Summer 2022 Baja California, Mexico

        We had amazing adventures in Baja in July 2022.  Participants from New York, Texas, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington, Maine, Louisiana, California and Mexico joined our ocean conservation, marine science and SCUBA fun during our two weeks (student and adult weeks). 480 service hours were accomplished, 22 SeaSmart Ocean Advocate certifications were earned, and 8 new PADI certified open water divers joined the diving community.   We introduced our first adult week as well! 

 

Enjoy some of our amazing adventures from the programs:

 

 

During July 2022, we will venture to Baja California, Mexico (the lower California peninsula, in northwestern Mexico, bounded to the north by the United States, to the east by the Gulf of California, and to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean) for the incredible marine life and research that is happening there.  Famously called “the world’s aquarium” by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, the Sea of Cortez is one of the most biologically diverse bodies of water on Earth. Baja California is a diver’s paradise and island hopping on pangas is a marine adventure. More than 85% of the Pacific Ocean’s marine mammals can be found in the Sea of Cortez, and 35% of the world’s marine mammals call it home.  The ocean habitat supports super-pods of more than 1,000 dolphins, schools of jumping mobula rays, and colonies of sea lions along the coastline. It is home to nearly 900 species of fish, including 77 found nowhere else on the planet. At least 26 species of seabirds breed on the islands. The Sea of Cortez, where the desert meets the sea, also serves as a major feeding and breeding zone for so many ocean inhabitants.  

 

This program promises to offer exciting and exceptional experiences. We choose locations where developing today’s students/citizen scientists with marine conservation skills will be best nurtured and where participants can have a high impact on the endangered marine ecosystem.  Baja, and specifically the Sea of Cortez, is an optimal destination as it is a hub of marine conservation research and activities. The program also incorporates becoming PADI Open Water Scuba certified, can include advanced certifications, the PADI AWARE Shark Conservation specialty certification, or just be enjoyed by those already certified to dive.  

 

Partnering with an incredible team of local conservationists, scientists and dive professionals, our participants will gain exposure to experiences unique to Baja.  Mornings include diving and/or dive training, followed by afternoons and evenings filled with expert-led activities, citizen science research & adventures and workshops by scientists from the Mobula Conservation Project/Manta Trust as well as Pelagios Kakunja Marine Conservation.   Sharks, and their elasmobranch cousins the rays, are important members of the local ecosystem, and they are threatened by a variety of factors, which will be investigated in detail. We will join local scientists as they perform important surveys, data collection and sampling/tagging activities. Diving with Sea Lions is always a thrilling experience.  Ocean Safaris include searching for dolphins, rays and any other surprise guests we may find - and jump in to join them in the ocean. Sites are known for many sea turtle sightings-including green sea, olive ridley and hawksbill turtles. After a night dive, we will enjoy unparalleled stargazing and a campfire. Beach cleanups are always conducted, so we can leave our destination just a little better than when we arrived.  

 

Due to the custom nature of our program, we will be limited to 12 participants per week.  For a large group traveling together, alternative arrangements can be made to the program.

 

Week of July 9-16: Student Week (Parents are welcome based on availability)

Week of July 16-23: Mermaids/Adults Week

Week of July 24-30: Waitlist Student Week

 

If your student can only attend the week of July 24th, email lisa.mcintyre@seasmartocean.org to notify SeaSmart of your interest. If enough wish to participate, we will open the week.

 

To be updated as more information becomes available, please register via the below form. You can also email lisa.mcintyre@seasmartocean.org for additional details.  ​

Trip & Program Details and FAQ’s

 

How many participants can attend per week? 

Due to the custom nature of this particular program and the unique activities which have built-in limits regarding participants, we will limit each week to 12 students/participants. However, for a large group traveling together, alternative arrangements can be made to the program.

 

What are the prerequisites for the program? 

You do not need to be scuba certified to attend this program, as scuba training and potential certification is included. Participants for this program must be at least 15 years old when the program begins to be eligible for PADI Open Water certification. Students aged 10-14 years old, will be junior certification candidates.

 

What will our days be like?

 

Each day will bring a completely different breathtaking underwater experience!  The first several days will revolve around the PADI Open Water (or advanced) scuba certification course, working in a confined pool-like setting on skills necessary for scuba certification. Then you will move to open water; where you will do your final testing for certification. After certifications are completed, our dives may include a dive with sea lions, a night dive, and visits to beautiful reefs.  In addition, as part of our shark conservation work, we will spend some time in the water with silky sharks. The region has no shortage of amazing marine life. Those already certified will enjoy recreational dives while students are undergoing training. 

 

Later in the day, our adventures will have us performing research and citizen science activities, adventuring on an ocean safari, and attending workshops to prepare us for the next morning’s dive and hands-on learning.  A beach cleanup will round out our trip.  We will eat all of our meals at the lodge, where we will stay, unless we are out for an extended activity-then boxed lunches and snacks will be provided.  

 

The week for adults will follow the same schedule of ocean conservation, marine biology and dive training/diving activities.  We will add in some social activities such as tortilla making or mezcal tastings, as time permits.  Any free afternoons/evenings can be used as you wish-unlike students, adults are free to explore “off campus” on their own if desired.

A sample day may look like:

 

7:00am     Breakfast

8:00am     SCUBA  training/diving

12:00pm   Visit to an island to explore with a scientist, hiking, snorkeling

                   Lunch on the island

                   Return to our cabañitas

5:00pm     Dinner

7:00pm     Workshop on Shark/Ray Conservation

 

Who do you partner with?

 

Partnering with an incredible team of local conservationists, scientists and dive professionals, our participants will gain exposure to experiences unique to Baja.  Mornings include diving and/or dive training with Ellen Myers, a PADI pro and active conservation program manager and her professional diving staff. Afternoons and evenings will be filled with expert-led activities, citizen science research & adventures and workshops by scientists from the Mobula Conservation Project/Manta Trust as well as Pelagios Kakunja Marine Conservation. 

 

Where will we stay? Where will we eat and sleep? How will we get there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will be staying in Las Cabanitas in Agua Amarga just outside of La Ventana.  This safe, small and remote village is south of La Paz on the eastern side of the Baja peninsula in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The magical Baja landscape provides a picturesque and serene backdrop for our stay, where we can enjoy the contrast between the desert terrain of this village and the bright blue of the nearby Sea of Cortez. 
 
You will be met inside the Cabo San Lucas airport by SeaSmart representatives, and we will travel together (we will coordinate flights to arrive close to land transport time) in a comfortable van just under 3 hours, enjoying the unique views of the Baja Sur region, to  locally-loved, family-run, traditional Baja “camp-style accommodations,” which we will have to ourselves for the week. Accommodations consist of simple, rustic, air-conditioned “cabañitas” with bathrooms which surround common spaces for our meals and workshops.  No one comes for luxurious accommodation, as you won’t spend a ton of time in your cabanita. You’ll be too busy diving, learning, eating, or hanging out in the outdoor spaces.  The pool will give us a chance to cool off between activities, when we are not on the boats or the nearby beach. The cabanitas have a variety of room configurations and participants will be rooming grouped together by gender or family/group. (Limited singles may be available for an additional charge).  Fresh meals prepared by the local chefs will be shared as a group at the resort (or in the case of longer excursion days, a boxed lunch will be provided). Most allergies/dietary restrictions can be accommodated.  

 

How does the scuba certification work?

 

 

 

The PADI Open Water Diver Course will potentially lead participants to a certification that allows them to dive with a buddy all around the world! Over the course of our days, your instructor will teach the basics of SCUBA – encompassing the theory behind safe diving practices, skill mastery and finally becoming a PADI Open Water Diver.

 

Once students have formed the base of dive skills, we will hop onto one of the dive boats (pangas) and build on what has been learned by exploring and navigating some of Baja’s many beautiful dive sites. Because there is a limit to the class sizes well below PADI limitations, you will have the most possible one-on-one time with your dive instructor. This will allow you to really understand why they love scuba diving so much and what you can do to become the best scuba diver you can be!

What if I am already certified to SCUBA dive?

If you are already a certified diver, you can enjoy beautiful recreational dives (along with a SeaSmart chaperone, as well as a local dive guide) while those getting trained work toward their certification. Those in training will join together with those already certified during the week. Alternatively, you can work on an advanced or specialty certification during training time.  Pricing is adjusted.

 

What needs to be completed for an Ocean Advocate Certificate?

There will be opportunities throughout the program to attend workshops, participate in research activities, and perform underwater observation and work.  These activities and contributions are integral to maximizing your experience and value from the program and are required for the certificate.  Service hour opportunities will also be earned pending your participation.

 

Are there any other certifications I can obtain on the trip?

With one large focus of this trip being shark conservation, we will be conducting the PADI shark conservation specialty course for all participants.  If you would like to gain the formal PADI certification and card, an additional fee of $35 will be collected.

 

How many counselors will be with the student group?

One counselor remains with every 6 students. This gives you peace of mind knowing that we know where your child is at all times. 

 

Do the students have to participate in diving?

No. While students can participate in the land-based activities only, we strongly encourage experiencing scuba training.

Can the participants get certified to scuba dive during the week?

Yes, we have incorporated it into the week long program.  In most cases, students will finish with their PADI Open Water certification.

 

How well supervised are the students?

The students are supervised at all times.

 

Can parents attend?

Yes. Parents are welcome, based on availability, but space is limited. 

 

How much spending money do students need to bring?

Only money for airport snacks, souvenirs, t-shirts, soft drinks, and gratuities.

 

Is it safe to travel to Mexico?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The area that we travel to is very safe. Baja is a peninsula, separated by the Sea of Cortez from the mainland of Mexico. We will not travel through mainland Mexico at any time during our journey.

 

What kind of communications will there be?

The lodge has WiFi, though in remote areas there are often disruptions in service.  SeaSmart will post pictures of our adventures on social media, whenever possible, during our trip.  You will have the leaders’ direct cell phone numbers. We do not take phones from students during the week, however we encourage the students to “unplug” when they are topside, to fully experience the nature and beauty around them.  

 

Is there a medical facility available to the students?

There is a doctor in La Ventana, and visits typically cost $50-$80.  The chaperones always accompany students in the case of a visit.  While we fully expect not to need it, a hyperbaric chamber is located in La Paz and an emergency action plan is in place during all dives.

 

Do we need special insurance?

Yes. SeaSmart requires that all divers have DAN (Divers Alert Network) insurance for their trip. You can sign up online at https://www.diversalertnetwork.org.  It is not expensive and covers extensively for dive-specific trips.  Your primary medical insurance may exclude scuba diving and/or may not provide coverage when you are traveling out of the country. You may or may not also opt for trip interruption travel insurance, if you do not already have that coverage. You may also wish to confirm your health insurance will cover you out of the country and/or for COVID treatment. If not, there are are short term travel policies available for that. 

 

How much does it cost?  

The $2850 all inclusive fee for one week includes:

  • Lodging

  • 3 Meals Daily

  • PADI SCUBA Open Water training, and potentially, certification

  • Fun Dives

  • Gear Rental

  • Transportation from the Cabo San Lucas airport to the Lodge and return

  • Topside activities, workshops and classes

 

The fee is $2500 if you are already certified. Inclusive of dives during the open water candidates’ training days. 

 

We offer a $50 per participant discount for siblings, family members or members of a scout troop or other group when registering together. There is a $100 discount per participant for payment in full on or before March 15th.

 

Additional certifications will have associated fees. 

 

What do I have to do before going?

In preparation for SCUBA training, you must complete the PADI online eLearning session for the Open Water certification course, and submit a printout of your completion.

 

How do I get there?

You are responsible for your own airfare costs.  We will have SeaSmart chaperones available to meet students in the Cabo San Lucas airport, and will coordinate our arrivals to travel together from the airport to the lodge.  Ground transportation to the lodge, once in CSL, is included.  We will coordinate arrival times to ensure travel together to La Vaenatan from the airport.

How does COVID impact the program?

Recognizing things can change between now & July, currently Mexico does NOT require a COVID-19 test or vaccine for entry. All airlines are requiring that passengers wear masks on the plane and it is a law in the state of Baja California Sur that you must be wearing a mask in public spaces. There are also restrictions on how many people can be in one place, social distancing, etc. (see below). There is no mandatory quarantine on arrival. The government, Visit Los Cabos, and all of the hotels, restaurants, and tour operators have worked very hard to complete certifications and protocols so that you can enjoy Los Cabos safely. The Los Cabos International Airport was the second airport in the entire world to receive the Airport Health Accreditation Award. For more information on COVID related travel info and updates for Mexico please visit the Mexican Department of Health website. 

 

Currently all airline passengers above the age of two returning to the US will be required to show proof of a negative viral test (PCR or Antigen test) within 24 hours before the flight. Valid documentation of the laboratory test or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19, either paper or electronic copy, must be presented at the airport prior to boarding the flight back to the United States. If these are needed, we will arrange for testing at our accommodations prior to departing.  There will be an additional charge for these tests.Should this be an issue of concern closer to the program dates, we will recommend getting Dive Assure travel insurance or another travel assurance such as Allianz that helps to cover any trip cancellations or extra incurred costs related to COVID and your trip. No students will be left alone if they are not able to travel. Should this occur, a SeaSmart Director will remain with the student as long as is required.  

 

All dive gear is cleaned with disinfectants recommended by the EPA, DAN, and the gear manufacturers. Our BCD’s and wetsuits are washed separately with sanitizing detergent.   All pieces of equipment are then sprayed/wiped again before being assigned to divers for their use during the week. 

 

Accommodations are clean, and sanitary. All surfaces, articles and working areas are cleaned with sanitizing products on a daily basis and after each guest departs. Following local protocols, participants may have their temperature checked from time to time, and will be asked to use a face mask to cover their mouth and nose, along with staff. 

 

What’s Next?

Complete the online registration form below or email lisa.mcintyre@seasmartocean.org for a registration form which must accompany your deposit. A $250 deposit is due to secure your spot. A second $500 deposit is due by March 15th.  Final payment is required by May 1st, after which deposits/payments can no longer be refunded unless we can fill your spot. A $100 discount is offered for complete payments made in full on or before March 15th. If you wish to schedule a telephone or zoom call with SeaSmart to discuss further, please do not hesitate to reach out-we would be happy to answer any questions.

 

Additional instructions, forms and waivers for completion, and a recommended packing list will be provided upon full payment. 

 

 

“Conservation travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is experiences that impact your ideas of living.” 

Earn your Ocean Advocate Certificate and PADI SCUBA Certification with SeaSmart this summer!
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