March 25, 2005

Grey whales: a millenary visitor of Baja California

Photos and text by Luis Alonso Pérez

For centuries, the first settlers of the peninsula of Baja California observed and admired the gigantic marine animals, which year after year visited their seas to mate or give birth to a new creature, who years later will return to their coasts to continue with a millenary life cycle.

Today, the increasing industry of the ecotourism in Baja California offers travelers who visit the peninsula the opportunity to observe these majestic giants and if they are lucky, get close enough to touch their thick gray skin.

It’s hard to believe the nobility and intelligence in which whales approach some of the tourist’s boats to play or to be caressed, when less than half a century ago they where known as devil fish, due to the force and skill with which they struck and sometimes turned the boats of ruthless fishermen who commercially exploited this species, tinting red the coasts of the peninsula and nearly taking the gray whale to a total extinction.

Now, the friendship cycle between humans and whales has been amended, because of the prohibition of their commercial exploitation and the declaration of its sanctuaries as patrimonies of humanity, which assures its protection before national and international laws. As a consequence, the population of these marine mammals has reached stable levels and although they are no longer considered in danger of extinction, its future is still at risk.

For several years now, you can find ports long of the peninsula, with boats offering whale watching trips. Some of the best known spots are Ensenada, Ojo de Liebre lagoon in Guerrero Negro and the lagoon of San Ignacio, an old and colorful town founded by Jesuit missionaries in the XVII century.

San Ignacio is one of the best known destinations for tourists and whales investigators, because of the small size of the lagoon and the many companies offering sighting trips. One of the favorites among national and international tourists is Kuy-ima, an ecological lodge that offers boat trips, as well as full lodging and food services.

For many travelers, the whale watching trip is a unique experience that can be enjoyed between the months of December and April. In an hour and a half boat ride, visitors can observe from near distance the courting and mating rituals at the beginning of the season, or watch the mothers with their young ones at the end of the season. And if you are lucky, whales come near the boat to play with humans.

Many whales approach the boats to play with the visitors, the same way a dog plays with its owner, but with a few tons of difference. The gentile and playful way they swim near the boats or let visitors touch their skin demonstrates their highly developed intelligence and their jokes, like spraying visitors with saltwater from their nostrils, express that although humans took them to the brink of extinction, we have been forgiven, and that relations between humans and whales have prospered once again.

Return to the Frontpage