I’ve known about the gray whales of San Ignacio in Baja California Sur, Mexico for a while but I was unsure about how to get there. I had previously used Nautilus Live Aboards for my great white shark diving expedition and found that they had a trip going to San Ignacio. And just like that another adventure had been placed on the calendar! Nautilus and Baja Expeditions work in partnership to make these trips such and awesome experience!
I arrived in Los Cabos, Mexico the day before my scheduled departure to San Ignacio and took a shuttle to Cabo San Lucas. Upon my arrival I was given a covid test and then I checked into the Barcelo. The Barcelo is a 5 star all inclusive resort that is situated on the beach and it’s absolutely amazing!
The next morning I was picked up by a shuttle van and transported to the airport. You can only get to San Ignacio via airplane and it has to be a private charter since there is not an actual airport there. After a 2 hour flight we landed on a dirt runway in the middle of nowhere. We were greeted by 4 people with champagne flutes and they quickly gave us the rundown of what to expect for the rest of the day. We were then given rain boots, a rain jacket, and a life vest for the boat ride to our first gray whale outing. Our luggage was transported separately and would be waiting for us once we returned to camp. The camp is situated on the otherside of the vast body of water that separated us from the dirt landing strip.
Here’s a little background on these gray whales~ Baja California’s San Ignacio Lagoon is the primary calving ground for the eastern pacific gray whale. These massive creatures make the long-haul trip down from Arctic waters all the way down to Baja each year to give birth and raise their newborn calves. The large concentration of gray whales that reside here each winter are extremely ‘friendly,’ and regularly approach the small whale watching pangas (skiffs or boats) in a moving display that occurs nowhere else. The area serves as a refuge for reproduction for grey whales, bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, northern elephant seals, blue whales, and four species of marine turtles.
Once we arrived at our first whale watching site we immediately seen whales diving in and out of the water. They were everywhere! It was kind of startling to see so many whales around us and they were super close to the panga. So there is a saying in Baja, “You don’t choose the whale, the whale chooses you”. Although we had seen many whale none had approached our panga. I had seen many pictures and videos of people touching, petting, and even kissing these gray whales but I didn’t know if that would happen on my trip. I mean, these are wild animals so the interaction is not guaranteed.
More time had gone by and we had moved to several locations within the lagoon. The amount of whales that we seen never changed but none had been friendly enough to approach our panga. I was kind of disappointed but knew that there would be more opportunities for me to get lucky enough to have the experience that I came for.
Day 2 out on the water was a little different. Once we arrived in the lagoon, a whale approached our panga and stayed for at least an hour. I was in total shock. I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening. Everything that I had read and seen was happening right before my eyes. Looking into the eye of the gray whale almost had me in some kind of magical trans. It was simply amazing! Sometimes in life there are things that happen to you that you can only explain to a certain point and unless the person that you are explaining it to was there also they wouldn’t understand.
For these rest of the day we had so many whales approach our boat. They are super friendly and love the human interaction. I’ve done many things while on this bucketlist journey and this one will remain close to the top.
There are several companies in Baja that do gray whale tours but this is not just about tourism, this is a community of people that love what they do and they care greatly about these whales. While out on the water we witnessed a beached whale that was stranded in a shallow part of the lagoon. We thought she might be dead but as we approached she started moving her head and tail. Our tour guide was able to radio in requesting help and assistance to try and move the whale. Several boats came and it was definitely a collective effort. Cheers were heard from everyone around once the whale was free.
As I stated before this area is in a remote part of Mexico. Meaning that there are no hotels but there are glamping accommodations and I love a glamping experience! The camp sits on the beach with a beautiful view. The tents are windproof, insulated and heated for maximum comfort, with ensuite bathrooms and showers, hot and cold running water with good pressure, and 24-hour power. Not to mention “real beds” with fine linen.
Baja Expeditions and Nautilus put significant thought into every detail, from a fire pit to a fine selection of wine, craft beer, and fine dining. There is even Wi-Fi access throughout the camp. Check out a few of the meals below.
If you’ve ever heard about the journey of the gray whales from the artic waters to Baja and you want the experience of a lifetime look no further. Click on the links below for more information!
💡Fun Fact ~ Did you know that when a gray whale reaches the surface, its double-plumed blow hole releases a mist and it rises up to 12 feet! The mist is condensed air expelled under high pressure from the lungs. A whale can expel 100 gallons of air in a single blast.
*Bring warm clothes for the evening time when you are at the camp and have something warm to wear for the early morning outings on the water.
*Bring a rain suit (jacket and pant) to put over you clothes so that your not constantly getting your clothes wet.