By Kerri Moser, Baja California Magazine
The waters that surround Baja are home to the world's most incredible and amazing ecosystems. The waters are filled with aquatic life that continues to evoke mystery, wonder and respect. Of all the creatures, large and small, that call the warm and welcoming waters off the shore of Baja home, none mystify and capture the hearts of mankind more so than whales. The largest most majestic mammals of the sea mesmerize anyone lucky enough to watch their massive bodies navigate the water, break through waves, splash their enormously strong tails and give birth to their young. Whale watching off the coast of Baja is an experience that makes the to-do list of any adventurer who desires to see the earth's most fascinating creatures up close and in their natural habitat.
While there are many types of whales that call Baja home, none are more revered than the gray whale. Gray whales are the largest and can measure over 100 feet long. They can weigh up to 150 tons. These giants of the sea also make the longest migration of any creature on Earth. They travel over 10,000 miles a year making their migration from the frigid Bering Sea off of Alaska to the warm, clear, and tranquil lagoons off of the coast of Baja. They spend the summer months enjoying the constant sunshine and plentiful supply of zooplankton off the shores of Alaska then navigate down to spend January through March in the waters of Baja. They give birth at this time and spend their Baja vacations teaching their calves to swim and play, preparing them for the long trip back up north. Visitors at this time can see hundreds of whales birthing their young in the shallow lagoons. Trips out to sea to enjoy the sights, sounds, and the once in a lifetime touch of a gray whale are hugely popular.
During the 1840's and on into the mid-20th century, over hunting by whaling ships greatly diminished and nearly wiped out the gray whale population. With roughly only 500 left in existence around the 1940's, the Mexican government moved to protect the waters and the whales from the brink of extinction. Scientists also intervened, realizing these mammals of the sea have a lot to teach us measly humans. Thanks to efforts started in the 1940's, the gray whale population has recovered to over 20,000 and is no longer endangered. The lagoons where they blissfully birth and introduce their young to the world are protected waters and give people the best opportunity to see these creatures.
Other whale species that can be seen off the coast of Baja are pilot whales, finback whales and blue whales.
The whales enjoy watching and studying people as much as we do them. The moms and young alike will often nudge up against boats, looking to be touched. Scientists believe they seek out human touch as a form of pleasure stimuli. Most whale watching tours in Baja can promise the closest encounters you can find of Earth. However, as with any unpredictable and wild animal, respect and caution are advised. Reputable whale watching exhibitions on Baja boats will teach tourists all they need to know before they experience the largest and most interesting creatures that share our world.