Going to Baja, the slow
way! Every year the California
gray whales set off on the longest migration made by any mammal.
They are on their way to Baja to spend a few months enjoying the Pacific lagoons
along the Baja coast.
The gray whales were once hunted to near extinction in the very waters they work so
hard to visit. They are now protected in the U.S. and México, it is thought that the
population is now over 20,000 strong.
There are only three places in the
world the gray whale give birth to their babies, all three are in Baja!
This is no vacation for
the gray whales. This
is a yearly ritual of returning to their place of birth, to bring their
own babies into this world. It is a long hard trip for these
gentle creatures, but the lagoons in Baja are the perfect location for
The Baja lagoons are protected from the strong waves and
currents of the Pacific Ocean and the lagoons are shallow. The
only predator of the gray whale, the orca, will not enter into such
shallow water. It is
the perfect environment for the mothers to nurse their newly born
calves. It is also easy
for the mothers to supervise while the young whales learn how
to swim, how to breath
properly, feed, dive and teach them how to interact with other
The whale watching experience in Baja
is much different than in other places on the whales journey to Baja.
Along the U.S. Pacific coast crowds get into a large boats and cruise along
next to a group of whales. Whale watching on the Pacific side of Baja is
done in pangas. These are locally made 22 foot boats, which are
open and can accommodate
up to ten people.
In Baja the mother
whales, along with their young, seem to really enjoy interaction with
humans. Amazingly they will seek out the pangas and the mothers will sometimes lift the
babies out of the water or let them rest on top of them while the baby gets all
of the attention. This happens right next to the boats and the
whales do not seem to mind being touched. The whales actually seem to
enjoy the experience as much as the humans do. The comfort level
of the whales, while in the lagoons, also makes for some incredible photo
The feeling you get from petting,
hugging or kissing these friendly whales cannot be properly put into
words. It can make
you speechless, some people start laughing out loud, others
will scream with
excitement. The experience also brings tears to many (the men
also), with real regularity. It is truly an unforgettable
adventure. Remember to take plenty of pictures to show your family and
friends back home. Beware...looking at the pictures of your trip can
easily put you in the mood to start planning your next trip.
The three major
areas from which to get really close to the whales in Baja Sur. Laguna Guerrero Negro and Laguna Ojo de Liebre
(aka Scammon's Lagoon) are located just outside of Guerrero Negro.
The area has many motels and restaurants, but gets rather busy during
whale watching season, January through March.
Ninety miles south of
Guerrero Negro is another lagoon that is a bit more remote than the
others. Laguna San Ignacio opens to the Pacific but there is no
development of any kind nearby. This lagoon is said, by many, to
have the friendliest whales of any other location. The classic Baja town of San
Ignacio is 40 miles east of the lagoon on the main highway. San
Ignacio has a really cool central square, food and lodging. You
can easily arrange tours to visit the whales in the lagoon.
Bahía Magdalena, 365
miles south of San Ignacio is the southernmost location that the gray
whales visit to give birth. A series of canals and estuaries
stretch along the coast for over one hundred miles. This bay is
unique, because it is so long with so many entrances. There are
actually two locations where you can arrange whale watching tours.
San Carlos, the main port in Mag Bay, is located 36 miles from Ciudad
Constitucíon which is on Highway 1. Forty miles north of Ciudad
Constitucíon is Puerto López Mateos, which sits on the northern end of Bahía
Magdalena. Puerto López Mateos is a small town devoted almost entirely
to whale watching.
The whale watching tours
in Guerrero Negro last from five hours to all day depending on which
lagoon you are visiting. You really should plan to go out a couple
of times, maybe once in the morning, then an afternoon trip. Even
better yet, one lagoon on one day and the other on your second day.
There are not a lot of other
activities in Guerrero Negro, so try to enjoy maximum time with the
whales. Whale watching tours from San Ignacio are from one full
day to as many days as you want. You can stay out at the
lagoon for as many nights as your travel plans allow.
A little something to think
about...the chances are high that you may never repeat this adventure
again in your lifetime,
so try to do it
right. Try to spend at least four or five days getting close
these wonderful creatures.
If you do some careful planning you can visit with the whales in Guerrero
Negro and Laguna San Ignacio on the same trip. When you are back
home, looking at the photos of your
trip, you will be thankful you spent a little extra time.
the Sea of Cortez
the lagoons of the Pacific side are well known as the winter birthing grounds of
the gray whale, the Sea of Cortez is actually frequented by as many species of
whales as is the Pacific side of Baja.
whale is the only species that take easily to shallow water, most of the
other whales prefer deeper water. Gray whales also visit the Sea of
Cortez, but not with much regularity.
The blue whale is the largest animal to
ever live on this earth and can grow to over ninety feet in length.
They are also the loudest, a screaming blue whale can be heard for several
miles underwater. Blue whales can be found in the Sea of Cortez during
the winter months when the water is cool. They seem to favor the
islands near Loreto and the deeper waters of the southern Sea of Cortez.
They are normally found some distance from shore.
Humpback whales can be seen frolicking in the
waters of the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez, usually pretty close to shore.
Humpback whales are so named because they have an obvious hump on their back
and for the way they curve their back when diving. They migrate to
Baja in the winter months, often in large groups. They are very active
players in the water, breaching, splashing and slapping the water with their
tails. A group of humpbacks frolicking together puts on quite
a show. These are the whales that are famous for their singing.
Other whale species that frequent the Sea of Cortez include the sperm whale, minke
whale, fin whale, and more. Whales are commonly seen as far north as
Bahia de Los Angeles in the Sea of Cortez.
Whale watching tours on the Sea of Cortez are mainly run out of Cabo San
Lucas, La Paz and Loreto. While you can get close to the whales, do not expect the same kind of
that is experienced in the Pacific lagoons.
used Ecoturismo Kuyima in San Ignacio for whale watching tours in Laguna San
Ignacio and also trips to the cave paintings on
more than one occasion and we feel very comfortable recommending them.
We have also used Mario's in Guerrero Negro, for whale watching, and had very good results.
The Sea of Cortez
The Pacific Side of Baja
Baja Whale Watching Videos
On-line Research links:
The Lagoons in Baja (Great!)
The Humpback Whale - Wikipedia
Whale - Wikipedia
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