Not Too Late: Baja's Famous Whale Watching Now at its Height
Thanks to La Niña, more "Friendlies" will remain in Baja until mid-April 2012.
San Ignacio Lagoon 3/08/2012 09:39 AM GMT (TransWorldNews)
Each year, gray whales migrate thousands of miles, from northern Alaska to Baja. It is the longest migration of mammals on earth. And this year, it is still going strong. The Sea of Cortez has also filled with blue, humpback, Bryde’s, and pilot whales - 2/3 of marine mammal species call this sea home in the spring.
In the shallow, protected waters of three Pacific lagoons, the gray whales congregate to mate, give birth, and -- in the case of "the friendlies" -- interact with curious travelers.
February is often thought as peak season for whale watching. However, the whales do not migrate all at once; there is a steady stream of whales heading south in December. This year La Niña has created cooler water temperatures, and more whales are going farther south and staying longer in the sub-tropical areas. Thanks to the favorable conditions, the San Ignacio Lagoon has seen a record breaking number of grays this season. The migration north typically begins in February with the single whales leaving first; the mothers and babies stay long into April.
About "The Friendlies": whales seeking the company of humans
San Ignacio Lagoon is the acknowledged "home of the friendlies." For 30 years now, the whales here have seemed to actively seek out human contact. Mother whales wintering here appear to teach their babies to approach human visitors. This is not a staged experience performed by captive whales. These are free, wild whales who play with humans by choice.
Baja is the only place in the world where whales are known to exhibit this behavior. It is because of the "friendlies" that Baja Expeditions' head naturalist Jose Sanchez calls San Ignacio Lagoon "the most magical place on the planet to see gray whales.” Sanchez says people love the intimate feeling of connection they experience when visiting the whales in this, the smallest and most conservatively-protected of the three lagoons.
A close encounter with a friendly whale can be a life-changing experience. “Whale Watching in Baja” is a featured journey in author Patricia Schultz's book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Schultz recommends Baja Expeditions as “the only operator to use,” praising the company’s naturalist guides, small groups, seasoned crews and local chefs.
For more information visit http://www.bajaex.com
SIDE BAR: HOW TO TAKE THIS TRIP YOURSELF
Baja Expeditions organizes premier whale watching trips that start and end in San Diego’s Old Town. These multi-day trips include a charter flight direct to the lagoon, making transportation simple and convenient.
Guests are picked up by a luxury shuttle in San Diego, and flown in a 14 passenger Cessna Caravan from Tijuana (Click to see video of border crossing) to the lagoon. In San Ignacio, guests stay in sturdy waterfront cabanas or safari-style tents. Guests enjoy three full days of twice-daily excursions into the whale watching area, delicious meals, and happy hours beneath a star-studded night sky.
Dates available: March 10-14, 14-18 and 18-22nd. Prices have been discounted from $2395 to $2150/person. Call to ask about custom trips from now through mid-April.
San Ignacio Lagoon, a part of the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. This designation protects not only the gray whales, but also seals, blue whales, sea turtles, and many species of birds and terrestrial animals and plants. There are 890 World Heritage sites worldwide, from Stonehenge to the Serengeti.
Click for a PDF of the San Ignacio itinerary: http://bajaex.com/Documents/WWSI-Itinerary-2012.aspx
Click here to see a short video of a whale watching excursion filmed in at San Ignacio Lagoon in February 2012: http://youtu.be/XKooWgNZUKQ
Click for a backgrounder on gray whales: http://www.marinebio.net/marinescience/05nekton/GWlagoons.htm
About Baja Expeditions
Baja Expeditions is the world's leader in eco-adventures to Baja, and the oldest and largest adventure travel expedition operator in Baja California, Mexico. Founded in 1974, we have been protecting wild Baja for over 37 years by sharing the natural wonders with interested travelers. Baja Expeditions has offices in San Diego, California and La Paz, Mexico.
Whale watching, sea kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, hiking, scuba diving and natural history expeditions are Baja Expeditions’ featured trips. Guests include vacationers, families, school groups, honeymooners, corporate outings, as well as devoted ecotourists. The level of physical activity is tailored to the group, from “extreme” athletes to laid-back retirees.
Trips focus on education and preservation, and emphasize small group size, flexible itineraries, and the best guides and crew in the region. On service trips, laypeople can volunteer alongside scientists to tag whale sharks or monitor sea turtles. Conservation partners include: The Audubon Society, REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation), Broadreach (summer adventures for teenagers), The Nature Conservancy, Ecology Project International, World Wildlife Fund, Ocean Revolution, and Grupo Tortuguero.
Baja Expeditions Inc.