Whale Watching in Baja California Sur
Welcome to our whale watching Research Camp at Margarita Island, on the Pacific Coast of Baja California Sur. After a 2.5 hour drive from La Paz, we arrive at Puerto Chale, board our skiff, and within 15 minutes, we start spotting our first whales. Soon, we are completely surrounded by spy hopping, breaching and swimming animals. We can hear their blows all around us, in stereo, and see them all the way to the horizon. There are mothers and calves, inquisitive, yet cautious. There are mating groups, oblivious to the world, focused only on the task at hand. Every whale is doing their own thing. We spend about three hours out on the water, watching their behaviors, and if possible, taking photographs to later identify the individuals and study the population.
After that introduction to whale life around Margarita Island, we head to our Research Camp for lunch, getting installed and an intro to kayaking and what the expect the next few days. Our Research Camp allows visitors to experience gray whales in close proximity, waking and sleeping while these animals swim in the bay outside our tents. There are also large numbers of marine birds in the area, as there are several rookeries nearby, specifically frigate birds and cormorants. We will explore this shoreline and mangroves by foot, sea kayak or stand up paddle board (SUP). When we aren’t out exploring, we are enjoying our camp, which includes hot meals of local cuisine, a daily happy hour, and hot water showers. Our camp runs every year from mid January to early March, giving our researchers the opportunity to work with the whales most of the season.
Whale watching in Baja California Sur is a majestic, humbling experience. There are many places around the world where you can see whales, practically every ocean and sea, from tropical waters to arctic areas in both hemispheres. However, the Baja Peninsula is one of a kind. It is a region of very high biodiversity, with a great abundance of whales and dolphins on both sides of the peninsula. Along its southern half, it hosts the winter grounds of at least three species of baleen whales: grays, humpbacks and blues. On the eastern Sea of Cortez side, it is also possible to find fin whales, as there is at least one resident population here.
During February and March, Del Carmen Island, near Loreto on the eastern coast of the peninsula, is visited by the largest animal of all time – the blue whale. Blue whales are up to 90 feet long and weigh up to 180 tons. During the same months, in the Cabo region, we can enjoy charismatic humpbacks, hanging around with their calves and displaying their impressive breaches, and fluke and fin slaps, evidencing the strength of these 36 ton animals. Farther north, on the Pacific coast of the peninsula we reach the famous Mexican Pacific lagoons, where adult gray whales mate, and the females give birth and nurse their calves. These are the lagoons discovered by Scammon all those years ago, which nearly led to the demise of the species.
Gray whales are known for their curiosity, even approaching skiffs in what is known as “friendly whale behavior”, which attracts visitors from all around the world. Gray whales are not only curious, but can be as energetic as other whales, breaching, and slapping their flukes and fins. From south to north, the gray whales can be watched at Puerto Chale (where we have our Research Camp on Margarita Island), Puerto San Carlos, Puerto Lopez Mateos, San Ignacio Lagoon and Ojo de Liebre Lagoon.