Among the Whales in Ojo
We woke with the sun (as per normal) and awaited the whales. Shari was waiting on the perfect boat and captain for our trip out into the lagoon and we were all glowing with anticipation. When it was finally our turn to go out we all but sprinted to the boat, met our captain and took off toward the mouth of the lagoon. The whales travel in pairs along straight lines inside the deep but narrow canals.
The mothers are teaching the young to swim into the current as the tide flows in and out to sea. They have only a few short months here before a long swim back north and they have to gain strength quickly. They grow almost 100lbs a day, feeding on an uber-rich milk from mom.
Our captain knows the whales almost as well as Shari and he’s had the advantage of already having been out for one trip today and knowing where the “friendly” whales are. We almost immediately see a mother and an extremely playful calf. It’s flipping and turning at the surface and we follow it for a while before moving on. We cant tell which side of the boat to look out as the whales are on all sides of us and breaching, flipping and spy hopping all around us. Its outstanding. Absolutely an otherworldly experience.
These creatures are nothing short of majestic. They have been coming to this bay for millions of years to give birth and have flourished and been almost decimated throughout history. A few decades ago the gray whale was down to a few hundred left on the planet.
Through careful protection they have fought there way back and are now the first animal actually removed from the endangered species list. Around us are more than 2000 gray whales. Each with its own personality and style. Shari knows many of them by name based on their markings and knuckles on their back. She knows their personalities and habits.
We approach a few different mom and baby pairs. Some are startled from a nap and turn away, others circle us a few times checking in and then come up for a full on visit. They are clearly aware of our presence, and each addresses us in its own way. All are friendly and seem to put on more of a show as we approach.
Some moms with newborns turn their curious calfs away at the last moment before they reach the boat. Others actually nudge the older calfs in our direction. Somehow, they seem to have forgiven us for almost wiping them off the planet.
While we are approaching the 3rd or 4th pair a calf wanders off from its mom and approaches us from behind. We barely even see the calf when it bumps playfully into the side of the boat, moving us as though were a toy. It lifts its head out of the water as if asking us to touch it and for a brief moment im staring into the eye of this majestic yet giant being. Its like time stood still.
We have video of the interspecies contact and i can verify that it lasted less than a split second, but i would swear we stared into each others eye for several minutes. I left my hand in the water and trailed from the tip of its nose all the way down the whale’s body, as it turned away from the boat and back towards its mother.
My mouth hung open and i’m not sure i breathed until being reminded to do so. It’s impossible to not be moved by such an encounter. To feel so completely in touch with an animal thats more like a dinosaur and yet feel so completely small in the universe when compared to it. It was both magical and indescribable.
We spend almost another 2 hours cruising among the whales, watching and learning as Shari describes their habits and teaches us in their ways. She is truly the perfect person to have taken this tour with and this has to be the best place on the planet to experience these creatures.
It’s almost as though she is part of their family. We’ve been invited to dinner and she describes each member as though she would her aunts and uncles. Some of the whales now giving birth she saw when they were born. She has watched them return year after year and learned their traits and habits. Their personalities and quirks. She and her knowledge is the perfect combination to the experience that unfolds before our eyes as we move through the lagoon.
Im not in the habit of endorsing businesses, but Shari feels anything like a business. I’ve also taken very few paid tours in my life, but can attest to this being worth every dime. There is no other way to experience the whales other than from afar through binoculars, and if you choose to board a boat to visit these gentle giants we would highly recommend you contacting shari, timing your trip around her annual journey to the lagoon.
She’s not only an excellent and fun host to the area, but your experience with the whales will no doubt be countless times more engaging, more insightful and more rewarding with her leading the way.
If you plan a trip to baja and want to experience the whales, you can reach shari at Whale Magic Tours. For what she assures us will be a special experience, just whisper the code “knucklehead” to her when you call or upon your arrival.
We all are half numb as we return to camp. We toast the event that we just witnessed together and enjoy another evening and sunset before crashing early. Our adrenaline has been pumping since sunup and we have almost nothing left in the tank for a late night at the palapa. A truly amazing day, and i cant possibly imagine how it could have been more perfect.
There’s no question we will be returning to Ojo de Liebre and heading out to the whales with Shari again. Next time, I'm certain we wont be leaving the next day and will be thrilled to stay for weeks among the whales and among her home away from home. In fact, it may be the thing that brings us back to baja even sooner.