Befriend a whale!

In the grey whale sanctuary of San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja, Mexico, a whale brings up its flukes during a dive

Few things would compare to getting up close and personal with wild grey whales off the Mexican Coast, who love human company

In the grey whale sanctuary of San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja, Mexico, a whale brings up its flukes during a dive
In the grey whale sanctuary of San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja, Mexico, a whale brings up its flukes during a dive

Many of us have, at least at one time, stared out of a boat or ship hoping to spot a majestic whale careening through the open sea.

Even if we have seen one, it was likely that there was no way we could’ve reached out to caress the magnificent giant.

Nevertheless, at San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja, Mexico, you can. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the breeding ground of the Pacific grey whales that happily interact with humans who visit.

It’s an extraordinary connection you’ll get to share with the largest mammals on Earth – and it’s the closest encounter to whales that you can experience on this planet.

Winter Sanctuary

From late January to mid-March, hundreds of grey whales migrate to San Ignacio Lagoon from the Bering Strait to mate. These waters are protected, so the population can roam freely.

San Ignacio Lagoon gained popularity in the 1970s when a grey whale cosied up to a local fisherman and let him pat her head. Word of this remarkable occurrence spread among the fishermen, and apparently among the grey whales as well.

These gentle giants are known to initiate contact, and will quickly warm up to visitors. Even the shy infants take little coaxing, and will gladly stay by your boat to make new friends.

Pick this season to visit, because breeding means tons of baby whales – and baby versions of animals mean instant happiness!

Get a Little Closer

A grey whale approaches a boat to be touched in a sanctuary lagoon in Baja
A grey whale approaches a boat to be touched in a sanctuary lagoon in Baja

There are several camps on the lagoon that are approved to conduct whale-watching tours. The most common trips are made on Mexican fishing boats, driven by the local fishermen who act as guides.

Watch from comfortable skiffs as the young whale calves play in their nursery while the adults mingle with one another. Some of the whales exhibit fascinating behaviour, such as breaching backwards, fluking with their tails, and peeking cheekily out of the water by spy-hopping.

If you’re lucky – and you probably will be with these playful mammals – a mother whale and her calf will wander near your motor skiff for contact. It’s a magical feeling to be approached by wildlife, instead of vice versa.

Some camps are even located at the deeper regions of the lagoon, right in the middle of the whales’ migration path. So, you can have breakfast while watching these creatures breaching off shore, or be lulled to sleep by their blows.

Nature Protected by Law

Whale-watching in San Ignacio Lagoon is federally regulated, so all agencies have the same itineraries and get to spend an equal amount of time with the whales.

A lagoon guard monitors the exact time each boat enters the whale-watching area, and ensures that each group spends no more than two hours in the sanctuary.

If you ask us, just getting so intimate with these beautiful animals is splendid enough!

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