One of the most frequent questions that those who intend to travel to Baja California ask us has to do with the gray whale watching period.
The arrival of this animal is one of the most important attractions in the area, in fact, nine species of whales visit Baja California each year. They travel more than 15,000 kilometers from the Arctic to the welcoming southern Californian lagoons.
Not only that, but there are only three places in the world where the gray whale gives birth to its little ones and all three are in Baja California!
Migration is an annual rite of return to their place of birth, where the courtship, mating and delivery of the young conceived the previous year takes place. It is a very long and difficult journey for these creatures, but these coasts are the perfect place for childbirth and for the first months of life.
These lagoons are protected by the strong currents of the Pacific Ocean and are characterized by shallow waters. The only predator of the gray whale, the killer whale, never approaches such shallow waters and access to the bays is often guarded by males. For all these reasons, this environment is perfect for these aquatic mammals, either for childbirth and for nursing or for mothers to teach their young to interact with other whales. They can keep an eye on them as they learn to swim, breathe properly, nurture and dive.
Whale Watching in Baja California
Whale watching in Baja California is very different from other places in the world. For example, along the Pacific coast of the United States, large ships carry many tourists aboard to sail alongside groups of whales hundreds of meters away. Instead, whale watching in the Pacific of Southern California is a more intimate and magical encounter. Visits are made with small groups of people in pangas, locally produced flat-bottomed boats, that can carry a maximum of eight people.
Mexican laws regarding whale watching are very rigorous and severe and prohibit any activity that may make these mammals uncomfortable, including fishing. In fact, oftentimes the whales who approach the boats with their young do it on their own free will, and not the other way around. They seem to really like interaction with humans. The mothers take the young out of the water and let them rest on them while the little ones receive all the attention of the very excited tourists.
This happens next to the boats and the whales do not seem worried even when they are caressed; they seem to enjoy this experience very much while offering us the opportunity to photograph these unique moments. The sensation you feel when caressing or even kissing them cannot be expressed in words, contact with this animal, which is as kind as it is large, is a wonderful experience.
Where to See Grey Whales in Baja California
The Guerrero Negro Lagoon and the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon (also known as Scammon’s lagoon) is located on the outskirts of the small industrial city of Guerrero Negro, where the largest salt mine in the world is. In this city, there are not many hotels or restaurants and during the whale watching season, from January to March, it gets very crowded.
Ninety miles south of Guerrero Negro there is another lagoon, a little more unknown. It is the Laguna San Ignacio, which opens onto the Pacific. There are no hotels near the sea here and you have to book in the city long before the sighting season arrives. They say that the friendliest whales are in these waters.
365 kilometers south of San Ignacio is Bahía Magdalena, the southernmost place, where the gray whales go to give birth. The canals and estuaries make this bay unique and exploring it is truly exciting. However, you have to be careful because it is a labyrinth of dirt roads that, due to the tides, fills with mud and can sometimes be impractical. But with due care and supervision, its paths, which stretch out over the coast, are unforgettable.
Here are two locations where it is possible to organize boat trips for whale watching. San Carlos, the main port of Bahía Magdalena, and Puerto López Mateos, a small town in the northern tip where the economy is based exclusively on whale watching. In these places, there is a lot of tourism and you run the risk of not having the best possible experience.
Whale Watching Tour Duration
Whale watching excursions usually last around three hours. Different departures are normally planned to prevent strong Pacific winds from preventing departure. The tours are totally safe and not even those who get seasick will have problems since the waters of the lagoons are very calm, especially in the morning.
When is the Best Period to See Gray Whales in Baja California
The season for whale watching in Baja California runs from January to mid-April. From our point of view, the best time is from March to April, since the weather is very pleasant and favors the visit of the entire territory and also because the young have grown a little and the mothers are more relaxed.
To book the trip, contact Baja California Travel, which has a local structure and can organize the trip that best suits you.