Whale Watching in Laguna San Ignacio

After a failed attempt the because of car trouble the day before, we headed out to Laguna San Ignacio to see the famous whales.

Washboarded Road

The road to Laguna San Ignacio starts at the southwest corner of the town of San Ignacio. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 27.29942, -112.8969  Unless you're lucky enough to drive this 45 mile road just after its dirt surface has been re-graded, you'll find that this is one of the worst washboarded roads in all of Baja California. Too much traffic and not enough maintenance. Bounce bounce bounce! Rattle rattle rattle! Ugh!!! Try letting some air out of your tires, and try varying your speed until you find one that works best for your car. For us, that speed was about 40 MPH.

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Kuyima

There are several whale-watching businesses operating at Laguna San Ignacio. We chose to stay with Ecotourismo Kuyimá, where Geoff had had a wonderful experience a few years ago. See in Google Maps See in Google Earth 26.82467, -113.1708  Kuyima was a campground by the beach, with composting toilets, saltwater sinks, solar showers, and a palapa meeting room/kitchen providing tasty meals. The optional communal lunch and dinners were served up by our jovial host Sexto. We enjoyed the opportunity to swap stories with the other guests, who were mostly Americans.

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Whales

Sexto first explained the rules, and then we were off. There were about six of us tourists and a driver in each little panga (motorboat). We had to motor for about ten minutes south to the mouth of the Laguna, a spot where the government allows whale watchers to be. As we approached, we saw plenty of whales in the distance appearing, spouting, and diving away. Occasionally we'd see a whale "spy-hop", pop its head out vertically to look around.

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It was February, the peak season for grey whales in Laguna San Ignacio. It's during this time that the mothers who have swum down from Alaska arrive to give birth to their calves. Laguna San Ignacio is known for its "friendly whales". For some reason here (and only here) these whales seem to like to interact with the tourist boats. We saw a fantastic number of whales. They would approach in ones and twos, show us their barnacle-encrusted bodies, fins, and tails. They'd swim under the boats, sometimes gently nudging them with their backs. Once in a while they'd even linger alongside long enough to let us pet them!

We weren't allowed to chase or approach the whales ourselves, but our driver would try to navigate to a spot where whales could approach us if they wanted to. We tourists would try a variety of silly ways to attract the whales, such as waving, shouting, singing, and slapping the boat or water.

We went on two whale watching trips during our stay, and they were very different. The whales were much more active on our first trip, not as "friendly" the second. We also had much rougher water our second trip, so our butts took a pounding against the hard seats as the panga bounced from wave to wave. Because you never know what conditions you'll encounter, we recommend giving yourself the time to make more than a single trip.

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Tidepooling

We were lucky to experience a very low tide, and so got a chance to explore the tideflats and reefs on foot with the water receding perhaps a half-mile out. We encountered many wonderful creatures: a purple octopus mostly tucked away in its hole, colorful coral, orange nudibranches, pen clams with their spiky conical shells, a crazy starfish with snake-like legs, a lots of moon snails and their casings, little squirmy fish that tried to hide under our toes, lots of crabs with blue claws, and a mystery creature who lived in an elaborate hole carefully lined with seashells (all we saw were its little blue eyes peering out). We recognized the pen clams as the same conical shells we had found embedded in the beach sand bank at Ojo de Liebre.

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