Where We Be
|A baby gray whale peeks above the
surface to see us strange boat-creatures
|Ojo de Liebre Lagoon -- Baja, Mexico
Today was truly awesome: we got to see dozens
of mom and baby gray whales and actually touch
them. February / March is the perfect time for
this, when the calves are just getting curious
enough to come right up to the boat and let you
pet them, just as friendly as can be. In fact the
moms will sometimes nudge their youngsters
closer as if to say, "It's okay!" On five or six
occasions we had these direct encounters, and
at one point we had two moms and two babies
all visiting us at once and found it hard to know
where to look. We were on the water for a full
three hours with Malarrimo Tours ($50 pp) and
surrounded by whales almost the entire time.
Not sure we can top this one!
Laguna Ojo de Liebre (“eye of the jackrabbit”) is
a famous gray whale calving ground about a half
hour's drive from the town of Guerrero Negro.
It's a shallow lagoon with warm, calm waters that
offers the whales safe sanctuary both to mate
and calve. We saw dozens of moms swimming
peacefully with their newborns. It was almost
like our boat was a member of their pod as we
putted along at a speed similar to their own.
At one point a whale popped up right in front of
our bow and spied us out, surprising all of us,
even the captain. At another point we saw a
whale balance for a count of ten full seconds
with its tail straight out of the water, as if it were
doing some weird kind of underwater aerobic
exercise or Downward Facing Whale meditation.
From afar we saw three whales breach right out
of the water. And we even saw groups of gray
whales mating. Each female needs to mate with
three or four males to ensure pregnancy, and
we saw several of these interesting mating
dances / underwater thrashings-around.
|A lovely restaurant with fine food adds to
the pleasure of a visit to Malarrimo Motel
|The fish is obviously fresh, with bits of roasted garlic
on top and a simple herb topping with garlic butter.
|Everything about Malarrimo is themed around whales and sea life. It makes for a comfortable base in Guerrero Negro, which is right at
the northern tip of Baja Sur. Note: Baja Norte is on Pacific Time but Baja Sur is on Mountain Time, so add +1 hr when you get here.
|Are we excited? You bet we are! Baja is one of the only places in the world that actually encourages
you to touch the whales. These gray whales seem to really enjoy it and freely come up to the boats.
|Afterwards we boarded our van and drove a few minutes down the road to one of the world’s largest
sea salt evaporation factories, employing over 1,000 people from Guerrero Negro. That's a lot of salt!
|The salt mountain makes bulldozers look small by comparison
|We had no idea we could actually pet a whale until just before our trip -- and not just the moms but
the babies! In one case the mom came up to get a pat and the baby slid in between her and the
boat to get petted first! Truly an incredible moment, and one we managed to capture on video.
|We saw numerous sea lions making
themselves at home on large floating buoys
|We loved getting to hear the whales breathe. Of course you can hear the explosive exhalation of water
out of their blowholes, but you can also hear them inhale immediately after, almost like a giant bellows.
|Watching the massive whales pass under the small boat is thrilling
enough, but when they actually come up for a visit -- MAGIC!
|These leviathans of the deep seem to know how big they are, and while they may
rub up against the boat, they show a lot of restraint around us smaller creatures
|We call this symbiotic tourism: we come to
visit the whales and they come to visit us!
|A gray whale dives down, only to reappear
on the other side of the boat moments later
|Ojo de Liebre is also called Scammon’s Lagoon after the American whaling captain who discovered its entrance and
proceeded to hunt down the gray whales for their oil. The worldwide population of gray whales dropped to 2,000 by the
early 1900s but is now back to around 20,000. Apparently the gray whales have forgiven us judging by their friendliness.
|A whale surfaced and blew water right in the captain's face -- a
direct hit! We all felt the mist of water from the whales' exhalations.
|Making eye contact with a baby gray
whale is something you'll never forget
|We stayed at Malarrimo Motel ($50 per night) and also did our whale watching with Malarrimo Tours ($50 pp).
This was super-easy -- all we had to do was show up at Malarrimo's van in the parking lot around 8 am.
|The daily Whale Census shows over
2,000 whales in a relatively small lagoon
|Watching close encounters with other boats
and hearing the squeals of delight is half the fun
|The lagoon is also home to sea lions, dolphins, osprey, and pelicans. Behind this
sea lion you can see the gorgeous white sand dunes that border the lagoon.
|They fill six barges per day with salt!