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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com 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.
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 La Ventana, a safe, small fishing village on the shore of La Ventana Bay south of La Paz on the eastern side of the Baja California peninsula in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. The village was founded in the early 1940s by the La Paz pearl diver Salome Leon. The pristine beach and rock formations of La Ventana provide a picturesque and serene backdrop for our stay, where we can enjoy the contrast between the desert terrain of this tranquil fishing village and the bright blue of the Sea of Cortez.
On the horizon, we can spot the rocky terrain of Isla Cerralvo. It is also known as Jacques Cousteau Island in homage to the French oceanographer who led expeditions here and considered this region the world’s aquarium. The name of the town is Spanish for “The Window,” possibly named for the open space between the offshore islands. The town overlooks its namesake bay in the Gulf of California.
You will be met inside the Cabo San Luca airport by SeaSmart representatives, and we will travel together (we will coordinate flights to arrive close to land departure time) in a comfortable van just under 3 hours to a locally loved, traditional resort. Accommodations consist of air conditioned rooms with a variety of room configurations and students will be rooming together by gender, with many communal spaces. Meals will be shared at the resort (or in the case of longer excursions, 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:
3 Meals Daily
PADI SCUBA Open Water training, and potentially, certification
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?
Do the students need vaccinations to go to Baja?
Detailed information will be provided closer, as so much can change between now and July.
Current COVID safety protocols are followed at the resort, on the boats and during meal times and activities. Currently (January 2021) COVID tests are not required to enter, and tests to return to the US are required one day prior to travel. We can arrange to have your tests completed prior to departure, if that is still required when we travel.
Complete the online registration form below or email firstname.lastname@example.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.”