Whales, Whales, Whales

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By RJ Archer

It’s that time of year, again. The Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California) is teeming with sperm, minke, fin, pilot, orca (killer), and blue whales as well as our local whale sharks here in La Paz. On the other side of the peninsula, the gray/grey whales have returned to the protected bays of the Pacific to mate and birth.

This time of year, La Paz becomes “Whale Central” and excursions are available from a number of excellent providers.

Each fall, Pacific gray whales travel from Alaska’s Bering Sea to the warm waters of Baja’s San Ignacio Lagoon, making the longest mammal migration on Earth to return to their traditional breeding and birthing grounds. To see the grays, you will usually depart La Paz by bus or shuttle.

The best way to see the sperm, minke, fin, pilot, orca (killer), and blue whales is to book a live-aboard boat excursion between La Paz and Loreto. I had the opportunity to make this trip in March of 2011 and it was an experience I will never forget. In the “blue triangle,” near Loreto, we had the privilege of being within a few yards of a mother blue whale and her calf. Blue whales are the largest animals to have ever inhabited the earth and they can reach 100 feet in length and weigh as much a 300,000 pounds!

Last, but certainly not least, are the whale sharks of the bay of La Paz. These fish are actually sharks, not whales, but their size accounts for the word in their name. The whale sharks of La Paz are juveniles and most return year after year until they reach the age of about 9, at which point they leave permanently. Juveniles can reach lengths of 30 feet and weigh in at 30,000 pounds and, in the bay of La Paz you can snorkel within arm’s length of these Gentle Giants! Trips from the downtown malecón will get you out to the whale sharks in less than an hour, making this incredible experience an easy half-day trip.

For the past several years, I’ve served as a volunteer for WhaleSharkMexico.com, a local whale shark research and conservation organization led by Dr. Deni Ramirez Macias. She and her team have methodically studied and cataloged the local whale shark population and are active in the protection of the species and its habitat. To learn more, to adopt a whale shark or to join a research trip, visit www.WhaleSharkMexico.com.

R.J. Archer is an author and semi-retired computer consultant who has been a full-time resident of La Paz since 2009. With the help of his wife, Marty Olver, he has published seven mystery/adventure novels and more than a hundred technical articles in magazines such as Windows and Smart Computing.