Gray Whale Kisses

 

Just over 400 miles south of Rosarito, and half-way down the Baja Peninsula, is the small town of Guerrero Negro. With a population of around 15,000 and a weather climate much colder than most of Baja, there is relatively little reason why one would want to visit…except for one reason which, in our opinion, makes it one of the most unbelievable places in the world.

For a very short time each year (late December through early April), the magnificent, Pacific gray whales come to give birth in the lagoons very close by to Guerrero Negro. Starting in October, these whales begin a two-to-three-month migration from the cold Alaskan seas to the warm waters of Baja California. At nearly 14,000 miles round-trip, it is the longest annual migration of any mammal. To continue reading more about this incredible process, click here.

At the end of March, we hopped aboard a 12 passenger van with the Tours in Baja tour group and commenced on our 10-12 hour (each direction) road trip led by Fernando Cuevas and Victor Loza. It was a relatively arduous and bumpy ride, with TONS of potholes after the downpour of rains the previous month, and with not much to do for entertainment.  However, among the passengers was a 93 year old woman who had always had whale watching as an item on her bucket list. We knew immediately that if she could make the drive we certainly would not be complaining on this trip!

The drive was quite scenic with a rather diverse and quickly-changing landscape.  Within just a couple of hours of leaving Rosarito, we found ourselves in desert terrain with various species of very interesting cacti. We stopped occasionally throughout the trip, once for roadside organic strawberries the size of tennis balls!  After a long day of driving, we finally arrived in this salt mining town which has one main paved road and a few taco stands, but felt grateful that we had a clean hotel room with AC to sleep in for the next two days.

Baby gray whale coming up to say hello

For the actual Whale Watching excursion, which occurred the next morning, we jumped in a panga boat and set out to the middle of the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon (formerly known as Scammon’s Lagoon and translated into English as “eye of the hare”).  In response to the growth of whale watching in Baja and, in an effort to reduce the impact to these marine mammals, the Mexican government established strong whale watching guidelines not only to regulate sightings, but to also promote the conservation of the gray whale species.

During the first hour of the boating trip, we saw a bunch of blow spouts (coming from the upwards of 2,000 whales that reside in the lagoon at this time) but they were all mainly in the distance. However, we soon found ourselves surrounded by 6-8 incredibly large mama whales and their babies such that we were able to reach over the side of the boat to touch and to even kiss them (like Aaron does in this video)!!

Just like inquisitive puppies, the mother whales would push the baby whales towards the boats to come up and greet us.  They would turn on their sides and lift up their flipper just as if they were waving “hi!”  Despite their impressive size of up to 50 feet in length and weighing in at up to 40 tons, these mammals were playful and appeared to smile through their giant eyes!!

Although we weren’t necessarily looking forward to the 12 hour ride home the next day, we were on such a high and felt so exhilarated by the experience that all we could do was talk about it the entire ride home.  This is for sure an unforgettable experience of a lifetime that should absolutely be on everyone’s bucket list!

Fun Fact

39% of the Earth’s marine mammals either live in or visit the Sea of Cortez in their lifetime and nearly ½ of the world’s Gray Whales are born just off of coast of Baja

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