Update: 3/16/09 border crossing pictures added, see more at our Recent Sightings page.
We made it safe and sound! Crossed the border yesterday uneventfully around 11am, which turned out to be 10am on the other side of the line, so we even gained an hour in our border crossing. Got our tourist cards (giving us up to 180 days in Mexico) and caught the first bus from Tijuana to Ensenada. Changed buses in Ensenada and pulled in to San Quintin around 5pm. Our goal was to see gray whales before Monday. Let´s just say, we were successful.
Turns out that the southbound bus `schedule´ in Baja California is awful and if we didn´t want to be stuck in San Quintin for 18 hours (no thanks!) we needed to get on an overnight bus. I know, right now everyone is gasping that we took an overnight bus in Mexico as the US media says things are on the brink of civil war. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least here in Baja. The buses were full, the streets are full of families and children and the people have been nothing but friendly. So friendly in fact that its almost scary coming from D.C. (insert DC joke here).
Anyway, we pulled into Guerreros Negros this morning at 6am, definitely in time for whale watching. If you aren´t familiar with the gray whale, its one of the largest mammals in the world and half of the world´s population migrates to Baja in late fall-early winter to mate and calve their young. We happen to hit it at the best part of the season, the calves have been born and the migration back to Canada and Alaska isn´t in full swing yet.
We drifted in our boat for close to 20 minutes before the whales were spotted. Each time a white cap crested in the horizon I gasped thinking it was a whale. Just as I was about to call the trip a bust, a huge burst of water exploded from in front of us. As we drifted closer, the entire boat listed to one side as all eight of us clamored to get a better view of the passing animal. To say these animals are huge is an understatement. To say they are friendly is the understatement of the century. These whales were like puppies. They came up to our boat, nudged the boat, rolled onto their backs for a tummy scratch, waved their fins, and even seemed to mug for the camera. We actually got to touch the whales, several times, as they swam next to our boat. By my count we saw one mother and calf and two other gray whales, two dolphins and a whole pile of sea lions. Although the rest were cute, the whales were the highlight of the trip. It was breath taking to see these magnificent creatures swimming along side us and heart stopping exciting when they came close enough to touch and the boatman said, “touch! touch!”. I don´t think I stopped gasping for air the entire time.
I realize this is only day two, but it was such an amazing experience it is hard to think what will top this!
Click either picture to go to our flickr page for more gray whale shots! We also have video that we´ll edit and upload in a few days!