Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chasing whales on the Baja California peninsula

Original text by Mark Carwardine, executive summary by darmansjah

WHALES pass through the area from mid-December to March. HM landing has a whale-watching trip from US$28 and can arrange 11-day trips to Baja.

The Baja California peninsula in Mexico is the best place in the world for whale watching. I must have done it more than 20 times, and still love it every single time. Starting off in San Diego, you travel about 800 miles along the Pacific coast to the southern tip of the peninsula, then sail up into the Sea of Cortes.

There are whales and dolphins galore. Every time I’ve been, I’ve seen blue whales. The feeling of seeing an animal roughly the size of a Boeing 737 is phenomenal. Last time I was there, a blue whale came up alongside the boat and rolled on its side, watching us watching it.

Further down the coast, I often stop off at San Ignacio lagoon, which is a great place to see grey whales. Up until the 1930s, grey whales were hunted in San Ignacio, and called devil fish by the whalers, because they used to smash up the wooden whaling boats. Now you can go into the lagoon in exactly the same boats and the whales  will come alongside, rest their chins on the side of the boat and wait to be scratched and tickled. They somehow know that you’re friendly – it’s quite extradordinary.

During the course of the trip you move from temperate zones to the tropics, from misty, cool areas right into really hot desert. From the boat, the shore is full of stunning beaches with no-one on them at all, lined with wedges of red-orange sandstone-it’s very distinctive.

Back at the tip of the peninsula is a breeding ground for humpback whales. The courting males sing, so we put a hydrophone overboard and lie around on deck with a beer, listening to the whalesong. Each song lasts about half an hour, and you can’t believe it’s being sung by a whale. It’s so moving.

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