Expedition Shark

Ocean Desert Alliance presents

Expedition Shark

Step into the shoes – or fins – of a shark scientist on “Expedition Shark!” Take a once-in-a-lifetime journey to Bahía de los Ángeles, Mexico, to work alongside powerhouse shark experts from OdySea Aquarium, The Sulikowski Big Fish Lab, and the Vermilion Sea Institute to fulfill real-life shark adventures that rival episodes of any nature channel!

Excursions rotate for lucky participants who will take one of two boats out to sea every day to satisfy their inner shark/whale shark passions and curiosities! One trip to Baja will make them true community scientists as they travel with renowned shark expert Dr. James Sulikowski, college professor, researcher, and Shark Week star as he and his Ocean Desert Alliance partners locate, identify, and study various shark species off the coast in the hopes of pinpointing sacred shark birthing grounds.

On the flip side of studying these behemoths is the rare opportunity to swim with them! Participants will accompany the Vermilion Sea Institute and OdySea Aquarium experts on another exhilarating boat excursion to swim or snorkel beside docile whale sharks to collect data on these gentle giants’ individual checkerboard skin markings. Like a fingerprint, every whale shark has a unique pattern of pale dots and stripes behind their gills, which allow researchers to track migration patterns and compile information about each shark’s habits and travels.

Information from both the toothy sharks and whale shark migration patterns will be shared with researchers globally, making all the work (and exciting real-world opportunities) extremely impactful. Participants can consider themselves true stewards of the sea after they complete their expedition!

Space is limited to 17 participants who are 18 years of age or older. Reservations are first come, first serve, and are NOT finalized until the reservation form is complete and payment is received. Please note that a minimum number of participants is needed to confirm this trip.  In the event of a cancellation, a refund will be issued.  Reservation and payment details can be found below.

 

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Accommodations

Location

Situated along the shores of the Gulf of California within the Bahía de los Ángeles Biosphere reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Vermilion Sea Field Station (VSFS) has hosted scientists, conservationists, educators, and students since the 1970’s. Bahía de los Ángeles is a sleepy little town unlike other crowded Mexican tourist destinations. It is primarily known for fishing and was formerly a mining town. It is authentic Mexico at its finest.

Internet/Telephone

We are in one of the rare few spaces left in the world without cell service. Most visitors to Bahía and the Vermilion Sea Field Station take the rare and special opportunity to embrace being “unplugged” and find they connect more deeply with the incredible local environment because of it. However, if totally disconnecting isn’t possible, there are local restaurants within walking distance with WiFi access.

Lodging

The Vermilion Sea Field Station is first and foremost a field facility for researchers and educators in the environmental sciences with minimalistic and rustic, yet enjoyable accommodations. The field station consists of a central two-story adobe and stone facility with 12 multi-purpose rooms, a large kitchen, outdoor bucket-flush bathrooms and an additional family house.

Most participants at our field station choose to sleep outside under the starry skies, as the nights stay quite warm. This outdoor sleeping option offers a slightly cooler and more immersive experience. However, we understand that weather conditions can be unpredictable, and some individuals may prefer or need indoor accommodations which are available as needed in shared rooms designed for storing participants’ belongings. It’s important to note that the Vermilion Sea Field Station does not have air conditioning.

Please be mindful that fresh water is a precious resource in our location. While we do provide an indoor and outdoor shower for rinsing, we actively practice water conservation to ensure sustainability. Additionally, we encourage individuals to utilize the ocean for bathing, using eco-friendly products to minimize environmental impact. 

As a working field station, we emphasize a communal ethos where each visitor is responsible for pitching in to clean up after themselves and help maintain the facility. We encourage everyone to leave it better than they found it, ensuring that the station remains a welcoming and sustainable facility for all who use it.

Research

Expedition Shark is an educational trip hosted by the Ocean Desert Alliance which is composed of professionals from OdySea Aquarium, The Sulikowski Big Fish Labn Lab, and the Vermilion Sea Institute. No prior research experience is necessary to join; participants do not need to be SCUBA certified but should be able to swim independently and be comfortable swimming in open water.

Each day participants will either focus on shark identification or whale shark research. 

By identifying the shark species in the area and determining their individual sizes and lengths, scientists can gain deeper insights into their life histories and movement patterns within their natural habitat. This knowledge can then pinpoint crucial areas for the protection of these species.

During whale shark research, participants will focus on photographing whale sharks and uploading data that is shared collaboratively with researchers globally. The distinctive spot patterns of these marine giants are unique to each individual and can be used to identify and track the sharks.

At a Glance

Total Trip Days (Including Travel Days): September 13th- September 18th 

Leaves from: El Centro, California. 

Destination: Bahía de los Ángeles, México 

Program Cost: Cost is $3,150 for flexible registration or $3,000 for non-refundable registration per participant.  

Recommended for: Active people with an interest in the sea and a desire to create adventure while gathering important data.  Participants must be 18 years or older at this time to participate in Expedition Shark.

General inquiries:
[email protected]

Payment or insurance questions:
Info@vermilionseainstitute.org

Inclusions

  • Round trip travel from El Centro, CA to Bahía de los Ángeles, México
  • Lodging at the Vermilion Sea Field Station (VSFS)
  • Meals at stops during road trips
  • One Expedition Shark branded rash guard with each purchased trip.
  • Delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner prepared fresh at VSFS
  • Boat rental fees and permits for access to the Natural Protected Area of Bahía de los Ángeles
  • Wetsuits and fins
  • Daily educational programming provided by VSI, OdySea Aquarium and The Sulikowski Big  Fish Lab.

Exclusions

  • Travel to/from El Centro, CA from home location
  • Lodging in El Centro, CA before/after the trip
  • Snacks, sodas, alcohol, souvenirs
  • Snorkels and masks (available for rent for $15/set at time of registration or $20 at the field station)
  • Travel & Medical Emergency Insurance (mandatory for every participant)

Itinerary

Day 1: Depart from El Centro at 7:00 a.m. sharp for Bahía de los Ángeles in passenger vans. The drive will include several stops for stretching and lunch. The road trip is part of the fun and allows time for participants to make new friends while enjoying some scenic views.

Once at the field station, guests will be introduced to their home away from home and allowed free time before and after dinner.

Day 2: Diving in! Wake up to the beautiful sunrise while overlooking the ocean. Enjoy breakfast and educational programming that will focus on research objectives and data collection. After an optional snorkel and lunch, it’s time to board the pangas (small motorboats) for your first exploration of the bay and chance to collect data in the field.

Days 3-5: Pangas! Morning into the early afternoon enjoy exploring the bay on either a ‘Toothy Boat’ (shark identification boat) or ‘Filter Boat’ (whale shark boat). Each day, guests will be assigned a research project to focus on. Once aboard the corresponding panga, guests will explore and learn about the marine inhabitants of Bahía de los Ángeles, alongside marine biologists from OdySea Aquarium, The Sulikowski Big Fish Lab and Vermilion Sea Institute.

Once back at the field station and after a tasty meal, guests will help upload the data they collected in the field. Free time activities include but are not limited to paddleboarding, snorkeling, hiking or enjoying the town.

Day 6: Depart Bahía de los Ángeles at around 6 a.m. for El Centro, arriving approx. 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. (please do NOT schedule returning flights on Day 6 as arrival time cannot be guaranteed).

Important Note: While whale sharks have typically visited the waters off Bahía de los Ángeles each summer, we can not predict that the sharks will be present during this program. Because of the unpredictable nature of wildlife in their natural habitat, there is no guarantee that participants will see or swim with any sharks.

Registration

Exciting news for this year! We’ve introduced a new feature on our registration platform that allows you to rally support from friends and family. Now, you can invite others to contribute towards your registration fees, whether it’s a lot or a little. It’s a fantastic way to make your trip even more memorable with the help of your loved ones. 

We also have payment plans available!

Each participant must have a valid passport, so please confirm its expiration date promptly. Additionally, you must provide proof of travel insurance that covers potential medical expenses and emergency evacuations while abroad.

We offer two types of registration:

  1. Refundable Registration ($3,150): If you choose this option, your total registration fee is $3,150, but only $500 of your initial deposit is nonrefundable. You can cancel at any time for a refund of $2,650.
  2. Discounted Registration ($3,000): With this option, your total registration fee is only $3,000, but your registration is nonrefundable and non transferable.

Please keep in mind that the initial $500 deposit is always nonrefundable, regardless of your chosen registration type.

Questions?

Please don’t hesitate to email [email protected] with any questions. We hope to see you in the field!

Header photo by Courtney Baxter

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