Grey Whale Watching in Central Baja
*Unfortunately, Cedros Outdoor is not offering this tour in 2010. However, we have maintained this article for its informative content.
The gray whales are coming back to Baja California!
Every winter thousands of California gray whales begin their migration back to the central and southern region of the peninsula of Baja California. Here, the whales gather inside the coastal lagoons of Ojo de Liebre, San Ignacio, and Magdalena Bay. These lagoons are “home” for the whales, the place where they were born and where they will return each year to mate and give birth. The only thing they don’t do here is eat, so each spring they must leave again, heading north to their Arctic feeding grounds.
Although whales can be observed swimming all along the coast of North America, they are in transit. This means that whale watching in the open waters off the continental U.S. is a very different experience than in the lagoons of Baja California. Only here do we have the privilege of witnessing at close range the gray whale’s spectacular mating and courtship, as well as observing the interaction of mothers and their newborn babies learning to breach, spy hop and investigate an exotic species… humans.
Aficionados know that gray whales, while in these coastal lagoons exhibit friendly behavior. Not only will they approach boats, they seek contact with humans. Juveniles swim around the boats, diving and splashing, mothers nudge their babies closer, allowing eager tourists to pet and even kiss them. Despite the bulk and power of these animals, they take great care not to bump the boats, as if they understand the relative fragility of humans.
That such an intelligent species would bring their young to interact with a known predator is a mystery even to scientists. This kind of behavior is virtually unheard of in the animal kingdom. Remember, these whales eat only small, bottom-dwelling creatures found in the Arctic, so unlike bears, monkeys and other species known seek out humans in search of treats, there is no explanation for the friendly behavior except, perhaps, the same thing that draws us to them: simple curiosity.
Many people who would like to see and experience these amazing creatures are discouraged by the remoteness of the Mexican lagoons. To drive down means navigating over 500 miles of two-lane Mexican highway, and many whale watching expeditions require camping. While this is a wonderful experience for many (one we highly recommend, as well) those who prefer the comfort of a bed at the end of the day may think they’ll have to settle for watching gray whales swim by from a big tourist boat off the coast of California. In my experience, however, a two hour whale watching excursion in a big boat in the U.S. cannot compare to the experience of going out with a just few other people in a small panga, enjoying the water and the sky until that unforgettable moment when a mother whale approaches your boat with her baby. And, luckily, it is possible to have this kind of close encounter with whales, out in the peaceful lagoons of Baja during the day, while sleeping in a comfortable hotel at night.
The place where you can have all of these things is Ojo de Liebre lagoon (wrongly known as Scammon’s lagoon in most American literature) a large coastal lagoon next to the town of Guerrero Negro. In Ojo de Liebre, up to 2000 whales can be found at the peak of the season (around mid-February) each year. Out of those, around 800 are newborn babies. Although San Ignacio lagoon is a more well-known destination, the truth is that fully half of all the gray whale babies born each season are born in Ojo de Liebre.
The conditions in this extensive and shallow lagoon allow numerous mating groups near the mouth, where currents and depth allow acrobatic displays during courtship, or the chase of a female by several males. On the other hand, the inner region of the lagoon, where water is warmer and calmer (and away from mating groups) is perfect for mothers and babies.
Today, the experience of whale watching is available for everyone. Cedros Outdoor Adventures is now offering whale watching trips to Ojo de Liebre lagoon for those interested in having the opportunity to meet these gentle, curious giants without suffering the inconveniences associated with camping or driving long distances. Options include pickup in the U.S. or in Loreto, Mexico. All packages include bilingual, expert guides from start to finish, transportation, meals in local restaurants and comfortable accommodations in hotels, for less than it costs to camp in more remote locations.
For more information and rates contact Cedros OutdoorAdventures at (1) 619.793.5419 (from US) or (01) 646.193.2031 (from Mexico), or to visit thier website click here.