Viewing and interacting with the friendly grey whales of Mexico’s Baja California Sur is one of the most memorable wildlife encounters possible in North America.
Over 10,000 Grey Whales migrate south each year from the cold waters of Alaska, and are easily viewed in three unique bays located in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, including Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Laguna San Ignacio, and Bahia Magdalena.
The Mexican government strictly regulates access to these remote lagoons to ensure that human activities do not affect these whales. The gray whales use these protected lagoons for both mating and birthing.
Fighting their way back from the brink of extinction on two occasions over the last century, like other large whales, gray whales were commercially hunted and their numbers were reduced to just a few hundred over the years.
Today the friendly grey whales of Mexico Baja California Sur are a remarkable story in conservation and the positive power of tourism to conserve and protect these magnificent creatures. In fact, in 1995 this population of grey whales was removed from the endangered species list. Population estimates indicate that there are more than 20,000 gray whales in the eastern Pacific, approximately equal to estimates of the historic population.
Here are a few whale watching tips to keep in mind as you plan your trip to view the friendly grey whales of Mexico’s Baja California Sur.
Don’t Miss San Ignacio for the “Friendlies”
Gray whales are 52 feet long and weigh 36 tons, yet are gentle enough to touch. San Ignacio boasts the most ‘friendly whales’, a pod that seems to have over some time, developed an affinity with the tourists that come to whale watch in Baja.
Called “friendlies” by whale watching tourists, many whales now seek human contact in the Baja lagoons. Don’t be surprised if these whales swim right up to the boats and even allow human contact. In some cases, mothers will even lift their babies up to the boat so they can have a better look.
Towards the end of the winter season the calves become quite curious about the tourist boats and some of the mother whales allow their babies to spend time with the tourists.
Here you’ll also see most of the males and juveniles spending time outside the lagoons and may even be seen “surfing” and playing in the waves that may form on top of the sand bars that form at the entrance to the lagoons.
Plan For Several Excursions and Small Boats for the best Viewing Potential
While highly regulated, each whale-watching excursion is two-hours in length. It’s possible to do two excursions per day, and we suggest planning for several days of excursions for the best possibility of seeing and interacting with the whales.
Be sure your operator uses a small boat that takes between 6-8 people at a time. The larger boats simple do not allow for the best viewing, as you may be 20 feet or more above the surface of the sea.
In a small boat you’ll be sitting low on the water, putting you practically at eye level with the whales. If a whale approaches the boat, there is no need to jostle for position. You’ll be assured a great look and excellent opportunity to photograph the whales. Small groups also mean more personalized interactions with the guides, who are extremely knowledgeable about the whales’ behavior and their habitat.
The main whale-watching season in Mexico’s Baja California Sur is from early February to the end of April.