For our latest big adventure Tom and I went whale watching in a gray whale birthing lagoon in Baja!
Whale watching in Baja is definitely an adventure. To reach the dock where the boats depart we had to drive 30 kilometers down a very bumpy dirt road across the salt flats. The salt flats have an eerie, otherworldly feel to them that is compounded by the complete lack of traffic- we only saw one other vehicle the whole drive. The lagoon is heavily protected, and we had to provide our names and license plate number just to enter the last stretch of dirt road.
We went into this particular excursion pretty blind. Many, many people told us that visiting Ojo de Liebre (the largest gray whale birthing lagoon) in the winter absolutely COULD NOT be missed so we just decided to drive out there and see what all the fuss was about. As soon as we pulled up to the lagoon we understood!
Literally every time we looked out at the water there were several whales breaching, spouting, spy hopping, it was unbelievable. What was even more unbelievable was the fact that we were two of just a few people camped there. As soon as we chose a camping spot I climbed on top of La Peregrina to whale watch! I was blown away by the sheer number of whales in the lagoon, and it’s such a serene, quiet spot that it was easy to hear the whales spouting.
The following morning we paid to take an actual whale watching tour, and we were pleasantly surprised that the tours go out in small pangas, which are motorboats that only hold 8 people, including the captain. Just 5-6 small pangas are allowed to go out into the lagoon each day, which ensures that the whales are not harassed.
Our panga motored out into the lagoon, and then the captain killed the motor and told us to wait. It didn’t take long at all for a mother whale and her calf to approach the boat. The calf was clearly curious and playful, swimming right up and under the boat. The mother seemed to enjoy rubbing against the boat, and even pushed her head right up next to us. She swam from one side of the boat to the next repeatedly, floating right at the surface, and often looking up to make eye contact with us.
The entire tour lasts just an hour and a half, but that turned out to be plenty of time! Several different whales approached the boat, a few of them floating right next to us for long periods of time. It definitely felt like the whales were playing with the humans.
It’s important to note that the whales are not fed or baited in any way for these tours. Historically gray whales were known for being fearless, and whalers were afraid of them because gray whales would actually attack whaling vessels. It was amazing to see how that fearless nature is redirected into playful curiosity when humans protect the whales rather than hunt them.
We highly recommend gray whale watching to anyone who is traveling in Baja from January to March. As others told us, DO NOT miss this amazing experience!
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