Traveling in Style : Side Trips : The Gray Lagoon

Experiencing the sacred isn't always about ruins or cathedrals or mountains. For an increasing number of people, it's about coming face to face--or hand to back--with a gray whale. The experience, say those who've had it, is very moving, even spiritual. Baja Expeditions' five-day whale-watching tour to San Ignacio Lagoon includes a bus trip from San Diego to Tijuana, a 90-minute flight and a bus ride to a lagoon campsite. From there, guests row skiffs into the lagoon to observe--and, with luck, pet--some of the hundreds of calves and mothers preparing for their long, late-March swim northward to the Arctic. Although meals (and cocktails) are catered, and the campsite is comfortable, this is not for the unadventurous.

Even more ambitious are the weeklong cruises to the Sea of Cortez, winter home of the blue whale, at 100 feet the earth's largest living creature. Offered through the end of April, this cruise includes stops at fishing villages and a sea lion rookery. Guests can snorkel, fish, hike on the islands and/or watch the area's myriad bird life. The Baja trip costs $1,395 per person, the Cortez cruise $1,795 per person. Cruises fill quickly. For more information, call Baja Expeditions at (619) 581-3311.

Both the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and the American Cetacean Society also offer an annual six-hour cruise. For information on next year's trips, call the aquarium, (310) 548-7563, or the society, (310) 548-6279.

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