Day 2 – Hiking Ensenada Grande

Our first day of adventures in Mexico’s Sea of Cortes

Un-Cruise Adventures' Safari Voyager at anchor off Ensenada Grande in Mexico's Sea of Cortes as sunset falls. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Voyager at anchor off Ensenada Grande in Mexico’s Sea of Cortes as sunset falls. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

March 1, 2014

This morning, I was up just before 7a.m. aboard Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Voyager, just in time to catch the tail end of a spectacular sunrise through my stateroom window. Although waters here can be quite rough, our journey up the coast last night was remarkably calm, with smooth seas and only the slightest roll.

Sailing the Sea of Cortes on a stunning morning. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Sailing the Sea of Cortes on a stunning morning. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Breakfast is served around 7:30 a.m. each morning, and I was just emerging from my stateroom when a soft announcement over the ship’s public address system greeted guests with a hearty good morning and the invitation to come down to the Restaurant on Deck 1 for the first meal of the day.

I really like the Restaurant aboard the Safari Voyager. It’s warm, cozy and welcoming, and I grabbed a chair at an empty table where I was soon joined by other guests. The atmosphere onboard is already very convivial, with guests introducing themselves to others if they haven’t met already.

Guests gather on the bow of the Safari Voyager, on the hunt for whales. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests gather on the bow of the Safari Voyager, on the hunt for whales. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Breakfast was a chorizo bacon hash served with scrambled eggs, which I was able to order sans egg. You could also choose from a variety of fruit juices, water, coffee or tea, and mixed fruit and scones were available on the buffet table in the center of the room.

Perhaps most importantly, the coffee served onboard is really, really good.

I first became interested in Un-Cruise Adventures after reading the fantastic trip reports compiled by two other maritime authors that I am privileged to know, and whose opinions I respect very much. Peter Knego of Maritime Matters has sailed with Un-Cruise several times now, and his influential trip reports, along with Popular Cruising founder Jason Leppert’s own experiences in Alaska aboard the Safari Endeavour were highly influential in my decision to do the Sea of Cortes aboard the Safari Voyager.

Today, we were outfitted with all the necessary gear for our week of adventures ashore: wetsuit, snorkel mask, flippers and a 'wet bag.' Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Today, we were outfitted with all the necessary gear for our week of adventures ashore: wetsuit, snorkel mask, flippers and a ‘wet bag.’ Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

One thing that concerned me and frankly held me back from Un-Cruise for over a year was this: no internet. No cellphone service. You’re pretty well cut off for the week. Now, I’m not a power-user of Social Media by any means, but I do get a lot of important emails relating to my job, and the thought of being cut off for a week (“What if I miss something!”) honestly made me a little anxious.

The first Zodiac goes to shore for our adventures on Ensenada Grande. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The first Zodiac goes to shore for our adventures on Ensenada Grande. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Since so much of this trip is about fully immersing yourself into everything the Sea of Cortes has to offer, the lack of cell service or Wi-Fi access could actually be a blessing in disguise. You don’t need to be whale-watching and posting photos to Facebook, or fielding calls from whomever while you’re out on a skiff. Instead, you get the chance to completely unplug – a rarity in today’s modern world – and just enjoy the experience and the moment for what they are.

Safari Voyager has a stern-mounted platform for guests to embark the ship's zodiac rafts. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Safari Voyager has a stern-mounted platform for guests to embark the ship’s zodiac rafts. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Safari Voyager at anchor. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Safari Voyager at anchor. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My fellow guests are typically American, but there are some couples onboard from the UK and little old me representing Canada. Ages range from about 30 on up to perhaps mid-70’s. But despite the differences in our ages and geographical locations, one thing is common among Un-Cruise guests: they like to travel. At breakfast this morning, my table of eight talked with ease about trips to Nairobi, France, Germany, Denmark, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, the Galapagos, and Alaska.

Speeding to shore for our first adventure: a "Rock Scramble." Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Speeding to shore for our first adventure: a “Rock Scramble.” Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The crystal-clear waters off Ensenada Grande. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The crystal-clear waters off Ensenada Grande. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Some landings - like this - are considered 'wet' landings. You have to shuffle your feet as you wade ashore to disperse any stingrays that might be in the sand. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Some landings – like this – are considered ‘wet’ landings. You have to shuffle your feet as you wade ashore to disperse any stingrays that might be in the sand. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

In fact, Alaska comes up quite a bit, with many guests here onboard having cut their teeth on the line’s Luxury and Active Adventure expeditions in the picturesque state. Nearly everyone brings up their experiences in Glacier Bay. The other guests who haven’t Un-Cruised before are typically here because a friend did Alaska with the line and, as one guest put it, “won’t shut up about how good it was.”

After breakfast, we were briefed in the Lounge on what we can expect out of our afternoon of adventures. On the menu this afternoon is a full-blown hike called a “Rock Scramble” – a hike that involves clambering over boulders and obstructions. Guests can also snorkel or just spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach, perhaps with a complimentary cerveza.

Once ashore, we set out on our explorations through a long-dried-out desert 'arroyo.' Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Once ashore, we set out on our explorations through a long-dried-out desert ‘arroyo.’ Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We were also issued our wet-suits for the week, along with flipper fins, a snorkeling mask, and a small lifejacket for use on the ship’s Zodiacs.

I chose to participate in the Rock Scramble this afternoon, and it certainly lived up to its name. We hiked for a full 90 minutes up an arroyo – or dry riverbed – at Ensenada Grande, passing cacti, lizards, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and the largest black jackrabbit I’ve ever seen in my life.

The hare – which was as big as a Doberman – jumped out of the bushes in front of me and scampered off to my right, causing a commotion down the line of dozen or so of us who participated in this adventurous Rock Scramble.

The desert landscape terrain changed with every foot we hiked. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The desert landscape terrain changed with every foot we hiked. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The desert landscape of Ensenada Grande is filled with diverse textures and colours. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
The desert landscape of Ensenada Grande is filled with diverse textures and colours. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guided by Expedition Team members Hannah and J.P., we went further and further up into the arroyo, or dried-up riverbed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guided by Expedition Team members Hannah and J.P., we went further and further up into the arroyo, or dried-up riverbed. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Rock Scramble was exactly that – a mad scampering up the rocks and boulders that lined our unmarked trail to the peak of the peninsula.  For 90 minutes we climbed up and up, careful not to rest our hands on cacti-infested rocks or to overturn rocks that scorpions might be seeking refuge under. The heat was manageable, but this was no first-timers hike – and I loved it.

Once at the top, we paused for a celebratory drink of water from our Un-Cruise reusable metal water canisters. The distance we covered was considerable, with the Safari Voyager appearing as little more than a speck in the distance below us.

With daylight beginning to wane, we steadily made our way back down the mountain. I couldn’t help but think of the Humphrey Bogart film, Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Had Natives appeared on the upper ridges of the valley we were traversing, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

On the way down, I saw lizards sunning themselves on rock, or seeking shade and solitude within their numerous cracks. I saw Prickly Pear cactuses, agave plants, and menacing turkey vultures circling overhead. Waiting for their prey.

Expedition Team member J.P. pauses at one of our two rest stops along the way up. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Expedition Team member J.P. pauses at one of our two rest stops along the way up. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Navigating boulders and rocks of all shapes and sizes gave us a real feel for the diversity of the landscape here. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Navigating boulders and rocks of all shapes and sizes gave us a real feel for the diversity of the landscape here. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Scrambling! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Scrambling! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

When we made it back to the beach at Ensenada Grande we’d arrived at three hours prior, we were treated to cold beer (cerveza) or soft drinks before re-boarding our Zodiac back to the Safari Voyager.

On the return journey, exploration was again first and foremost, allowing us to get up close and personal with a pelican perched on the rocks bathed in the increasingly-amber sunset. Our Zodiac driver maneuvered the skiff closer to the shoreline in order for us to get better photographs, and even spun the entire raft around so everyone could get a decent view.

Back on the beach, time was made for a cold drink and some time to enjoy the setting sun. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Back on the beach, time was made for a cold drink and some time to enjoy the setting sun. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Heading back onboard our zodiac to the waiting Safari Voyager at sunset. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Heading back onboard our zodiac to the waiting Safari Voyager at sunset. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
On the way back to the ship, we took the opportunity to explore Ensenada Grande's picturesque shoreline. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
On the way back to the ship, we took the opportunity to explore Ensenada Grande’s picturesque shoreline. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Wetsuits are visible on the outside aft section of Deck 2. They're kept outside so as to not take up space in staterooms - and so they can dry! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Wetsuits are visible on the outside aft section of Deck 2. They’re kept outside so as to not take up space in staterooms – and so they can dry! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The sun was setting by the time we stepped back aboard the Safari Voyager, just in time for us to hear Expedition Leader Sarah talk about what’s in store for us tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon. It promises to be a rather big day, with two different types of hikes offered n the morning alongside snorkeling adventures; and a choice of kayaking, snorkeling, or walking in the afternoon.

Guests aboard the Safari Voyager listen as tomorrow's activities are relayed to us. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Guests aboard the Safari Voyager listen as tomorrow’s activities are relayed to us. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Dinner came and went with the usual camaraderie. Guests like me who were on the hike were naturally curious about the snorkeling, and they in turn were curious about my overland journeys.

Tonight, I intended to retire early. My plans were dashed, however, because this is such a social vessel. Instead, I sat at the Bar in the Lounge on Deck 3 and had an enjoyable time socializing with other guests.

Infectious might be a good way to describe the experience thus far: an Un-Cruise brochure is provided in every stateroom, and I’ve already got my eye on Alaska. And Hawaii. And the Oregon coast. The brochure’s like a treasure trove of opportunities, just waiting to be discovered.

Much like this first full-day of our Sea of Cortes adventure.

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Un-Cruise, Safari Voyager: Mexico’s Sea of Cortes

PORTACTIVITIES
Day 1 - Embarking Safari Voyager in Los CabosEmbark Safari Voyager; welcome cocktail and dinner.
Day 2 - Hiking Ensenada GrandeBegin the week's adventure in this home to humpback whales, mobula and Manta rays, tuna, dolphins, and hammerhead sharks.
Day 3 - Isla San FranciscoSnorkeling and kayaking in Half Moon Bay; interpretive hike; possible post-dinner night swim.
Day 4 - Bahia MagdalenaGuided hike at Isla Santa Catalina to see the world's tallest cactus; explore the Bahia Agua Verde coast by skiff
Day 5 - Bahia Agua VerdeWildlife and marine mammal watching & scenic cruising; sunset bonfire (weather permitting.)
Day 6 - Los IslotesDon a wetsuit for a pre-breakfast snorkel; enjoy an afternoon of aquatic fun at Ensenada Grande; farewell dinner
Day 7 - Gordo BanksDisembark Safari Voyager; onward journey home
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2 Comments

  • Greetings from fellow passenger (Ken and Wendy from Florida). It’s late here, and I just had two damned fine recitals from two of my students, but I’ve bookmarked your stuff (great Pix! ) and look forward to following you…be well and happy!

    Reply
    • Hey Ken! Glad you and Wendy made it back to Florida safely. It was a real pleasure to meet you both on the Safari Voyager last week! I hope I get to sail with you again at some point!!

      Reply

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