50 SHADES OF GREY BAJA WHALE WATCHING
‘50 Shades of Grey’ Baja Whale Watching BY JOHN FAITHFULL
ove is the drug that compels eastern North Pacific grey whales to make a recordbreaking 10,000-mile journey from their summer feeding grounds within the Arctic Circle to the balmy coast of Baja California. The promise of sex and reproduction propels these 40 ton cetaceans to undertake the longest known migration of any mammal on Earth. Each year between January and March, the Pacific coastal waters of Mexico and the Bay of California become abundant with cavorting
greys, making Baja the best place on the planet to whale watch. I arrive into San Ignacio Lagoon a few days after departing San Diego on board a small 25 passenger boat. Pacific swells were replaced by an eerie dead calm as we navigated between sand bars at night and then weighed anchor in this UNESCO World Heritage Site that is part of Mexico’s El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve – the largest wildlife reserve in Latin America. The notion that anticipation is
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the most enjoyable part of travel was completely disproved over the following two days in this remarkable and isolated corner of Mexico. I simply was not expecting what happened next. We boarded pangas (small skiffs with outboard motors) and headed into the lagoon, which acts as a grey whale nursery and refuge for mothers and their calves. I was about to ask the question, “How do you find an animal, even a creature as large as a grey whale, when it is underwater?” However, within
minutes of being in our panga, whale spouts and disturbed water were spotted. The simple answer is that in Baja, the whales find you. Our panga skipper positions us at a suitable (required) distance away and we wait. A 40-foot female approaches. She swims slowly, deliberately and directly towards us, at the last minute dipping under our small launch and is clearly visible. Her speckled barnacled and blotchy body is truly 50 shades of grey and she surfaces with a ‘fragrant’ blow that coats us with a
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