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The Great Migration: Baja Grey Whales

It was our second day at Don Eddie’s campground, near San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico. We were joined by another overlanding crew: Colin, Carrie, and their little dog, Sprite, from Wake the Dead Diaries. We met these fine folks a few days earlier at the San Diego KOA, just before we crossed the border into Tijuana. Like us, they are migrating southward to Ushuaia, Argentina.

 

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Colin and Carrie have had many adventures in Westfalia vans. Unfortunately they kept experiencing reliability issues with their ’87 Syncro so they decided to do the big Pan-American trip with a ’02 Toyota Tundra 4WD camper. While Gregor was fixing Lucky’s collapsing fuel tank, I was thinking that this couple may have made a smart choice to switch vehicles.

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As we shared our travel plans, Carrie mentioned that we were in the middle of the grey whale migration season in Baja. Each year, about 20,000 grey whales migrate from as far north as Alaska down the Pacific coast to the Baja peninsula. Their goal is to return to their original birthplace and have babies in the shallow lagoons where they are safe from orcas, their only natural predators.

Several towns along the Pacific lagoons offer whale watching tours. Gregor and I decided to head for Laguna San Ignacio to witness the great migration. What a fantastic experience!

San Quintin to San Ignacio
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It took us two days to get from San Quintin to Laguna San Ignacio. We don’t trust the driving times from Google Maps any more. Now we add at least 50% more travel time than what Google predicts.

We crossed hundreds of kilometres of desert to get to the lagoons.
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We crossed hundreds of kilometres of desert to get to the lagoons.

Monster cactus
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Monster cactus

The last 45 minutes of our drive into camp was a rough washboard dirt road.
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The last 45 minutes of our drive into camp was a rough washboard dirt road.

Kuyima offers eco-friendly camping facilities and whale watching tours.
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Kuyima offers eco-friendly camping facilities and whale watching tours.

We had a beautiful campsite along the lagoon. From our van, we could see whales spurting water from their blowholes.
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We had a beautiful campsite along the lagoon. The white border that marks our campsite is made of seashells. From our van, we could see whales in the distance spurting water from their blowholes.

Laura, a camp guide from El Salvador, gave us an orientation in English.
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Laura, our camp guide from El Salvador, gave us an orientation in English.

We watched whales from a little six-seater motor boat. It cost us $50 USD per person.
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We watched whales from a little six-seater motor boat. It cost us $50 USD per person.

Mama whale is checking us out. No zoom lens - that’s how close she was!
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Mama whale is checking us out. No zoom lens – that’s how close she was!

Gregor on GoPro duty
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Gregor on GoPro duty

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Mama whale

Mama and baby approaching Gregor
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Mama and baby approaching Gregor

Mama and baby swimming under the boat!
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Mama and baby swimming under the boat!

A fine whale watching day
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A fine whale watching day

We must have seen about 30 different whales – mothers with calves, bulls chasing females, single whales showing off their tails. We even saw two particularly frisky whales mating!

Gregor took some awesome GoPro footage of the whales above and under the water, but unfortunately the WiFi here is so slow that we can’t possibly upload any videos.

I could try to describe what we saw and heard, but I don’t think I would really capture it. The whales are truly majestic and awesome to watch. So freaky that these huge creatures will travel such long distances and risk their lives against the elements to return home and have babies.

The grey whales are so gentle that it’s hard to believe they were once hunted to near extinction in these lagoons. We were happy to find out that the federal government and research organizations here in Mexico are protecting the migration waters so that others can enjoy these whales for years to come.

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12 thoughts on “The Great Migration: Baja Grey Whales

  1. Carrie St.Clair

    I LOVE the picture of the mama whale with her head sticking straight out of the water. Great post!!! And what nice folks you have met 🙂

    1. Gregor

      Hi Carrie. Yup, we met some great folks :-). Hope you guys are doing ok. Janice and I are still in overlander oasis just outside of Oaxaca, sicker than dogs.

  2. Kira

    Love reading about the journey! We just got back from the Flordia Keys. Can’t wait for the next post!

    1. Janice Post author

      Thanks, Kira. We finally have some good Internet access, so I’m catching up on blog posts.

    1. Janice Post author

      Are you seeing icebergs out the window? If so, I’m jealous because I think icebergs are pretty amazing.

    1. Janice Post author

      Ev, I often think of your decision many years ago to pursue a new life in Winnipeg Beach and I still think to myself: “If she can do it, so can we!”

  3. Maria FB

    My husband told me about your awesome adventure and I read through the entries yesterday. What a terrific feat! We are just wrapping up our 5 week Costa Rica adventure and love to hear about others who don’t worry about “what they should be doing” just living out their dreams. So happy to read about it. Best of Luck during your travels! BTW, we heard about your blog from Tim Ferris, what a great rolemodel!

    1. Janice Post author

      Hi Maria, thanks for connecting with us. You have some great details in your Costa Rica blog – I’ll definitely refer back to your posts as we approach CR. So cool that you spent 5 weeks there! Hope that you have a safe journey back and that you’ll continue to share your adventures in the future. Yes, Tim Ferris has been a great inspiration and if we even only experience a fraction of what he has seen and done, we’re doing pretty good.

  4. Janice S.

    Fantastic!

    In addition to the fabulous whale photos, my favourite pic is the one of the monster cactus next to the van.

    Oh, and love the seashells marking the boundary of your campsite.

    Love hearing about your adventures.

    1. Janice Post author

      I swear you are our biggest blog fan, Janice! We’re stumbling on some pretty cool things. Thanks for encouraging us to write about our adventures 🙂