No Wrong Turns: Whale Watching in the Baja

Who didn’t adore Whalerider? I loved that movie. Call me cheesy, but how cool would it be to ride a whale? OK, maybe not ride it, but what about touching one or giving one a big ‘ol hug?

After speaking to locals around the Baja Sur area I learned that one of the oldest mammals on earth, the gray whale, migrates yearly from Alaska all the way to Mexico. Their migration begins in October in the Bering and Chukchi seas and ends early January, in the Baja Peninsula. They travel over 12, 500 miles to give birth in the safer waters of Mexico and remain in the Baja until mid-March, and when the calves are strong enough, they make the journey back to the icy waters of Alaska for summer feeding.

Rumor has it that in the 1970’s a lone fisherman was out in the waters by San Ignacio and found himself, and his little boat, side by side with a large gray whale. Terrified that the whale might knock the boat over, he waited hoping that it would leave. The whale remained nearby and, after mustering up some courage and probably saying a prayer, he timidly reached out and touched the whale. And so, a tourist destination was born.

There are many whale-watching tour companies to choose from offering visitors the chance to see and touch the whales up close. Some of the more well-known places are Guerrero Negro, Loreto, and San Ignacio. The whales aren’t shy and, both the adults and babies, will swim right up to the boat allowing tourists the chance to see these huge, peaceful animals up close and personal. Whale-watching season officially begins December 15th and lasts until April 15th.

If the thought of getting in a tiny boat to pet a whale is unsettling, you can head out to the beaches near Todos Santos and spot these large creatures about 20 meters off the sand. We wandered down about a week ago and I was astonished at how close the whales actually are to the beach: you can see and hear them spray water from their blowholes. We even heard about a guy going out to swim with them. Hmmm…too bad I wasn’t more of a whaler rider…

“No Wrong Turns” chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.