Las Ballenas: The Whales in Baja
By the time we docked at the Loreto port, the Westward voyage had already earned its status as a life-list trip for any avid cetacean fan. We saw a large pod of common dolphins and several whales on our trip north, including an adult blue that we followed for close to an hour.
Yet the most phenomenal wildlife experience was yet to come.
The final excursion took us by road to San Ignacio Lagoon, located on the Pacific side of the peninsula. Our route cut across the peninsula in the shadow of towering volcanoes and through a number of historic towns before culminating near the mouth of the lagoon. In the calm waters, grey whales have established an annual haven in which to raise their calves before migrating north. Small boats are allowed to travel through part of the lagoon, where passengers have the chance to see – and possibly touch – the friendly, curious whales.
The boat ride to the lagoon was a rainy one, but this hardly dampened the spirits of the group. All around us, adult grey whales were rising and diving effortlessly through the water, occasionally breaching or spyhopping to get a better view of their elated audience. Ten-foot-long calves frolicked next to their mothers.
We were met by a single adult female, nicknamed La C for a prominent mark on her dorsal fin. La C proceeded to spend most of our trip surfacing alongside the skiff so we could pet and photograph her. For those aboard the panga, it was an experience bordering on transcendent. Nearly an hour passed unheeded as passengers and whale reached across the barriers of their respective species to connect with one another.
We rode back to the shore for the final time, filled with a mixture of wonder and disbelief. After ten brief days in Baja California, our small group had come to know and love the peninsula in ways we never could have foreseen.
Captain Bill would be proud.
If you go:
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Author bio: Lauren Buchholz is an American freelance writer and photographer who recently traded the mountains of Colorado for New Zealand’s North Island. Her work has appeared in Orion, Wilderness Magazine, Landscape Photography Magazine, Legacy, and The Interpreter.