As every winter since immemorial times, hundreds of grey whales and dozens of humpback whales make a journey of over 16 thousand kilometers from the cold Alaskan waters to the warm lagoons in the western coast in Baja California Sur, known as one of the most amazing animal migrations in the planet.
Their main destinations are the lagoon sanctuaries at Ojo de Liebre (Hare Eye Lagoon) in Guerrero Negro, located halfway of the Baja California Peninsula bordering the state of Baja California; the San Ignacio lagoon, a little more to the south, and the Magdalena Bay lagoons, located 3 and a half hours by road west to the city of La Paz.
Not many of these outstanding cetaceans extend their journey farther south to foray into the Gulf of California or the Sea of Cortes. Most of the time, along with their cousins the humpbacks, which are the first to be seen in the southern area, they can be spotted from Los Cabos’ pools and beaches and other coastal locations that border it, thus making this an excellent opportunity for tourist service providers to offer visitors the experience of being close to the ocean’s greatest marine mammal.
While some of these gray whales give birth thanks to the calm lagoon waters and its high saline density that lets them float easily, others are here to breed and thus complete their natural cycles year after year.
Calves are born tail first; they average 4.5 metres long (15 feet) and weigh around a ton. Mothers nurse their babies for six to eight months. When the female reaches sexual maturity, at around eight years of age, she is capable of bearing calves every two years, spending the rest of the time feeding in order to breed again.
This cetacean can measure up to 15 meters (50 feet) and weigh up to 40 tons. In the last 120 years they have been fiercely pursued in two occasions leading them to their near extinction. British and American whalers would embark in brutal hunts in search of their meat, fat and baleen plates to turn them into several industrial goods and for human consumption. Nowadays, they are still present in Mexican waters due to the decree in 2000 that stated Mexican waters to be a permanent refuge for all whales, thus becoming the first country in the world to openly and officially declare itself as a protector of whales.
For more than four months, from November thru April, it is possible to choose between different packages from Los Cabos, La Paz or Loreto, and embark in an expedition with different specialized companies into any of the sanctuaries.
Whale watching is closely monitored in each of the sanctuaries. In Bahia Magdalena, where the ports of San Carlos and Lopez Mateos are located, and in San Ignacio and Guerrero Negro, the co-ops and other tourist service providers possess all the safety measures and regulations stated by environmental agencies, who are permanently monitoring, to be able to take visitors for a close encounter without accidents or disturbing the whales during such rides.
Flanked by stunning views, they proudly show their babies, that during their four-month stay, they nurse and teach to swim and breathe, thus preparing them for their long journey to the north. And yes, whales in Baja California Sur seem to enjoy the surroundings sharing it with us humans. They give the impression that they are trying to communicate nature’s essential message, which is to dissolve with it without alteration for the enjoyment of us all.
We begin to believe, like a lesson learned by them, and from their particular intelligence they approach us with kindness and trust to remind us that our survival depends on their own survival. Because we travel together in time through this huge biosphere which we call Earth, and as a visitor it will be the most fascinating experience of your life, the feeling of a look between air and sea.
Armando Figaredo. (April 2011). Una Mirada entre el Mar y el Cielo ( A look between air and sea). Tendencia El Arte de Viajar. (Vol.2), p. 26-28. Recovered from http://tendenciaelartedeviajar.mx/ediciones/tendenciat02/