Every winter the Pacific gray whales migrate six thousand miles from their feeding grounds in the shallows of the North Pacific to the calm, temperate waters of the San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California.
They mate, give birth and raise their calves there before making the trip back to their feeding grounds in the shallows of the north Pacific. The twelve thousand mile (give or take) round trip is the longest yearly migration of any mammal.
These whales were hunted to near extinction - by some counts as few as five hundred remained when, in 1946, international agreements were created to protect the California grays. Since then the population has rebounded to a healthy number of approximately thirty thousand.
During their time of persecution, mothers in the lagoon charged whaling boats, injuring and killing crewmen. For this protective behavior the grays gained the nomen, Devil Fish.
After some time, humans had managed to regain the trust of the whales that had been coming to these waters for thousands of years. In 1976 Raymod Gilmore, a zoologist raised in Hawai’i, and a fervent defender of marine mammals was the first to have a “friendly” encounter with the grays when they began playing with the inflatable rafts off his whale watching boat. Curious, he climbed on to the rafts and initiated the first known physical contact between gray whale and human.
Since then, the lagoon has been known as a magical place where mother gray whales nudge their calves towards boats of eager whale watchers. It is not uncommon for the calves to come right up the to the little fishing boats like puppy dogs waiting to be pet. My sister even kissed a whale.
To experience this magical interspecies connection just make your way down south of the border between the months of February and April. It is a trip you will never forget.
Many thanks to the NRDC, Baja Discovery and their amazing guides for making this trip possible. The experience was beyond my expectations and our guides, accommodations, food, everything, was beyond incredible. Thank you thank you thank you!