Some days are good, some days are bad and some days are EPIC, this was most definitely an epic day!
Baja will remain special in our hearts forever, not for its beautiful beaches or its rugged untamed deserts or even its pretty colonial towns, we loved all of these of course, but what made Baja so special were the whales and an experience that will remain with us always
Our main reason for coming to Baja is to see the whales, I have done the research, read all about them on National Geographic and am super, super excited that we are going to be here at exactly the right time to see them. Every year between December and April, Grey Whales migrate from the cold waters of Alaska to mate and calve in the warm waters of two or three lagoons along the Baja Pacific coast, this is the only place in the world where they do this. Whale watching along this coast is world renowned and known for where you can get up close and personal with a whale, literally, up close as I have read you can actually touch them! John is sceptical - that's me! Mr Doubting Thomas. All too often you get excited about doing or seeing something only to find it doesn't live up to the hype....but this time was the exception
Our Canadian friends who we were travelling with have heard good things about San Ignacio Lagoon so this is where we head for, campsite, Kuyima Eco Lodge is 16km from the San Ignacio town on a dirt track with enough washboard road to make you feel you are going off on a real adventure, they offer camping in tents but we opted to stay in our vans, at a cost of $7pppn, and sign up for the Whale Watching Tour the following morning for $50pp (US Dollar) - I am so excited, I'm like a kid on Christmas eve, i'm not sure i'm going to be able to sleep
The drive out to camp is pretty remote, but you do get to see some Osprey on the way
We arrive early evening and are treated to a wonderful sunset at the camp
We turn up at 9 am for our briefing about the tour, there are 220 whales in the lagoon - here I go... nobody actually counted them but the experts estimated this number. We did see a lot though, I was impressed! - we will definitely see whales but they can't guarantee we will be able to touch any, the Whales have to approach the boat, the boat is not allowed to approach the whales. Each boat or Panga as they are called hold around 10 people plus your trusty Captain who we are hoping knows the best place to hang out and find the whale who wants a tickle
Now I have been on a few Whale Watching tours in my time and if you get to see a whale breach you feel like you have got your monies worth, if you get to see two whales breach then you have definitely hit the jackpot! As we were riding out to the lagoon on the boat, whales seemed to be popping up everywhere, it was like we were in Whale central station and it was rush hour! We really didn't know where to look next as whales popped up and down like "whack a mole" and we tried to catch them with our cameras, If we didn't see them we could hear them venting their blowholes, it was truly amazing, but none of them were approaching our boat. I consoled myself that if this was any other whale watching tour then I would be ecstatic that we had seen so many, without any exaggeration we must have seen 30 if not more. Our lovely Captain tried a few different spots and then waited and waited and finally, our whale came
The Whales were breaching all around us, we didn't know which way to look, as everyone in the boat is shouting there's one
The whale was with us for a good 30minutes, rolling over getting her belly rubbed, swimming under the boat and around again, even opening her mouth so she could have a good old tongue scratch, every so often her blowhole gave us a salty shower which made the whole boat shriek with delight, she so obviously enjoyed the human contact and wanted to be petted, it was difficult to tell who was getting the most out of this experience us or the whale. I, on the other hand, spent most of my time crying because I was so overwhelmed to be touching a whale. (I didn't know where to look, bless!)
Yes, that is MY HAND touching a whale!!!!
She has her eye closed in this picture but she did look right at me a couple of times, and I honestly felt a connection, it was almost as if she was saying thank you
What makes this already incredible experience even more amazing is that these whales were ruthlessly hunted in the late 19th, early 20th Century, almost to the point of extinction, they had a reputation for being dangerous as they attacked the fishing boats, overturning them. Sometime in the 1970's the whales started to approach the fishermen's boats often with their calves as if to come in peace, since then there has been a special relationship between the whales their calves and humans, a trust has been formed, fishermen have become the protectors no longer the hunter.
This was a never to be forgotten day, totally epic and definitely up there with my top life experiences after giving birth, and a lot less painful! (yes, I'll vouch for that) I read an article that Stephen Fry visited San Ignacio and his response to his day with the whales was
"Suck my pants and call me Noreen," he said. "That was the best day of my life. What a phenomenal experience. Epic. Epic. Epic." Think that pretty much sums it up!