other! Below, is a larger image from the same series
Seeing Flipper on television is far more common than
in Scammon's Lagoon! Occasional quick sightings do happen, yet this year
we were played with and followed about the lagoon at first by 3, then by
five more who joined in the fun. Some fun!
Jeff and Ann joined us in 2007 (you may find them
elsewhere on this page) and delighted in the desert, whales and birds
(not to mention the excellent hotels and totally memorable dining). This
year, they have returned to share their adventure with their two kids,
and of course with us, as we all enjoyed everyone's delight in new
Mary lugs our spotting scope as Jeff raises his camera
for yet another great shot at a sea bird sanctuary.
Baja California, Mexico's Personalized Natural History in Spring
53rd Anniversary Season.
with Scammon's Lagoon's Very Friendly Gray Whales.
Since 1966: Our
Magnificent Natural History Learning Adventure!
2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 tours SOLD OUT, thank you!
features for your comfort & convenience!
March 16-24, 2019
History & Friendly Whale Watching in the Enchanted
for our Baja Brochure
scroll down for reservation information, and enjoy some photos along the way...
Space is Limited
on our small group
Call Piet & Mary for
The Baja Brochure & conversation...(520) 887-2340
detailed itinerary is in our Baja Brochure.
Good News for our Baja California guests!
|Again for 2019,
for your savings (often very substantial savings,
depending on your age) and convenience we'll purchase The
Group Protection Plan from Travel Insured International on
behalf of each of our guests; this includes travel and trip
cancellation insurance. Further, our
friendly group is limited to the first 16 guests; enjoy our spacious
only two people per wide three-person seat in the comfortable
passenger vehicles. Everyone has
their own window seat with a view!
|Did you know that Mary & Piet personally
produce and operate each one of their learning vacations? And
that they are your hosts and guides in Baja California? Piet
first ventured into the Baja peninsula in the summer of 1962 and
began BFT in Tucson four years later. You're invited to come
along on BFT's next adventure and make Piet & Mary's long experience your own
personal memory. Please call and discuss your interests with
them at 520-887-2340.
not looking for
whales, we're looking at whales! Scammon's Lagoon, located on the Pacific
Coast of Baja California, Mexico, roughly 400 miles south of San Diego,
California, is the largest and absolutely the best-protected and regulated of the
California Gray Whales' calving and mating grounds.
These leviathans have
traveled 3,000 miles from the Bering Sea to mate and to bear their young
in the safety of these protected waters. They are at peace here. It is
truly amazing to share their waters as they go about their natural
business of life totally undisturbed. The fact that more whales and their calves
come over to our boats to meet our guests every year is clear evidence that
they are, indeed, undisturbed. Visiting us has become part of their
natural, and obviously curious, behavior!
Our Best of Baja
tour is easy-going, informal and especially created for natural history-oriented
guests seeking a learning vacation. Informal natural and cultural history
interpretation abounds, and is rooted in Piet's 56 years in Baja
California (52 years since founding BFT) combined with Mary's decades of Sonoran
Desert botanical and educational/interpretive experience. This unique learning vacation is
personally operated by Piet & Mary Van de
Mark with enough comfortable passenger vehicles to allow just two guests
in each wide seat; everyone enjoys their own window seat! Guests find time off the beaten track to stop and smell (and photograph) the spring flowers
and meander some of their favorite special spots in Baja's deserts and sea coast.
Very comfortable hotel
accommodations are included throughout. Very fresh seafood, plus Mexican
and American specialties are always available from very familiar restaurants we
and our guests have enjoyed since most of them first opened decades ago.
Believe it or not, these friendly
whales are looking at people, too! In the
center of the photo (below) you'll see the eye of a 40' adult California
gray whale looking looking right at the guest to my left! You know
when they're looking at you!
This image was shot from our boat,
looking through the water with a polarizing filter to cut the glare.
Running at an angle beneath the large eye, the line of the whale's mouth
is visible through the distortion caused by the water. Other distortions
result from small ripples on the water's surface. White blotches are
barnacles, which blend to result in the typical gray appearance of these
These friendly whales are resting on their sides
just beneath the water's surface and right by our boat. The images
were shot looking almost straight down and very close to the
The smaller photo (above) shows the eye a young
whale, this time looking right into the camera ! This is the eye of
the small (16') whale (below) photographed 28 seconds earlier (by
camera data) as it approached the boat; its head, but not its eye, is above the surface.
Both images have been sharpened and brightened with
PhotoShop; because whales typically open their eyes to people-watch
in the shade created by side of the boat; one might conclude that
they find bright sun unpleasant, as they don't often expose their eyes
to it for more than a few seconds. The eye is recessed into the side
of the head, and has eyelids, eyeball and pupil like many other
These 9 photos are taken with a motor driven
camera over a period of two seconds, as an adult California gray
whale comes to the surface while passing close by our boat and rises just
far enough above the surface to begin its blow through one blowhole...
The first three little images illustrate
the exhalation; water vapor condensing is blown out with great force in well under
one second, as the droplets are frozen by the shutter speed of 1/1000
The next three little photos show the twin
blowholes open wide as the whale inhales, again in less than one
Finally, the blowholes close independently
and very quickly
as the animal slips with hardly a ripple beneath the surface.
You'll remember the impressive sound
Best of Baja!
Watching & Natural History
March 16-24, 2019
per person, double occupancy.
rooms are available at $400 additional.
Join us for this
comfortably- paced, comprehensive and diverse Natural History learning
vacation. Experience those friendly California Gray Whales in one of the
most storied places on earth!
abound during the scenic journey between San Diego and fabled Scammon's
Lagoon: breathtaking forests of Boojum and immense cardon cacti,
graceful elephant trees, and, hopefully, brilliant spring flowers.
Enjoy two days
boating on Scammon’s Lagoon, sharing the gray whales' largest and
best-protected migratory mating and calving destination. In 2012,
biologists counted a new record number of 1198
newborn calves during our visit. This year over 900 calves were
born in Scammon's Lagoon!
For many years,
most of our guests have pet the friendly whales, yet now, as more and
more whales enjoy people watching, everyone
is touched by a whale!
Baja's Frontier Tours
has offered our guests that up-close and
personal Friendly Whale experience you've heard so much about since the
first friendly whale approached our Zodiac in 1977.
Piet & Mary Van
de Mark, with their decades of Baja experience, will provide you with
the optimum natural and cultural history learning vacation.
wilderness includes pretty places by the sea and great Sonoran Desert
forests of bizarre and wondrous plants, offering ideal opportunities for
leisurely exploring, learning, and photography.
Birding in a nearby salt
marsh and lagoon sanctuary provides delightful views of North American
herons and egrets, and many other residents and visitors to this
Truly fresh seafood
and very comfortable accommodations complete your learning vacation. Mexico's
finest wines are created in Baja Norte!
is important to us! During our scenic journey roundtrip from San Diego,
you'll enjoy spacious and comfortable travel, very pleasant hotels, and
delightful restaurants featuring fresh seafood and lots more!
We've purchased deluxe group
trip cancellation and travel protection for you. It comes with the trip!
Also, enjoy delightful nightly
hotels, five picnic lunches and knowledgeable nature interpretation
In some years
the limited number of spaces available for Baja sell out early.
ahead and make your reservations now so you'll be among the decisive people
to share and anticipate this unique learning vacation.
Call Piet &
Mary Van de Mark at Baja’s Frontier Tours in Tucson, (520) 887-2340
for detailed brochure, information and registration now.
You may email:
scroll on, we've prepared lots more photos and information for you.....
The Journey is
The tiny white flowers of this rather ordinary-looking shrub (photo at the
left) (euphorbia xantii) become a delight for the eye when its tiny
flowers are viewed through a hand lens.
Many of us are touched
A whale of a holiday card! Photo by BFT guests Stan & Mary Lou
guests don't look for
They look at whales!
This photo was
taken in 1998; as the years go by, the whales are obviously
enjoying people watching and are now friendlier than ever.
Generally all of our guests are touched by
the friendly gray whales!
When a friendly California gray whale comes
over to your boat to visit - even to hang out for a few minutes -
you can actually watch (and hear!) her breath. Baleen whales have
two independent blowholes at the top of their head.
Here is a close look down
at a gray whale's blowholes, open wide to draw in air. The other
objects on the whale's skin are barnacles and large whale lice
that blend together to give the animal a gray appearance at
Simply The Best
of Baja Whale Watching
Sonoran Desert Natural History
|This very friendly and curious little California
gray whale was born in Scammon's Lagoon in 2009, just a month or two
before this picture
It's Mom has brought it over to our boats
and given her OK to come close, perhaps to share her curiosity about the
people in the boats who have shown themselves to be friendly.
Friendly whales sometimes interact with boats
in a manner comparable to...
||...interaction frequently observed with their own
species when they seem to be at play.
The baby's youth - just a couple of
months - is distinguished by the pickle-like dimples on its rostrum,
the front of its
The eye is visible just to the left of
the point where the line of the whale's mouth enters the water; the eye
is partially open and just above the waterline after taking a quick
glimpse of us in the boat.
specialty Since 1966
|Ellen, our guest from Tucson, writing about Pacific
Coastal Birding on her 2005 trip with us -
It was marvelous - and if you got tired of watching the whales,
you could watch the seabirds: a Caspian tern, more gulls and pelicans
and cormorants, eared grebes, snowy and great egrets. After several
hours when our boatman headed us back to the launching dock, we passed
by bobbing channel markers and huge metal mooring buoys used by salt
barges, covered with lounging sea lions or pelicans, and sometimes both.
Several early evenings we went bird-watching along the shore and tidal
inlets. Here’s where my bird list took a great leap. There was a lot
of marshy grass and little islands with great numbers of birds feeding.
We saw willits, godwits, and whimbrills with their curiously long beaks,
a blue-footed booby, reddish egrets, long-billed curlews, cormorants
with their wings spread to dry, pintail ducks, greater and lesser
yellowlegs, red-breasted mergansers, semi-palmated and Western and least
sandpipers, common goldeneye, brants, lesser scaups and American
widgeons. In the long grasses, we saw tricolor herons, yellow-crowned
and black-crowned night herons, little blue and great blue herons, each
spaced equally apart for nesting. At the lighthouse point closer to the
sea, we saw black-bellied plovers, oyster catchers and Western gulls.
We were struck by the number of ospreys on nesting platforms built
all around town, including two within view of our motel. Since it was
spring, some chicks were ready to fledge but were still being fed by
their parents. It became a daily ritual to check on the two nearby
nests. There was great excitement when one of the youngsters finally
flew, a sense of shared accomplishment among us, even to delaying our
departure one morning. The great shaggy chick looked like an improbable
flyer, but fly he did from nest to telephone pole while we stood and
applauded. There was another osprey platform near the bakery we
frequented and there was as much interest in that nest as in the
contents of the bakery.
ITINERARY? QUESTIONS? RESERVATIONS
to speak with you to discuss your interests and what we have to
we're here to help you determine if this is just the perfect trip for you...or
March 16-24, 2019
Still $2995 per
person, double occupancy
Available at $400.
Please call or email to
make your reservations.
Space is limited.
have purchased the Group Protection Plan on behalf of all
Best of Baja 2018
the Natural History of the Peninsula's Unique Central Desert and Pacific Coast,
the Gray Whales on
the very protected waters of Scammon's Lagoon!
Daily Discoveries and Very Comfortable Nightly Hotel Accommodations. Plus the freshest
seafood you've enjoyed in a very long time!
savings and convenience, we
have purchased Travel Insured International's Group Protection Plan on
behalf of each of our guests. This
includes travel and trip
cancellation insurance and more.
Further, our personalized group is
limited to just 16 guests, and seating is only two people per
three-person seat. Now everyone has a window seat! You're invited to join
us! Please call Mary and Piet to discuss your interests
and determine if this program is just right for you?
produced, operated and hosted by
Piet & Mary Van de Mark.
person, double occupancy.
rooms are available at
$300 deposit assures your reservation now!
Baja Brochure is your for the asking!
us at 520-887-2340
Please call us with
your questions and let's talk about the details of our learning
have purchased Comprehensive
Travel & Trip Cancellation Group Protection Plan from Travel Insured
International on behalf of each of our guests!
from San Diego, California; two guests per wide three-person seat; 16 guests; everyone enjoys a window seat!
is limited to the 1st 16 decisive guests.
early and savor the anticipation!
a comprehensive and diverse natural history vacation created for guests with a
wide range of ages and interests. Desert delights—Boojum forests, immense
cardon cacti, brilliant spring flowers, plus the lovely Pacific seashore alive
with marine and bird life—are but a part of the fascination you’ll
experience on this leisurely learning vacation.
pioneered Baja eco-tours in the 1960’s) and Mary Van de Mark (with 20 years at
the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's Education Department and Tucson Botanical
Gardens) will personally share their passion for Baja’s natural history with
you throughout this comfortably paced vacation. You'll also enjoy two days with boating on Scammon’s Lagoon, always with many hundreds of California gray
whales; and this has been the case for a very long time! For example, during our visits in 2004, biologists counted over 2,000 gray whales in
Scammon's Lagoon! Such numbers are common now and were back in the 1960's when
BFT first began. In recent years, most or all of BFT's guests actually
exchange touches with one (often many more!) of these magnificent mammals.
This is the
gray whales' migratory destination; we're not looking
for whales, we're looking at them! They have always
been there for our guests in great numbers since Piet began whale watching tours
a half-century ago. You'll have time for leisurely
exploring, photography and always-optional walks about Baja's springtime desert
and shore. Picture pristine places by the sea and great desert forests of the
peninsula’s wondrous plants!
personally hosted learning vacation features comfortable travel with your own
window seat in brand new air-conditioned passenger vehicles (just 3 to 7
guests in each spacious crewcab, van or SUV) round-trip from San Diego, nightly hotels, several
knowledgeable nature interpretation and the most outdoor enjoyment and learning
you'll find anywhere! The rear seats are generally removed from our vans for comfort and
luggage, and radios connect the us for sharing information en route. This
program is limited
to the first 16 congenial guests. Reserve now.
Call or e-mail Piet &
Mary in Tucson at (520) 887-2340. You may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Mary Van de Mark's
more than three decades of Southwestern natural history education
experience include her fourteen years at the Arizona-Sonora Desert
Museum's Education Department plus six years with the Tucson Botanical Gardens. BFT's guests
are always assured of both an enjoyable comfortably paced itinerary and a professional interpretive focus by the Van de Marks,
and outside of Baja by a selection of the very best guest
interpreter/scholars. Mary's informative
nature interpretations continue to be enjoyed by everyone.
Van de Mark’s passion for Baja
California, Mexico's natural beauty bloomed on a personal odyssey in the summer
of 1962. Baja's Frontier Tours began as memorable and adventurous four-wheel-drive camping expeditions in
Baja's dirt road days of 1966. Over the years, paved roads and hotels slowly came to
Baja California, and BFT gradually evolved into the hotel-based Personalized
Natural & Cultural History Learning Vacations that Mary & Piet share today in
the Baja peninsula and
other selected locations in the American Southwest.
From our guests about The
Best of Baja…
|"I just want to say what a
really wonderful trip it was. You made the trip so personal.
It was like going with a group of old friends. Seeing the whales
was an amazing, unforgettable experience, but also so enjoyable were the
walks in the desert and on the beaches, the picnics, and driving to and
from. I loved it all. Just got my pictures back, so I
enjoyed it all over again! You guys know how to do it!
Thanks for sharing your love and knowledge of Baja so generously."
Best regards, Gail,
|"I know we told you how
much we enjoyed our time with you but thank you again for beautiful memories.
We want you to know that if you ever write a book, we will be one of the first
to buy it. Bob and I place this tour at the top of our list as being the
very best." Thanks again. Nancy & Bob, Indiana.
arrangements were great—fun hotels and wonderful food! We were amazed
at the lushness and beauty of that part of Baja, and the wild flowers were
incredible!! And the whales—We were so lucky to encounter two friendlies right
off the bat! We just couldn’t imagine seeing so many whales, and so close. It
Bobbie & John, Arizona.
Baja trip was by far one of my best! Great folks interested in science! I have a
new puppy…her name is BOOJUM! Never stop exploring!" Kathy,
want to thank you for a marvelous Best of Baja trip. We enjoyed it immensely and
were especially appreciative of your efforts to acquaint us with Baja—from its
people and history to its plants and whales. You gave us wonderful memories of
delicious picnics, beautiful canyons and beaches, and good fellowship."
Ivan and Venice, Arizona
have relived my
whale-petting event many times--each time I tell it. Thanks for the
wonderful adventure." Carol,
the California gray whales in
Baja was first widely reported to the outside world by that prolific
writer of mysteries and passionate Baja aficionado, Erle Stanley Gardner, in his 1960 book Hunting The
Desert Whale, an account of his early adventures at Scammon's Lagoon. Named
after a 19th-Century American whaler, Scammon's remains the largest and
best protected destination for the gray whales' awesome 8,000-mile migration from the
Bering Sea. This spectacle was witnessed by very few until 1967, when Baja's
Frontier Tours began land-based tours to Scammon's Lagoon.
turning point in BFT whale history came a decade later with a simple act
of trust by one curious whale: she swam over to Piet's Zodiac filled
with people and watched — and she touched our outstretched hands! Other
whales must have been watching her, for each succeeding year has blossomed
with more friendly whale encounters. The story of Baja's Frontier
Tours' early encounters with Grace, the friendly whale appeared in National Geographic World
in 1978 and in Newsweek in 1979, and resulted in BFT's memorable
participation in the production of PBS's TV special The
we cannot assure that a touching encounter with a friendly whale will
be yours—acts of
nature are not guaranteed, are they?—now, virtually all of our guests
do share this most
memorable experience. And the whales have always been there when we are! On our tours, two boating journeys are planned on
the waters of Scammon's Lagoon with lots of gray whales — often over 2000 animals! They can be seen relaxing,
playing, mating and caring for their young.
Photography can be breathtaking! Our guests find many memorable experiences with
us in Baja both on and off Scammon's Lagoon!
most of our guests, while their expectation is that whale watching may be the journey's high point,
they do find that getting there
with Mary & Piet on The Best of Baja is even more than
half the fun! For many, the journey is the destination! Comfortable accommodations, the freshest seafood you can imagine,
and traveling companions who truly get along and make fast friends, characterize
the BFT experience. We hope you'll join the fun and learning on our next
adventure during the heart of the whale season. Please feel free to
call to chat with Piet and Mary about your questions and your
for your group?
Whale Watching can be a wonderful and economical custom program for your club, group,
institution or your extended family and friends.
Please plan as far in advance
as possible. Call, write or email us to discuss options.
Boating Excursions with Baja's California Gray Whales on Scammon's Lagoon!
Full-Size Motor Coach and Round-trip Sightseeing from San Diego, Tucson,
or your home town; SUV and van travel is available for smaller groups.
us for cost & details for your group
Whale Watching Trips
the magnificent California
gray whales including two or more days that feature up-close observation outings
by boat on famous Scammon’s Lagoon during this comfortable motor coach or van excursion. Experience the whales’ largest and best-protected migratory destination lagoon, where
adults often number two-thousand or more and many hundreds of calves are
born each season! Most of our delighted guests actually
share a touch with a friendly whale and often their baby—truly one of life’s most
can be a fully escorted learning vacation and it can represent a terrific travel value in
education, comfort & fun! This all depends on the
details you choose. Comfortable hotels and
wonderful food are enjoyed by all.
This can be quicker and simpler than our Best of
Baja, yet an easy-going educational program that involves no
required hiking and little walking. Just relax in your comfortable full-size,
air- conditioned U.S. Motor coach (vans or SUVs for small groups) and enjoy the unique beauty of Northern and Central Baja’s Pacific
and villages passing by outside your window.
custom trip can be simple or complex, and may begin with your hotel
on the evening of the first day in San Diego (or your chosen location), and normally ends there
on the last day, allowing travel time from home on both of these days. This escorted
eco-tour includes direct travel by luxury charter motor coach (bathroom
aboard!) or vans or SUVs; it can include five (or more) nightly hotels, two (or more)
whale-watching boating adventures on Scammon’s Lagoon and your choice of
meal plans. Please make your plan and reservations well in advance. Call
or e-mail for more information. We're here to help you.
Contact Piet & Mary Van de Mark by phone:
520-887-2340 (Tucson, Arizona)
Frontier Tours LLC Tucson, Arizona 2005 & 2009 & 2014