Baja in my Westy: Gray whale in San Ignacio Lagoon

After a long hard drive across 25 or so miles of crazy washboard we made it to Ecoturismo Kuyima, an ocean front campsite in the middle of a desert, at San Ignacio Lagoon. The Gray whales migrate from Alaska to several lagoons on the Baja peninsula, here they are reputed to be the friendliest.

We arrived shortly before sunset and almost immediately the reason for our bone-jarring, Vanagon-risking, ride became clear: we could see whales spouting and spy-hopping (poking their heads out of the water) before we'd even shut off the engine!

When morning came and it was time to see the whales, the weather was incredibly windy. More than a few of us were thinking of staying on shore. Luckily we trusted our host and boarded the small 7-10 person boats and headed out. Within moments the magic began.

It is hard to describe how amazing an experience this was. There were over 350 gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) in the lagoon. Mothers, babies and males all swimming about, all as curious about the strange humans in their tiny boats as we about them. There was so much activity. So many whales poking their heads up next to us, offering a chin or a belly to rub, that it was hard to know where to look.

We enjoyed about 90 minutes of sheer wonder. A whale and I held eye contact while I ran my hands over its skin for what seemed an eternity. They welcomed us and they played with us.

This was truly the highlight of the greatest adventure I've yet had. I am certain I'll be back to San Ignacio Lagoon.

Shortly I'll be sharing more about the equipment we brought along and how the van faired.


Baja in my Westy: Driving to Mexico in an '87 Volkswagen Bus

Baja in my Westy: Ready to leave LA

Baja in my Westy: Side tracked by Disneyland

Baja in my Westy: San Ignacio, Day 4 in MX


    1. i agree.  it’s 100′ in some places.  200′ in others.  rule must not apply in mexican waters. 

      they’re curious, yes.  just like you would be curious if someone entered your house in a strange craft.  but that’s a stressful scenario, and stress causes disease, malnourishment, etc. 

      on the other hand, i’ve always agreed with e.o. wilson that children may have to destroy nature just a little bit to appreciate it.  (he’s mostly talking about ants, dirt and flowers.  …and children).    but if you’ve created a love of whales for everyone on that boat, it might be worth it. 

      that’s the dilemma of eco-tourism.

      1.  Buffers? We don’t need no stinking Buffers! Kidding aside, a savvy tour operator will be sensitive to his customers’ desire to treat the whales with respect (I’m assuming most people going whale watching feel that way), and passively wait and let the whales approach the boat rather than chasing them. From Jason’s description, it sounds like the whales were actively seeking out the boat and the human interaction.

    2. One must NOT disturb, nor directly intercept, whales while they are migrating.  FYI, this rule was adopted first in Mexico, then in the USA.

      Once in the lagoon, however, it is THEY who approach the boats from below, slowly circling upwards until one can literally extend an arm and touch them.  When I went down to San Ignacio, a calf played with us like this, while the mindful mother kept a respectful distance.  Then the calf sprayed me on the face.

  1. Being a vegan I often am puzzled regarding the respect we give and discuss and gets up in arms about for some species while not caring one little bit about the vast majority, if we respected all animals in the ways described here it would be a wonderful planet, I think.

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