The Best of Baja
Home The Best of Baja Friendly Whales Hopi Arts-Culture Chaco Archaeology Mesa Verde Rio Grande Pueblos Day of The Dead Chiricahua Cottages Tucson Public Art Navajo Arts-Culture Acoma to Zuni Death Valley Silver City Designing the West Living on the Edge Grand Staircase Rincon Ranches Barrio Christmas Some BFT History  


The Best of Baja 2015!

Reserving now for just 20 guests.

The Best of Baja 2015 is produced for



Don't wait: Anticipate!

Experience Baja California, Mexico's Personalized Natural History 

including boating with Scammon's Lagoon's friendly gray whales.

Since 1966: Our Greatest Natural History Learning Adventure!

The 2013 March date sold out by October, thank you!

The 2014 February date sold out by December, thank you!

Reserving now for 2016 

Natural History & Friendly Whale Watching in the Enchanted Peninsula: 

February 20-28, 2015    


New features for your comfort & convenience

Wait-listing now!

Call/email for our Baja Brochure

Please scroll down for reservation information, and enjoy some photos along the way...

Space is Limited

Participation is Limited to 20 guests.

Call Piet & Mary for The Baja Brochure & conversation...(520) 887-2340

Please scroll down for more information and photographs.

Your detailed itinerary is in our Baja Brochure.

Good News for our Baja California guests!

Again for 2015, for your savings (often very substantial savings, depending on your age) and convenience we've included Travel and Trip Cancellation Insurance from Travel Insured International for every guest. Further, our friendly group is limited to just 20 guests; enjoy our spacious seating comfort of only two people per wide three-person seat in the comfortable new vans. Now everyone has their own window seat with a view! 
Did you know that Mary & Piet personally produce and operate each one of their learning vacations? And that they are your hosts and guides in Baja California? Piet first ventured into the Baja peninsula in the summer of 1962 and began BFT in Tucson four years later. You're invited to come along on BFT's 2013 adventure and make Piet & Mary's long experience your own personal memory. Please call and discuss your interests with them at 520-887-2340.

Our guests admire a friendly 40' California gray whale and her 16' calf beside our boat.

Are we sure to see whales? Yes!

BFT's guests look at whales...not for whales! 


We're not looking for whales, we're looking at whales! Scammon's Lagoon, located on the Pacific Coast of Baja California, Mexico, roughly 400 miles south of San Diego, California, is the largest and best-protected and regulated of the California Gray Whales' calving and mating grounds.

These leviathans have traveled 4,000 miles from the Bering Sea to mate and to bear their young in the safety of these protected waters. They are at peace here. It is truly amazing to share their waters as they go about their natural business of life undisturbed.

Our Best of Baja tour is easy-going and especially created for natural history-oriented guests seeking a learning vacation. Informal natural and cultural history interpretation abounds, and is rooted in Piet's 51 years in Baja California (48 years since founding BFT) combined with Mary's vast Sonoran Desert botanical and interpretive skills. This unique learning vacation is personally operated by Piet & Mary Van de Mark with enough comfortable new passenger vans to allow just two guests in each wide seat, so everyone enjoys their own window seat! Guests find time off the beaten track to stop and smell (and photograph) the spring flowers and meander some of their favorite special spots in Baja's deserts and sea coast.

Very comfortable hotel accommodations are included throughout. Very fresh seafood, plus Mexican and American specialties are always available from familiar restaurants we and our guests have enjoyed since most of them first opened decades ago.


Believe it or not, these friendly whales are looking at people, too! In the center of the photo (above) you'll see the eye of a 40' adult California gray whale looking looking right at the guest to my left! You know when they're looking at you!

This image was shot from our boat, looking through the water with a polarizing filter to cut the glare. Running at an angle beneath the large eye, the line of the whale's mouth is visible through the distortion caused by the water. Other distortions result from small ripples on the water's surface. White blotches are barnacles, which blend to result in the typical gray appearance of these whales.

These friendly whales are resting on their sides just beneath the water's surface and right by our boat. The images were shot looking almost straight down and very close to the boat. 

The smaller photo (above) shows the eye a young whale, this time looking right into the camera ! This is the eye of the small (16') whale (below) photographed 28 seconds earlier (by camera data) as it approached the boat; its head is above the surface.

Both images have been sharpened and brightened with PhotoShop; because whales typically open their eyes to people-watch in the shade created by side of the boat; one might conclude that they find bright sun unpleasant, as they don't often expose their eyes to it for more than a few seconds. The eye is recessed into the side of the head, and has eyelids, eyeball and pupil like many other animals.


These 9 photos are taken with a motor driven camera over a period of two seconds, as an adult California gray whale comes to the surface while passing close by our boat and rises just far enough above the surface to begin its blow...

The first three little images illustrate the exhalation; water vapor is blown out with great force in well under one second, as the droplets are frozen by the shutter speed of 1/1000 sec....

The next three little photos show the twin blowholes open wide as the whale inhales, again in less than one additional second...

Finally, the blowholes close very quickly as the animal slips with hardly a ripple beneath the surface.

The sound is impressive!

The Best of Baja 2015!

Whale Watching & Natural History

February 20-28, 2015 - Reserving now for about 20 guests

$2,995 per person, double occupancy. 

Private rooms are available at $380 additional.

Join us for this comfortably paced, comprehensive and diverse Natural History learning vacation. Experience those friendly California Gray Whales in one of the most storied places on earth!

Desert delights abound during the scenic journey between San Diego and fabled Scammon's Lagoon: breathtaking forests of boojum and immense cardon cacti, graceful elephant trees, and, hopefully, brilliant spring flowers.

Enjoy two days boating on Scammon’s Lagoon, sharing the gray whales' largest and best-protected migratory mating and calving destination. In 2012, biologists counted 1523 gray whales, plus a new record number of 1198 newborn calves during our visit! 

Normally about half of our guests pet the friendly whales, yet in 2012 everyone was touch by a whale!

The Desert Museum teams up with Baja's Frontier Tours to give you that up-close and personal Friendly Whale experience you've heard so much about. 

Piet & Mary Van de Mark, with their decades of Baja experience, will provide you with the optimum natural and cultural history learning vacation.

Baja's classic wilderness includes pretty places by the sea and great Sonoran Desert forests of bizarre and wondrous plants, offering ideal opportunities for leisurely exploring, learning, and photography. Birding in a nearby salt marsh and lagoon provides delightful views of all the North American herons and egrets, and many other residents and visitors to this area. 

Truly fresh seafood and comfortable accommodations complete your learning vacation.

Your comfort is important to us! During our scenic journey roundtrip from San Diego, you'll enjoy spacious comfortable new vans, very pleasant hotels, and delightful restaurants featuring fresh seafood and lots more!

Also included: deluxe group travel and trip cancellation insurance, delightful nightly hotels, five picnic lunches and knowledgeable nature interpretation throughout. 

The 2013 tour sold out early, and 2015 is almost sold out now. We've just added a new date, so more 20 decisive people will be able to share this unique  learning vacation, and we are receiving your reservations now, thank you.

Call Piet & Mary Van de Mark at Baja’s Frontier Tours in Tucson, (520) 887-2340 for detailed brochure, information and registration. You may email: 

Please read on, we've prepared lots more photos and information for you.....

The Journey is the Destination!


When the rains come, you'll experience great spring flowers in Baja!  

The tiny white flowers of this rather ordinary-looking shrub (photo at the left) (euphorbia xantii) become a delight for the eye when its tiny flowers are viewed through a hand lens.

2007 Guests & one cardon cactus. 

hole in the rock

Savor the freshest seafood!

Old friends in Guerrero!

Memories and music...


Many of us are touched by whales!

    A whale of a holiday card! Photo by BFT guests Stan & Mary Lou Holmes   

BFT's guests don't look for whales...

They look at whales!

This photo was taken in 1998, and the whales are now friendlier than ever.

About half of our guests are touched by friendly California gray whales!

Photos are shot by BFT guests and by Piet & Mary Van de Mark 

When a friendly California gray whale comes over to your boat to visit - even to hang out for a few minutes - you can actually watch (and hear!) her breath. Baleen whales have two blowholes at the top of their head. 


Here is a close look down at a gray whale's blowholes, open wide to draw in air. The other objects on the whale's skin are barnacles and large whale lice that blend together to give the animal a gray appearance at distance.


Simply The Best of Baja Whale  Watching and 

Sonoran Desert Natural History

This very friendly and curious little California gray whale was born in Scammon's Lagoon in 2009, just a month or two before this picture was taken.

It's Mom has brought it over to our boats and given her OK to come close, perhaps to share her curiosity about the people in the boats who have shown themselves to be friendly. 

Friendly whales sometimes interact with boats in a manner comparable to...

...interaction frequently observed with their own species when they seem to be at play. 

The baby's youth - just a couple of months - is distinguished by the pickle-like dimples on the front of its stubby head.

The eye is visible just to the left of the point where the line of the whale's mouth enters the water; the eye is partially open and just above the waterline after taking a quick glimpse of us in the boat.

Our specialty Since 1966


The Best of Baja!

Ellen, our guest from Tucson, writing about Pacific Coastal birding on her 2005 trip with us -

It was marvelous - and if you got tired of watching the whales, you could watch the seabirds: a Caspian tern, more gulls and pelicans and cormorants, eared grebes, snowy and great egrets. After several hours when our boatman headed us back to the launching dock, we passed by bobbing channel markers and huge metal mooring buoys used by salt barges, covered with lounging sea lions or pelicans, and sometimes both. Several early evenings we went bird-watching along the shore and tidal inlets. Here’s where my bird list took a great leap. There was a lot of marshy grass and little islands with great numbers of birds feeding. 

We saw willits, godwits, and whimbrills with their curiously long beaks, a blue-footed booby, reddish egrets, long-billed curlews, cormorants with their wings spread to dry, pintail ducks, greater and lesser yellowlegs, red-breasted mergansers, semi-palmated and Western and least sandpipers, common goldeneye, brants, lesser scaups and American widgeons. In the long grasses, we saw tricolor herons, yellow-crowned and black-crowned night herons, little blue and great blue herons, each spaced equally apart for nesting. At the lighthouse point closer to the sea, we saw black-bellied plovers, oyster catchers and Western gulls.


We were struck by the number of ospreys on nesting platforms built all around town, including two within view of our motel. Since it was spring, some chicks were ready to fledge but were still being fed by their parents. It became a daily ritual to check on the two nearby nests. There was great excitement when one of the youngsters finally flew, a sense of shared accomplishment among us, even to delaying our departure one morning. The great shaggy chick looked like an improbable flyer, but fly he did from nest to telephone pole while we stood and applauded. There was another osprey platform near the bakery we frequented and there was as much interest in that nest as in the contents of the bakery.


Another unique educational travel experience from Baja's Frontier Tours, co-sponsored with Tucson's world-famous Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Whenever you're in Tucson, be sure to plan a day to enjoy this very special place to enhance your experience in our Sonoran Desert.

Our brochure with more details of this trip is yours for the asking. Call Mary & Piet Van de Mark today.


We're pleased to speak with you to discuss your interests and what we have to offer you.

Please call; we're here to help you determine if this is the trip for you...or not.


520-887-2340 (Tucson, Arizona)

Please call or email to make your reservations well in advance. 

Space is limited.


Travel Insured Banner #3 (646 x 94)


We proudly include Travel & trip cancellation insurance by Travel Insured International


The Best of Baja 2015

Experience the Natural History of the Peninsula's Unique Central Desert and Pacific Coast, plus the Gray Whales on the protected waters of Scammon's Lagoon!

 Exciting Daily Discoveries and Comfortable Nightly Hotel Accommodations. Plus the freshest seafood you've enjoyed in a very long time! 

For your savings and convenience, comprehensive travel and trip cancellation insurance is included in the price for all Best of Baja participants! Further, our personalized group is limited to just 20 guests, and seating is only two people per three-person seat in the three new vans. Now everyone has a window seat!  You're invited to join us! Please call Mary and Piet to discuss your interests and determine if this program is just right for you.

Personally produced, operated and hosted by

Piet & Mary Van de Mark.

February 20-28, 2015 is SOLD OUT.

$2995 per person, double occupancy. 


Please call/email.

Private rooms are available at $380

This Learning Vacation is produced for


Detailed Baja Brochure is your for the asking!

Call us at 520-887-2340 (in Tucson)


Please call us with your questions and let's talk about the details of our learning vacation.


Comprehensive Travel & Trip Cancellation Insurance from Travel Insured International is now Included for our guests!

Comfortable new passenger vans roundtrip from  San Diego, California; two guests per wide three-person seat; 20 guest maximum; everyone enjoys a window seat!

Your $300 deposit assures your reservation now

Space is limited. Filling now.

Please reserve early and savor the anticipation!






The Best of Baja is a comprehensive and diverse natural history vacation created for guests with a wide range of ages and interests. Desert delights—Boojum forests, immense cardon cacti, brilliant spring flowers, plus the lovely Pacific seashore alive with marine and bird life—are but a part of the fascination you’ll experience on this leisurely learning vacation. 

Piet (who pioneered Baja eco-tours in the 1960’s) and Mary Van de Mark (with 20 years at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's Education Department and Tucson Botanical Gardens) will personally share their passion for Baja’s natural history with you throughout this comfortably paced vacation. You'll also enjoy two days with boating on Scammon’s Lagoon, always with many hundreds of California gray whales. During our visits in 2004, biologists counted over 2,000 gray whales in Scammon's Lagoon! Such numbers are common. About half of lucky BFT guests actually exchange touches with one (or more!) of these magnificent mammals! 

This is the gray whales' migratory destination; we're not looking for whales, we're looking at them! They have always been there for our guests in great numbers since Piet began whale watching tours forty years ago. You'll have time for leisurely exploring, photography and always-optional walks about Baja's springtime desert and shore. Picture pristine places by the sea and great desert forests of the peninsula’s wondrous plants. 

This very personally hosted learning vacation features travel in comfortable brand new air-conditioned passenger vans round-trip from San Diego, nightly hotels, several meals, knowledgeable nature interpretation and the most outdoor enjoyment and learning you'll find anywhere! The rear seats are always removed from our vans for comfort and luggage, and radios connect the us for sharing information en route. This program is limited to twenty-some congenial guests. Reserve now. Call or e-mail Piet & Mary in Tucson at (520) 887-2340. From outside Arizona, call 1-800-726-7231. You may email us at

Baja, Malarrimo dinner.gif (117361 bytes)


Dennis Winsten photo

Mary Van de Mark's nearly three decades of natural history education experience, include 14 years at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's Education Department and six years with the Tucson Botanical Gardens. BFT's guests are always assured of both enjoyable itineraries and a professional interpretive focus by the Van de Marks and often by a selection of the very best guest interpreters. Mary's informative nature interpretations continue to be enjoyed by all. Piet Van de Mark’s passion for Baja California, Mexico's natural beauty bloomed on a personal odyssey in the summer of 1962. Baja's Frontier Tours began as adventurous four-wheel-drive camping expeditions in 1966. As paved roads and hotels slowly came to Baja California, BFT gradually evolved into the Personalized Natural & Cultural History Learning Vacations that Mary & Piet share today in the peninsula and other selected locations in Mexico and the American Southwest. 
  From our guests about The Best of Baja
"I just want to say what a really wonderful trip it was.  You made the trip so personal.  It was like going with a group of old friends.  Seeing the whales was an amazing, unforgettable experience, but also so enjoyable were the walks in the desert and on the beaches, the picnics, and driving to and from.  I loved it all.  Just got my pictures back, so I enjoyed it all over again!  You guys know how to do it!  Thanks for sharing your  love and knowledge of Baja so generously." Best regards, Gail, San Francisco.
"I know we told you how much we enjoyed our time with you but thank you again for beautiful memories.  We want you to know that if you ever write a book, we will be one of the first to buy it.  Bob and I place this tour at the top of our list as being the very best."  Thanks again. Nancy & Bob, Indiana.
"The arrangements were great—fun hotels and wonderful food! We were amazed at the lushness and beauty of that part of Baja, and the wild flowers were incredible!! And the whales—We were so lucky to encounter two friendlies right off the bat! We just couldn’t imagine seeing so many whales, and so close. It was fantastic!" Bobbie & John, Arizona.   
"The Baja trip was by far one of my best! Great folks interested in science! I have a new puppy…her name is BOOJUM! Never stop exploring!" Kathy, Wyoming  
"We want to thank you for a marvelous Best of Baja trip. We enjoyed it immensely and were especially appreciative of your efforts to acquaint us with Baja—from its people and history to its plants and whales. You gave us wonderful memories of delicious picnics, beautiful canyons and beaches, and good fellowship." Ivan and Venice, Arizona
"I have relived my whale-petting event many times--each time I tell it. Thanks for the wonderful adventure." Carol, Colorado  

Who’s Watching Whom?

Watching the California gray whales in Baja was first widely reported to the outside world by that prolific mystery writer and Baja aficionado Erle Stanley Gardner in his 1960 book Hunting The Desert Whale, an account of his early adventures at Scammon's Lagoon. Named after a Nineteenth-Century American whaler, Scammon's Lagoon is the largest destination point of the gray whales' awesome 8,000-mile migration from the Bering Sea. This spectacle was witnessed by very few until 1967, when Baja's Frontier Tours began land-based programs to Scammon's Lagoon.  Another turning point came a decade later with a simple act of trust by one curious whale: she swam over to one of our Zodiacs filled with people and watched—and touched our outstretched hands! Other whales must have watched her, for succeeding years have blossomed with friendly whale encounters. The story of Baja's Frontier Tours' early encounters with Grace, the friendly whale appeared in National Geographic World in 1978 and in Newsweek in 1979, and resulted in BFT's participation in the production of PBS's TV special The Great Whales.  While we cannot assure you a touching encounter with a friendly whale—acts of nature are not often guaranteed, are they?—perhaps half of our guests share this most memorable experience. On our tours, two boating journeys are planned on the waters of Scammon's Lagoon with lots of gray whales—often over 2000 animals! They can be seen relaxing, mating and caring for their young. Photography can be breathtaking! Our guests find many memorable experiences with us in Baja both on and off Scammon's Lagoon!  For most folks, while whale watching may be the journey's high point, most guests find that getting there with Mary & Piet on The Best of Baja is even more than half the fun! Comfortable accommodations, the freshest seafood you can imagine, and traveling companions who truly get along  and make fast friends, characterize the BFT experience. We hope you'll join the fun and learning on our next adventure during the heart of the whale season. Please feel free to call any time to chat with Piet and Mary about your questions and your interests.

Value Whale Watching for your group?

Value Whale Watching can be a wonderful, quick and economical custom program for your club, group, institution or extended family and friends.

Please plan as far in advance as possible. Call, write or email us to discuss options.

Boating Excursions with Baja's California Gray Whales on Scammon's Lagoon!  

Luxury Full-Size Motor Coach and Round-trip Sightseeing from San Diego, Tucson, or your home town; van travel available for smaller groups.

Contact us for cost & details for your group

Value Whale Watching features the magnificent California gray whales including two or more days that feature up-close observation outings by boat on famous Scammon’s Lagoon during this comfortable motor coach excursion. Experience the whales’ largest and best-protected migratory destination lagoon, where adults often number two-thousand or more and several hundred calves are born each season! Lots of our lucky guests actually share a touch with a friendly whale—truly one of life’s most memorable experiences! 

This fully escorted learning vacation represents a terrific travel value in education, comfort & fun! Comfortable hotels and wonderful food are enjoyed by all. This short and easy-going educational program involves no required hiking and just a little  walking. Just relax in your comfortable full-size, air-conditioned U.S. Motor coach and enjoy the unique beauty of Northern and Central Baja’s Pacific seacoast, deserts and villages passing by outside your window. 

Your trip may begin with your hotel on the evening of the first day in San Diego (or your chosen location), and normally ends there on the morning of the last day, allowing travel time from home on both of these days. This escorted eco-tour includes direct travel by luxury U.S. charter motor coach (bathroom aboard!), five (or more) nightly hotels, two (or more) whale-watching boating adventures on Scammon’s Lagoon and your choice of meal plans.  Please plan this one well in advance. Call or e-mail for more information.


 Contact Piet & Mary Van de Mark by phone:

520-887-2340 (Tucson, Arizona)

©Baja's Frontier Tours LLC Tucson, Arizona 2005 & 2009 & 2014

Hit Counter

Home Page