Imagine traveling 2000 miles to Mexico to hook up

No, I’m not talking about spring break, I’m talking about the migration of the gray whales.  Every winter they travel from their Arctic home to warm(er) protected bays thousands of miles away.   Baja has three such bays: Ojo Libres, San Ignacio and Magdalena.  The first two are roughly half way down the Baja peninsula, while the latter is much further down towards the tip.  Since we were driving by this remote corner of the world we decided to stop.  In fact, we came back the next year and tried it again.   The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaino is on of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mexico for a good reason.

You will see whales; lots of whales

lots of whales Both Ojo Libre and San Ignacio offer whale watching tours on small 15 person pongas.  You will see whales; lots of whales very up close and personal.  In the early season you might see whales mating and definitely see tiny whale calves.  In the end of the season, the calves are a bit bigger (drinking 50 gallons of milk a day does that) and the mothers will permit, even encourage, interaction with the boats.  The primary difference is the isolation of San Ignacio, while Ojo Libre is accessed through the active port of Guerrero Negro.

You board the small boats for the most intimate tour you could imagine

whale bones
boat and salt hills

Both tours start with caring, local guides who describe the whale migration and the importance of ecotourism in preserving the future of these birthing lagoons and the species. You pass through salt fields on both tours but they are different. You can either stand in the empty, otherworldliness of a deserted salt flat, or you can watch the heavy equipment of the world’s largest salt works (9 million metric tons a year!) loading barges to be hauled out of the shallow lagoon to the offshore processing island. Next, you board the small boats for the most intimate tour you could imagine.  With any luck, you will encounter a friendly whale who notices you and enjoys your presence.



Mothers would lift their babies up to the surface to be petted, scratched or kissed

Petting baby whales
kissing baby whales

The friendly whale behavior was first observed in San Ignacio lagoon in the spring of 1976.  Whales began to approach the tour boats.  Mothers would lift their babies up to the surface to be petted, scratched or kissed.  Ojo Libres has the largest whale population, but also the most area for the whales to roam defiant of the busy commercial shipping in the area.  Perhaps this is why we encountered more friendlies in San Ignacio?  Perhaps we had a bad draw in Guerrero Negro.  There were some people in other boats who had a bit of whale play time.  By any reasonable standard, a whale watching trip with a hundred whales, including babies, that were just off the boat is amazing- even without a whale kiss.

We felt connected in the eco retreat at San Ignacio

Kuyima from water

One thing was certain, we felt connected in the eco retreat at San Ignacio in a way that you could never feel with a three hour tour of a salt port.  We camped in a shack that was whipped with the breeze all night. We washed in a bucket of hot water from the solar tubes and made sure we put a little sawdust into the composting toilets.  Meal times were almost as special as the whales.  We would drink beers and eat freshly caught scallops as our guide and host, Carlos would play his guitar and talk about his love for the sea and the Ballena Gris.  Our advice….anyway you can see the whales should not be passed up and we all enjoyed the brief tour at Ojo Libres before driving on to Loreto.  However, we were forever changed with our nights spent at Kuyima Eco Resort living, breathing and sleeping in the presence of these magnificent animals.

Whale watching on the Baja was truly a bucket list animal encounter that will never be forgotten!  If you love animals, you should check out these 30 bucket list animal and wildlife experiences around the world.


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