The moms are huge, as long as 50 feet and as heavy as 40 tons, and their calves are sizeable, too. At birth, they generally weigh more than a ton and are around 15 feet long. Yet gray whales are amazingly graceful as they glide together through the water, in a seemingly choreographed synchronized swim.
For millions of years, hundreds of gray whales have migrated from Alaska to Baja and back to Alaska, an annual trek that can be observed from the shore or on boats as they make their journey. I caught up with them last week in San Ignacio Lagoon.
Gray whales have been a curiosity of mine for years. Growing up and living in California for most of my life, including stints in Newport Beach, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Encinitas and Mendocino, I’ve observed the migratory sojourn of these majestic behemoths, knowing that they headed to the warm coastal waters of Baja for the winter and for birthing.
So for spring break, I took my 18-year-old daughter on what I hoped would be an up-close, whale-watching adventure. It was all of that—and a bit of a surprise to her. She envisioned herself at a fancy resort, tanning on a sunny beach or poolside, and hanging out at clubs after dark. We got plenty of sun on our weeklong eco-adventure with Baja Expeditions, but our digs were rustic—a dusty tent camp powered by wind and solar energy, with cots instead of plush beds. Needless to say, we were miles from civilization, pools or nightclubs.
To visit the whales, we took a 25-foot fiberglass skiff into the bay. Our escapade consisted of two outings each day to observe the whales as they swam, rolled and frolicked in the lagoon. At this time of year, it’s just the moms and their calves, and they swim in pairs most of the time. Even when they separated, it wasn't for long. The whales were friendly, seemingly driven by curiosity, and they approached the boats. They would offer their head for petting or a splash of water or, as if to show everyone who’s in charge, they would swim under the boat and gently lift it out of the water—a sort of Baja whale surf ride.
The camp staff cooked all of our meals, and to my surprise, we had some excellent Baja wines from L.A. Cetto. While the Chardonnay and white table wine were more ordinary than special, the 2004 Cabernet Valle de Guadalupe had real substance, depth, varietal character and balance. It gave me something to think about—besides whales—as darkness settled in and we watched a full moon rise from the east and light the desert.
Steven Glazer — Orinda — April 9, 2007 8:34pm ET
Robert Febres Cordero — Downey, CA — April 10, 2007 1:33am ET
John C Winkelmann — Cincinnai — April 10, 2007 2:34pm ET
Anacleto Ludovic — paris france — April 10, 2007 2:42pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — April 10, 2007 2:48pm ET
Guillermo Ysusi — Mexico, D.F. — October 24, 2008 4:53am ET
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