IWDG Baja, Mexico Trip Summary 28 Feb-15 Mar.25th Mar 2009
On Sat 28th February 14 IWDG members were met at Dublin airport by Faith Wilson and Pádraig Whooley for the trip of a lifetime to the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. After a night in LA we took a 2nd international flight to Loreto in Southern Baja California (BCS). Our Alaska Airlines flight tracked south along the shores of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) giving our group their first breathtaking views of the peninsula.
This latest IWDG overseas holiday was promoted (and sold out) on the basis that its focus was whale watching in some of the best whale habitat on the planet. Our plan was to visit a range of sites on both the Pacific coast and Gulf side, which would maximise our opportunities for encounters with as many cetacean species as possible, among them being the flagship species, the blue whale.
On arrival in Loreto 1st March we picked up our two vans which were to be our loyal companions during the two week expedition, that would see us travel over 1,000km along the 2nd longest inhabited peninsula on the planet. After a relaxed night in our Loreto hotel, our 1st leg was to head north to Mulegé on the Gulf side to break up the journey to the Pacific coast.
On the 3rd March we travelled to the world famous San Ignacio lagoon, temporary home to c140 gray whales of the eastern Pacific population. Some had already left to start their northbound migration by the time we arrived but there were plenty of grays seen on each of trips into the lagoon on our small open Pangas (traditional style boats). What sets this lagoon apart, from others to the north and further south, is the high % of friendlies who readily approach whale watching boats, and allow very close physical contact with whale watchers. This is truly a unique opportunity and we spent three nights in Kuyima Camp on the shores of the lagoon, which is crucial winter calving/breeding habitat for this population, which has continued to rebound since whaling ended in the 1930's.
During our stay in our rustic and comfortable accommodation we took six trips out to these whales, where our group observed them at close quarters. The most frequently observed behaviour was spy-hopping which seems to be a bit of a San Ignacio speciality, but we also observed them filter feeding in the lagoons muddy shallows, tail-fluking and breaching. Awesome whales, wonderful camp hospitality, delightful food, intriguing coyotes and great entertainment, we left Camp Kuyima and its infectiously charismatic host Carlos with heavy hearts.
On our return to Loreto we broke the journey up with a 2nd night in Mulegé to take in the historic mission, oasis and lighthouse and returned to Loreto for 4 nights between 7-10th March. Over the next four days we linked up with local whale conservationist and researcher Fernando Arcas whom we first met back in 1995. Fernando heads up the GEA (Groupo Ecologica Antares) which also run the Loreto whale museum. This gave us the best of both worlds as not only were we supporting a loca