By Caitlin Scully, Naturalist
The final few days of our Gray Whale Baja Adventure have been a whirlwind. We have such a wonderful group of aquarium members on this trip and we all bonded over our whale experiences. The unique thing about viewing Gray Whales in the lagoons is that many of these whales chose to interact with pangas (boats) and guests. The lagoons are highly regulated and monitored, and pangas are only allowed in a small area at certain times of the day, for a limited amount of time. Some whales ignore their visitors, others are curious.
Every trip out onto the water is different, and each boat on the water has a different experience. All are wonderful. When the small pangas leave the shore, everyone is on edge and looking for whales. Then, when we reach the viewing area, you can look in any direction to and see Gray Whales. The lagoons are packed with mothers, calves, males, and rambunctious teenagers. Some exhibit spectacular behaviors like breaching or splashing their pectoral fins against the water, others hold perfectly still at the surface as they nap.
If you are lucky, very lucky, a “friendly” whale will come up to your panga. It is truly a life experience to interact with an intelligent and inquisitive animal the size of a bus. My biggest piece of advice is to trust your panga driver, these men fish the lagoons during the offseason and many have been taking guests out to see the whales fore years and years. They know the whales behavior and can often tell you if they think this particular whale is “friendly” or not.
If a whale does decide to come to your boat, my best advice is to let go of any inhibitions and squeal with joy and excitement. The whales are often drawn to those who are most keen to interact and have their arms in the water. They are such big and intelligent creatures, why wouldn’t they want to come check us out? What is truly amazing is when you see the whale, especially a mother whale, swim past the panga just under the water and look at each person in the boat. Sometimes the whales will pick just person to interact with, sometimes they will interact with the entire boat, and sometimes they stay just a few inches out of your reach.
No matter what your Baja experience is, it is one that you will remember the rest of your life. The lagoons are a special place, and you feel that when you are there. Whales have been coming to these locations for thousands of years, and will hopefully continue to do so for thousands more. It is a privilege to be in their space, and we always thank them for allowing us to visit.
The long drive home on the bus is always abuzz with people’s joy and excitement over seeing these amazing creatures.
We hope you can join us for one of these once in a lifetime Baja experiences.
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