February 25, 2020 ~ Ojo de Liebre Lagoon
Laguna Ojo de Liebre lies along the Pacific Ocean, about half way between the U.S.-Mexico border and the southern tip of Baja. The lagoon was formerly known as Scammon’s Lagoon, named after Charles Melville Scammon, a whaling captain who discovered this breeding ground back in 1857.
For a period of 15 years, whalers returned and slaughtered 100’s of gray whales for their oil. By 1873, the whale population was so low, and the amount of oil obtained so greatly reduced, that they abandoned hunting there.
Today, located just outside of the town of Guerrero Negro, the lagoon is within the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a protected crucial habitat for the wintering and reproduction of the gray whale, harbor seal, and other marine mammals including the blue whale, California sea lion, and the northern elephant seal. Additionally, it is a refuge for waterfowl in the winter and four species of endangered marine turtles.
Gray whales are thought to have the longest migration of any marine mammal, traveling between 10,000 to 12,500 miles between their breeding grounds in Baja, to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic, off of Alaska and Russian shores.
A full grown gray whale will be 40-50 feet long and weigh 30-40 tons
There are only three lagoons in the world where gray whales give birth, and all three are in Baja. Besides here at Guerrero Negro, the other locations are San Ignacio and Bahia Magdalena. The lagoons are protected from the open ocean and are shallow. The gray whales only known enemy (other than man) is the orca (killer whale) and they will not enter the shallow water. This is the perfect environment for mothers to nurse their newborn calves, teach them to swim, feed, dive and interact with other whales.
It is in this lagoon, in Baja, that the pregnant females arrive first from late December to mid January to give birth. By early to mid February the bulk of the whales have arrived and the lagoon is filled with nursing, calving and mating whales.
We arrived early in the hopes of getting on the boat captained by Gil, (we succeeded), who Dick and Karen had gotten to know over several trips here. In peak season, boats fill up fast and can sell out.
It did not take us long to get out to the area where we began to see whales. They actually enjoy interacting with humans, and will even bring their young right up to the boat. The squeals, laughter and hollering was only surpassed by the number of photos taken by all on board.
What a thrill it was (and that is an understatement) to reach out and actually touch them!
Gil reached in the water and pulled out this beautiful blue jellyfish for us to see. The color was stunning. I don’t remember the exact name he called it, but he said it was harmless to hold
Sadly, far too soon our time was over, and we had to return to shore.
We were all starving by now, so treated ourselves to a delicious lunch at Santo Remedio back in Guerrero Negro.
But, our day was not over. Gil had graciously invited the four of us to his home for dinner. We brought the wine, his wife made homemade tortillas and salsa, and Gil fried huge batches of shrimp and freshly caught fish.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Well, first and foremost, I’m so grateful that Dick and Karen were persistent in telling us about this incredible and unforgettable place. And, even after our initial reluctance, managed to convince us that it was safe to travel by car down here. To have the opportunity to commune so closely with these magnificent and HUGE creatures is beyond awe inspiring. I somehow KNEW that I had made a connection when looking directly in the eye of one of our visitors. This is an experience I will never forget, and am so thankful for the opportunity. Also a very special thank you to Gil and his family for welcoming us, preparing a delicious meal and making us feel so at home.
COMING NEXT: Our RV trip to Puerto Penasco, Mexico
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