Join us for two weeks of ocean exploration in what Jacques Cousteau called the ‘Galapagos of North America’ on this high school summer program on the Baja Peninsula. Experience everything that the warm, calm waters have to offer while living in seaside cottages, known as ‘casitas’, in the village of La Ventana. One of the most bio-diverse marine environments in the world, the Sea of Cortez is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Become an ocean-minded traveler while snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, surfing, boating, and exploring the “world’s aquarium.”
- July 26, 2013 - August 8, 2013
- Students completing grades 9-12
- Cultural Exploration
- Typical Group:
- 16-18 students, 2 leaders
- 2 week(s)
This summer travel program in Baja and the Sea of Cortez is designed to offer the ocean lover and adventurer the opportunity to experience everything the water has to offer. Our two week long itinerary revolves around everything ocean, and investigates how the local people interact with their ocean environment. Each day is full of activities that put you face-to-face with as many marine species as possible. Most days will be spent on the boat exploring secluded coves and calm water, where we will snorkel or scuba among unique kelp and reef species. During your time on the water keep an eye out for large marine mammals like dolphins, seals, and sea lions. The warm waters also draw the largest assortment of whales on earth, including Grays, Orcas, Humpbacks, and Blues. While on the boat we will also throw a line in the water to see what bites. Large tuna, grouper, roosterfish, marlin, and wahoo all call the Sea of Cortez home. Learn to prepare your catch, and work with the local staff to turn it in to the freshest, most sustainable seafood meal possible.
When not on the boats looking for pods of dolphins or schools of manta rays to swim with, enjoy the secluded beaches and rocky interior of the Baja peninsula. Some days will be spent kayaking, standup paddle boarding, or surfing. Take an evening Spanish lesson from locals, and learn how to interact with your boat captains and guides in their native language. Spend a few days in local villages, get to know the people, and help paint schools and plant native species. Take a road trip across the peninsula to the Pacific Ocean in search of the perfect wave to surf. Spend the night camped out on a remote beach, sit around the fire, look at the stars, and watch for the elusive ‘green flash’ as the sun dips in to the vast Pacific.
The trip culminates with a beach party back at our home base on the Sea of Cortez. Invite local students to play a friendly game of soccer. Practice your Spanish skills by teaching them how to snorkel. Prepare the final meal using fresh ingredients straight from the ocean, and share with your new friends.
While in Baja, our lodging will be at a seaside resort located 35 minutes south of La Paz. Students will stay in shared casitas on the shores of the Sea of Cortez. Meals will be served in the large dining and common area overlooking the calm waters. The resort is run by professional captains, marine biologists, and snorkel & scuba instructors.
- Snorkel or scuba in what Cousteau called the ‘Galápagos of North America’
- Search for whales and dolphins while kayaking, standup paddle boarding, or surfing
- Follow thousands of docile manta rays as they leap out of the water
- Go fishing for large tuna or wahoo, and learn how to cook what you catch in traditional Baja style
- Discover rarely seen nocturnal species during a night snorkel or dive
What to Expect
This is a mostly water based program. While you don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer, some level of comfort in and on the water is required. Instruction on snorkeling, kayaking, surfing, boating, etc. will be provided by professional guides. Scuba diving is possible for a supplemental fee, and students should already be certified by a recognized worldwide company such as PADI or NAUI. For non-certified students, a ‘discover scuba’ course is available for a supplemental fee. You should come to the program with an open mind, excited about new experiences, and willing to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone to make the most of your time in the Sea of Cortez.
For students already open water scuba certified, an additional cost of $200 will allow them to participate in up to 12 supervised boat dives with a certified Dive Master. Students must submit proof of certification and current DAN insurance prior to the program.
Not sure if scuba is for you? For $100 you can participate in a PADI certified ‘Discover scuba’ course. Under direct supervision from a PADI Dive Instructor you will learn how to use scuba equipment and feel the sensation of breathing under water. If you wish to continue your certification, this skill can then be used towards future scuba instruction after your program is over.
We will not be offering full scuba certification courses on this program.
Community Service and Language Learning:
While this is considered a cultural exploration program, we will offer some Spanish lessons and community service time. Spanish lessons will be provided by local people for all skill levels, so prior knowledge of the language is not required. A few days will be spent in the local villages painting and planting. We can offer 20 hours of community service for participating students.
At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer programs abroad are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.
Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.
Departure: Join your group for two weeks of ocean exploration in the Sea of Cortez. Gather at LAX airport to meet your program leaders and depart as a group to La Paz, Baja Sur.
La Paz: Our trip starts in the seaside capital of Baja Sur. Get oriented to life in Baja before heading to your new home in the village of La Ventana.
La Ventana: This seaside fishing village is located just 35 minutes south of La Paz. Settle in to your shared room at our resort homebase, focused on sustainable tourism through snorkeling, diving, spear fishing, surfing, service, and education. All of our excursions will be based from here. Spend your days on the water in small boats, known as pangas, with local captains. Search for dolphins and whales, borrow snorkel gear, and swim with large reef species. Throw a line in the water and try to catch fresh fish. Walk in to the local village to take Spanish lessons and participate in community service. Ride through the interior of Baja Sur to the Pacific side of the peninsula. Go on ‘dawn patrol’ to find the perfect wave for all skill levels, and receive professional surf instruction. After a day of catching waves, cook dinner around the fire and watch the sun dip in to the Pacific Ocean. Back at our base, enjoy your final nights with your new local friends, testing out your Spanish, cooking fresh meals straight from the water, and reflect on all the amazing interactions you had with the ocean.
Return: Fly with your group and a leader from La Paz to LAX and continue on to your final destination.
This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.
Background: La Paz is the capital city of Baja California Sur, and is an important regional commercial center. It boasts the highest standard of living in the area, and eco-tourism is one of the most important sources of income. It is home to the three leading marine biology institutes in Latin America, mainly due to its location on the most bio-diverse body of water in the world. Just south of La Paz are the Isla Espiritu Santo islands, which fall under UNSECO protection as World Heritage Bio-Reserves and are considered the crown jewels of the Sea of Cortez. The whole area is favored by water enthusiasts for its world class diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing.
Population: La Paz is home to roughly 215,000 people. Our base is located in a much smaller village, but is still easily accessed via road from La Paz.
Language: Spanish is the local language, but most people also speak English, especially those in the eco-tourism industry. The owner of our lodging is American and is fluent in Spanish. All instruction and safety briefings will be in English. Spanish will be taught by locals to help immerse students in the culture.
Climate: La Paz is considered an arid climate with sunny, dry days. The average air temperature in July and August is around 95 degrees Fahrenheit with some humidity. Luckily, the calm waters of the Sea of Cortez help regulate temperature, with the water temperature averaging 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.
Cuisine: Food in Baja traditionally consists of tortillas, tamales, tacos, and fresh seafood. Rice and beans are also staples. Most places also offer Americanized meals with healthy salads, burgers, and pizza. We can easily accommodate vegetarians and those will specific food allergies.
Currency: Baja is based on the Peso, but many establishments list prices in the US dollar and will accept US currency. However, it is more polite to use the Peso, and often times cheaper.
Voltage: 110-120 Volts, the same as the US.
Passport: A valid US passport is the only requirement for US citizens entering Baja. A visa is not required.
The Cultural Exploration Sea of Cortez program is directed by Mike Oster. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!
Mike Oster: Elon University, B.S., Biology, Philosophy. Before joining the Putney team, Mike worked as a marine science instructor and boat captain in California, Hawaii, and Washington. During his summers off he led Putney Community Service programs in Dominica, and National Geographic programs in Belize, Monterey Bay, and Australia. Mike oversees leader hiring, and coordinates programs in Australia and the Caribbean. He enjoys playing guitar, road trips, and hiking.
How To Apply
STEP 1: LOG ON.
STEP 2: HOLD A SPACE IN THE PROGRAM.
You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone. We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.
After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.
STEP 3: COMPLETE THE APPLICATION PROCESS.
Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete. In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:
- Applicant Statement - Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
- Two Teacher Reference Forms
These documents are available as part of our Online Application. We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.