A Tale of Extraordinary Interaction with Gray Whale in Baja
While reading something, I came across an article which stated that traveling to places and exploring new and unknown territories of interest can increase the longevity of life. One such unexplored destination that I always wanted to travel to was Baja. From all the activities that I could do in Baja, after some extensive research, I settled for the human-whale interaction. While researching, I came to know the whale watching industry generates close to $2.1 billion a year in revenue at world level, and among all whale-watching regions, Baja offers you to experience, witness the exuberant but usually eluding aquatic mammals, when they are open to interaction.
Baja, one of the most surreal peninsulas, is situated at the westernmost end of Mexico. On the west, it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and by the Gulf of California on the east. The diversity of the peninsula makes it an interesting place, where you can entice yourself from beaches to forests, deserts to lagoons, though, the lagoons are sui generis.
It is at these lagoons, Scammon’s Lagoon, San Ignacio Lagoon and Magdalena Bay, during the winter and early days of spring, world’s most elusive whales—the gray whales, which are members of the baleen family—visit by the thousands following the shallow migratory route along the shore. These lagoons are shallow, where orcas, the only predator of gray whales, cannot prey on them. Their warmness and placidity, off the western coast, make them suitable for birthing and nursing of young calves. The young offsprings spend almost two to four months and then embark on their northward migration, just like migratory birds, to the colder feeding region.
I was told, at this time, when gray whales, instinctively, should be most aggressive, they mingle and socialize with humans, contrary to all assumptions. They in hordes, mob the boats filled with people, let onlookers feel their faces, and some even get to rub the mouths and tongues, as if they are domesticated creatures, receiving their owner after a long time. Given my skeptic nature, the description to me, looked exaggerated and fanciful, until I had my intimate experience with those spirited, 25-ton and almost 40-foot-long, agile creatures.
In Laguna of San Ignacio, where most of the marine biologists compete with vacationers or hobbyist, you see a gush of condensation on the blue water, the kind of waters you expect and find in Baja, almost everywhere. As we moved closer on our fishing boats, I realized, the condensation was the exhalation by the gray whales, when they breach the waters momentarily to breathe, to grab air—as whales are mammals; therefore, do not have a specialized organ to breathe underwater, unlike water inhabitants who have gills. Along the horizon of the Pacific Ocean, we saw whales breaching waters consecutively, which to me looked synchronous, treating us with their diving skills.
It was for this moment, many enthusiasts visit Baja in hordes, when whales break through water with an explosive whoosh of air, and in the process, reveal their body, first the rostrum, followed by the gigantic, streamlined body, grey in colour, with varying degree of spots, and finally the flukes. The spectacular show ended in a second; however, it left the fellow onlookers and me in awe.
This was only the beginning of a great show; the leader on the boat announced, “A mother gray is heading towards us,” and suddenly, the whale revealed itself. The 40-foot long structure of the whale by a 20-foot long skiff made us look like citizens of Lilliput on a voyage. The boat rocked as she surfaced, a simple flick of the tail could send us flying into the air; it was scary and marvelous at the same time. I had goosebumps all over my body. The skin was blotchy, with scars, it looked corrosive; I was told later, it was barnacles. The enormous head looked more like a thick beak; on its top, you could see the blowhole. The eyes were ovoid, beholding you with the gaze. Then, I touched her, tapped her, felt her textured skin, felt the beating. The mother whale was at peace, it all looked staged, performed by a trained mammal—only I was along the shore of Baja, into the wild. The interaction with the whale did not match with anything I had experienced—extraordinary emotions overwhelmed me.
About the Author – Karen Martin
For different people, traveling has different meaning; for me, it was always a medium to know people, culture, and experience the life of folks in the various regions of the world. I always have had an instinct to observe my surroundings, and my degree in journalism gave me the ability to be descriptive of what I see on my tantalizing adventures. That is how my passion transformed into a career as a travel writer, through which, for years, I have been narrating my adventures, excursions, and stories of treading friendly terrains, sometimes fatigue-inducing territories, and sometimes outright dangerous provinces.