Vea esta publicación en español.
Every year, the warm waters surrounding Baja California, Mexico provide a wonderful natural spectacle: the arrival of hundreds of impressive gray whales. These cetaceans measure up to 50 feet (15 m) long and weigh up to 40 tons. They make migrations of more than 12,400 miles (20,000 km) to escape the temperate waters of the Arctic Ocean, staying in the Mexican Pacific and the Sea of Cortez from mid-December to April.
Pleasant temperatures aren't the only draw -- nutrient-rich food sources are highly available, and they are safe from their main predators: orcas, sharks, and humans. In this ideal habitat, the gray whales court, mate, and reproduce, primarily in the lagoons of San Ignacio, Manuela, Guerrero Negro, and Ojo de Liebre. These important whale habitats are protected by the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, and Ojo de Liebre Lagoon was declared a gray whale sanctuary by the Mexican government.
Thousands of tourists travel each year to Baja California to see the newborn calves and adult gray whales, one of the most active and friendliest of the large whales. They are easily found in the waves of very shallow water, "spy-hopping" (popping up out of the water to take a look), showing their tail fin, and breaching.
There are many points along the bay that have boats for whale watching. Because whale tourism has grown so much and is so important to local economies, the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Federal Attorney General for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) regulate these vessels, giving those who have met the approved operating standards an orange flag bearing a whale. So if you're planning on going whale watching in Baja California, be sure to look for the orange flag before booking with a boat tour!
These regulations determine, for example, the sites for whale watching, the minimum allowable distance that a vessel can be from a whale, and the type of approach; they also ban the entry of vessels into the lagoons. Thanks to this protection, gray whale spotting in Baja California has become a global example of sustainable tourism and the population of this species is stable.
While watching for gray whales, tourists can observe other marine species such as sea lions, dolphins, gannets, and pelicans. Along the coast, there are a number of beautiful beaches and small communities with many lodging options, and a range of other activities such as diving, fishing, and sailing. There are many large luxury hotels, mainly in the famed Los Cabos. Major attractions include the world's third largest dolphinarium in San Jose del Cabo.
Venture to admire the wonderful gray whales while getting to know the beauty of Baja California! Here are some sustainable businesses to check out while planning your stay: