Whale Watching, Baja, Mexico

February 25, 2020 ~ Ojo de Liebre Lagoon

Laguna Ojo de Liebre at low tide

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

Migration route

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.

Office where you buy your boat ticket, small restaurant for snacks inside

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.

Tickets are not cheap, but well worth the money
The dock
Bird nest on top of awning
Tim and Karen

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.

They come right up beside the boat
Looking into her eye, I felt like we somehow communicated
Mother and calf

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

Blue jellyfish
We all wanted to get a picture, and for only a moment the whales were forgotten
With another beautiful breach, they reminded us why we had come

Sadly, far too soon our time was over, and we had to return to shore.

Karen and Dick as we head back toward the dock

We were all starving by now, so treated ourselves to a delicious lunch at Santo Remedio back in Guerrero Negro.

Santo Remedio

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.

Karen, Dick, Gil’s wife, granddaughter, Gil, Tim, Joanne

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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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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21 Responses to Whale Watching, Baja, Mexico

  1. Thanks for sharing this awesome adventure! We got to experience these magnificent creatures many years ago and we will never forget it.

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  2. I spent a week in Laguna San Ignacio to celebrate my 50th birthday. It had long been on my bucket list and did not disappoint. The entire week was magical!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a amazing experience all around. I’ve never touched a whale although our older daughter and I did see several whales during a sunset cruise in Costa Rica. Even just that was exciting. Having someone invite you into his home and fix such a delicious dinner is in many ways just as wonderful.

    janet

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  4. Glenn Lamb says:

    I really enjoyed your post Joanne. I was very surprised by the size of your boat – it looked quite small. Here in Australia you can do whale watching cruises in Hervey Bay in Queensland during August/September. Hervey Bay is also a sheltered area and mothers and calves rest here a while before continuing south to Antarctica. One of the bonuses with these cruises is that you can also get in the water and swim with the whales. It’s on our must do list.

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  5. eric.rial says:

    Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a neat experience, Joanne and a very well done post with photos. It’s been 20 years since we were there. Thanks so much for the reminder. –Curt

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  7. That is cool that you saw the whales so close. I can’t wait to get back to Baja!

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  8. I long to go out and be among the whales. I fervently hope someday to be able to travel if not to Baja, another place to see those magnificent creatures in person. Thanks for posting the pictures.

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  9. Amy Pantone says:

    This sounds like a wonderful experience, priceless I’m sure. I can only imagine, how cool to not only see them up close but to touch them too. Just wow! Our planet earth is certainly a cool place indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy, you are so right! Getting to see them was wonderful, but that they would come right up to the side of the board where we could reach out and touch them was beyond amazing. I think they were as interested in us as we were in them.

      Liked by 1 person

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