I chose my first trip to Mexico to travel with the Road Scholar program. I was intrigued by the Baja, Tip to Toe program because it focused on nature, was a road trip (which I love), included two whale trips in small boats as well as other boating excursions and trips into the desert. I have always enjoyed visiting the desert and the deserts in Baja feature plant life not seen any where else. I liked the idea of traveling from the top of Baja to the bottom and exploring many towns, cities, the Pacific Coast and Sea of Cortes as well as the different geographical areas. It seemed strange to visit Mexico so late in life when I have lived close to the border of Mexico during several times in my life including San Diego and Tucson! On March 26 of this year, our group left San Diego by bus and crossed into Tijuana. This 12 night adventure had days filled with sightseeing and lots of learning about the history and natural wonders of this special place called Baja California. There was also a great deal of sitting in the bus as the length of Baja is approximately 1,000 miles, but the scenery out the window usually captivated me. Our tour guides were wonderful and very knowledgeable. Our main tour leader, Isabel has done trips to Baja for many years and was enthusiastic and energetic. Unfortunately, the group size was a little larger than I expected with 30 people. I had somehow thought I signed up for a small group program, but the size did not detract from all the wonders we experienced on this trip. In addition, the people on the program were nice to get to know and had a wealth of travel experiences from around the world to share.
One of the highlights of the trip was seeing grey whales up close, so close that many people were able to reach out and touch them from the small boats. Most of the whales we saw were mothers with babies. The above picture was taken in San Ignacio Lagoon, our second whaling location. Grey whales spend the winter here in the protected waters of San Ignacio. The whales arrive in December and the females give birth to calves and care for them until they are strong enough to leave the lagoon at the end of March or beginning of April. When they leave they travel up to Arctic waters where food is plentiful. The cycle continues when the whales return to San Ignacio the following winter after the long trip from the arctic along the Pacific Coast. It is a bit of a mystery why the whales are so friendly here. They have few natural enemies in these waters and their curiosity, especially that of the young ones, causes them to investigate the boats. The whales don’t seem to mind being touched although some come for a quick visit and don’t linger long. The whales swim back and forth under the boats which is a strange thought because they are massive creatures and could easily turn these small boats over!
The two pictures above are members of my Road Scholar group in a different boat. They were fortunate to have some close encounters which I caught on camera. I was not able to touch a whale on the San Ignacio trip, but did have a quick touch of a whale on the previous day’s trip at Scammon’s Lagoon. The whales were actually a little friendlier and more numerous at Scammon’s and we had a few that stayed longer around our boat. The whales frequently sprayed us from their blow holes upon surfacing and their noises and movements made for a once in a lifetime fantastic experience.
We found these whales in the picture above “lounging around.” The baby whale is laying on its side with flipper in the air, perhaps taking a little snooze. It is sad to think the whales here were once hunted and many, many were slaughtered. San Ignacio is now a Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site and grey whale sanctuary. I was sorry when our two hour tour was over and we had to return to the shore of the lagoon. What a great experience! The picture below is part of my tour group returning in the pangas.
We finished our visit to San Ignacio Lagoon with lunch prepared for us near the shores of the lagoon. We ate in a “Palapa” (covered dining area) and feasted on very large scallops freshly caught in these waters. They were delicious! Discarded and empty scallop shells cover the area here and are in mounds in some places! I have rarely eaten scallops as fresh tasting as these!
The picture above is the inside of the Palapa with crushed shells on the floor. I will continue further discussions of my Baja exploration in future posts. Stay tuned!