The Gray Whale: A natural sight to behold

José Carlos Figueroa


Gray Whale

Nature offers wonderful events for the delight of mankind. The infinite starry sky, the beautiful snow that paints the countryside white, the charming dawn along with the sound of birdsong, the incomparable blooming of flowers, the enigmatic sunsets, the placid dancing of the waves in the ocean and the fascinating interaction between animals are just some of the miraculous examples of the world's beauty. But one of the most amazing events is undoubtedly, the sighting of the largest animal in the world: the whale.

Artic OceanThe gray whale is born in Mexican waters off the coast of Baja. They are friendly and playful creatures that can grow up to 50 feet long and weigh up to 15 tons. Every year, at the beginning of December, thousands of gray whales from the Arctic Ocean, arrive to the warm waters of the bays of Baja, fleeing from their main predators, which are killerwhales, sharks and especially human beings.

Cortez OceanThe rich waters of the Mexican Pacific and the Sea of Cortez are safe havens that offer a diverse 'buffet' of nutritious food. The strikinggray whale is a gigantic and intelligent creature that lives on shrimps, plankton and seaweed; therefore, it is absolutely harmless to mankind. Although they are naturally black in color, this type of whale is named after the color reflected on its epidermis due to the microorganisms that adhere to it.

Spying hopThousands of gray whales come here every year to mate, then after a 12 month pregnancy period they return to give birth. The Sea of Cortez provides them with a safe environment for their reproduction. The stunning gray whales arrive in Mexican waters to play around, mate and give birth, but also to show off for the fascinated visitors; offering one of the most amazing natural sights in the world. When they find themselves by the boats these enormous mammals rise vertically out of the water and take a good look around, before 'splashing' back down into the sea. This move is called the "spying hop" and it can last as long as 30 seconds.

This event attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world and in Baja there are many great spots near the coast to enjoy this unique spectacle. The whales swim from Ensenada all the way down the coast to Los Cabos, passing through the Sea of Cortez, until they finally reach the bays of the Gulf of California, close to the states of Sinaloa and Sonora.

Gray WhaleFinally, when their young are strong enough, they return to the Bering Sea completing a round trip of over 12,500 miles. This is the longest migration route of any mammal on earth. It is an annual uninterrupted journey made from memory; therefore, this is one of the mostextraordinary animal migrations ever discovered by international science.

In order to have the incredible experience of getting close to the whales, you can hire the services of one of the many boats in the marinas of these coastal areas. The most popular spots are Guerrero Negro, Magdalena Bay, Ojo de Liebre lagoon as well as the San Ignacio lagoon. The two last spots have been declared as protected areas for whales, by the Mexican government. Mexico was the first country in the world to pass a federal law that protected these huge friendly animals.

Alaska watersThe gray whales, coming from the icy waters of Alaska and the Bering Sea, start theirmigration southwards at the beginning of October, reaching the coasts of Baja by mid December where they will remain until March, at which point they will return to the Arctic. During the month of January is when there are the mostwhales in the area, therefore this is the best season to come and admire them. Dawn and dusk are the best times to watch these fascinating and extraordinary marine mammals.

The fact that these animals mate and breed in Mexican waters, is source of national pride and it has become one of the main tourist attractions in northern Mexico. In fact it is considered as one of the most marvelous natural events on the planet. For all those visitingBaja, having the opportunity to watch a gray whale will be the most important and exciting attraction of your trip. This once in a lifetime experience is definitely an outstanding sight to behold.