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Whale Encounters in Guerrero Negro

March 30, 2013
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Every February and March, we hear a buzz around San Felipe about the grey whale migration on the Pacific coast.  A once-in-a-lifetime experience, we are told over and over.  So this year we had the opportunity to go…

over route 3 from San Felipe to Ensenada, over the Sierra San Pedro Martir.  This was a wonderland of vegetation and reminded us of a desert version of the Mission Valley of Montana, complete with mallow, lupine, waving grasses and farming and ranching communities.

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Is there ANY ecosystem where lupine won’t grow?

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Starting to look a little like the Pipestone mountains near Butte, Montana

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Reaching Ensenada, we turned south on Hwy 1 and stayed the first night in a decent little hotel with wifi, toilet paper and hot water in some town for 300 pesos (around $25).

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Coastal mist in the air, drier vegetation than in the mountains

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The iconic boojum (cerio) tree, at last.

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If you’re planning your own trip and want to see what the roads are like, click through a photo to the Flickr photostream for more pics along the route.

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Then we arrived at Guerrero Negro and checked into the Malarrimo hotel for our whale tour the next day.

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A little windy on the way out for our 8am tour.

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Now, it was late in the migration season and many mamas and babies have already headed out to sea.  We were told the population was low now and for awhile we watched the blowspouts and dolphin fins from afar.  Would we see whales up close?

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Oh yes.

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They crowded around us to touch!! At one point there were four mamas herding four babies to get close to the boat for scratching and touching. As I was nudging Holt forward (“Reeeach, Holt – you’re safe – I’ve got you! Imagine, most kids go their whole lives without ever touching a whale.”) I could see the mamas nudging their babies forward (“Get up there and reeeeach so they can touch you! Imagine, most little whales go their whole lives without ever touching a person.”)

Eight huge whales at one time, any of which could have capsized us had they chosen to. They gracefully took turns coming out of the water close enough to touch, their underwater acrobatics just barely visible beneath us as they passed under and came out the other side to rainbow spray us with their breath, over and over and over. The babies gently bumped us from below occasionally, not sure if the mamas ever did.  They bobbed upright, reaching up, rolling over to have their chins rubbed like a dog, keeping an curious eye  toward us.

How I wish I could get a photo of the spirals and twists they performed underwater.  I can just imagine the view from below, those huge creatures weaving around, under and beside our little panga boat. It was such an impressive site even our 14-year-veteran captain seemed wowed and snapped photo of himself with them behind him.

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Keeping a curious eye on us

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We have always heard that they seem to be attracted to the boats with children’s voices. If so, they had plenty of ooohs and aaaaahs and excited squeals to follow!

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As you can see from the videos, they really seem to go for the propeller area – so get a seat in back if you take a tour. And take some excited kids.


What else does Guerrero Negro have going for it?   Sand dunes, our favorite playgrounds!!
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After one more night in a Guerrero Negro hotel to shower the sand off (cute exterior but unclean rooms, above), we decided to take the rough cutoff road home east toward the Sea of Cortez and Gonzaga Bay. It saved around four hours over the route we took down. It’s passable by car but we were grateful to have our (new to us) sturdy Outback with good clearance, slowly picking our way around the ruts.
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With lucky timing, the tide was just right at Puertecitos for a long soak – not too high (cold), not too low (boiling).

Because it’s Semana Santas, the beaches are filling fast with tents and partying families, and the hot springs were packed.

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This is either my husband or one of Jim Morrison’s hallucinations

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Experience of a lifetime? Everyone was right!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. ann hays permalink
    March 30, 2013 11:52 pm

    Absolutely amazing and wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Bill Trebing permalink
    March 31, 2013 12:46 pm

    Awesome journey! The kids are storing up good lifetime memories.
    Wish I could rub those whales.

  3. April 3, 2013 1:02 am

    Wow … Wow! What a wonderful post of a marvelous trip. Thank you very much for sharing it with us.

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