Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Whalewatching in Laguna San Ignacio

Yet another land-based excursion! We had been dreaming of visiting the gray whales ever since we kayaked with them in Scammon's Lagoon 30 years ago (at that point kayaking was still allowed there). Our friends Steve and Laurie had the same dream, so we decided to go together. Steve and Laurie flew in to Loreto, and we drove up from La Paz to pick them up for the drive north to San Ignacio. On the way, we stopped for a terrific view of one of the coves in Bahia ConcepciĆ³n.

We arrived at Pachico's Ecotours camp about 4 hours after leaving Loreto. The last 20 miles or so were unpaved, but not particularly rough. The shore of the lagoon is rather stark and desolate. The camp's facilities are being upgraded by Pachico's son Jesus and his wife. They are building an "Earthship" main lodge out of discarded tires and other recycled materials.

After we got there, Jesus gave us an orientation to the area and our activities. He was raised here, but has worked far and wide guiding scuba divers, kayakers, and other outdoor adventurers. We really enjoyed getting to know him.

We had time that first evening to hike along the shore to a pile of old whalebones.

The next morning, we got to go out with Jesus's father Pachico, one of the original guides to discover how friendly these whales could be. We felt very lucky to have chosen Pachico and Jesus as our guides. They added a lot to our experience, and helped us understand what we were seeing.

As you can see, we were pretty anxious to see the whales.

Thar she blows!

There were amorous couples (and threesomes) that we didn't dare approach too closely, very pregnant looking females, and a few newborn calves, closely accompanying their mothers.

At the end of the first day, we came back for another night at the camp. The bungalows are small but weathertight, and with a terrific view of the lagoon. The solar showers were not quite ready for prime time, but Jesus and his staff heated water for us on the stove.

We spent a second day, meeting and greeting dozens of whales. Two came close enough for us all to touch. It is hard to convey the emotional impact of being this close to these magnificent animals in their native environment. We recommend this experience to everyone!

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