Saturday October 20 2018

Posted by Tomas on March 07, 2018
  • Whale Watching in Bahia Magdalena
    Whale Watching in Bahia Magdalena
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching in Bahia Magdalena
    Whale Watching in Bahia Magdalena
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
  • Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo
    Whale Watching from Puerto Lopez Mateo

 

This was my first visit to Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos in Baja California Sur. Puerto Lopez Mateo is one of the major winter calving sites of the California Grey whales and a part of a larger ecosystem of some 300 km including Bahia Magdalena and a series of lagoons north of the bay extending to Laguna Ojo de Liebre (Scammon's Lagoon) near Guerrero Negro. I have seen hundreds of whales over the years in the Pacific Baja, Mar de Cortes and in Bahia Banderas. This sighting was special.
After a five-hour drive from La Paz that included two stops for comfort and food, we arrived at the visitors’ center and arranged for a panga to take us out. There were four choices for guides and I asked each one when the next panga would be leaving. We were told it would be between 1-2 hours depending on when the pangas return.

The pangas are well maintained and hold 8-10 people. The guides charge by the hour (1300 pesos/hour as of February 2018) so you see both couples and families in the pangas. Within only 30 minutes our group of five had donned life jackets, were loaded, and on our way. Ten minutes after leaving the dock, we were near three different clusters of boats viewing mothers and calves.

It is very easy to “humanize” the behavior of the grey whales. Mother and baby. Protection and curiosity. Grey whales are the only species of whales that are people-friendly. Both mother and calf are comfortable near the pangas and approach between and beside them with ease. Mothers and calves seemed to be viewing us as we were viewing them … spy hopping, coming close and rolling slightly to view the boat and its inhabitants. The guides are careful with their seasonal grey visitors. It was interesting watching the ballet between the boats and whales. The guides and the whales in synchrony. It is this closeness that makes these sightings in the Lopez Mateos lagoon special.

According to our guide, the calves were about two months old and had grown considerably from their four-meter birth size. They were nursing and gaining about 100 pounds per day. At the end of February, they are a month or two away from returning to their summer feeding grounds in the north. Females with calves and females who have mated may remain as late as mid-May. Mothers and calves must be prepared for a 5000-6000 mile commute to their arctic feeding grounds; the mothers nursing for 6-8 months until the calves can begin to feed themselves. The grey whale’s annual migration along the west coast of the United States to Mexico and return to the Arctic is the longest of any whale species. Some of the tagged whales travel 14,000 miles each year averaging about 5 miles/hour.

We returned after a two-hour tour and had seen three mothers and calve pairs and several solo females. I left the port with a renewed feeling of connectedness with nature and the wonder of it all. I will keep returning in the hope that eventually I will be able to touch one of these magnificent creatures.


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