With several options for whale watching in Baja California, we chose Malarrimo and had a wonderful time. Initially we had planned to go whale watching at the San Ignacio Lagoon only to discover that the lagoon was 2 hours from the town via a dirt road, unaccessible via public transportation. We had chosen San Ignacio over Laguna Ojo de Liebre as the San Ignacio whales are known to be more friendly than the whales found in the waters off Guerro Negro, no matter…the gray whales we saw were plenty friendly.
We arrived in Guerro Negro while it was still dark and found the still sleeping town easy to manage despite the hour of the day. Malarrimo was a mere block away from the bus station and they allowed us to stay in the hotel lobby with our things until the tour began. Despite not having any reservations we were able to join the group without a problem. Right on schedule – the morning tours have been known to spot more whales than those in the evening – we boarded the bus and headed out to the Lagoon.[ad#ad-3]
Guerro Negro is an unassuming blue collar town. While the gray whales in the Laguna Ojo de Libre put this town on the tourism circuit but first and foremost the town is here on account of the large salt mines. This means that rather than English speaking restaurateurs seeking to overcharge and under-serve, you can have a real Mexican experience. In addition to the whales there are also excellent birding opportunities along the marsh shores of the salt mines.
As we drove through town and then through the salt mines our guides addressed the group in both English and Spanish. The guides used this time to share some of the history of Guerro Negro and the lagoon as well as provide all necessary safety information for our boat trip. Upon arrival at the dock we had a final opportunity to use the ‘bano’ before donning the tour provided windbreakers and personal flotation devices.
Every year gray whales migrate from their northern homes to the waters off the coast of Baja California to calve during the winter months. The combination of the safety of the lagoon as well as the high salinity of the water make this area ideal for the whales. In fact, half the worlds population of grey whales participates in this Baja migration annually. Once the calves have doubled their birth weight they will embark on the 3 month trek back to their northern feeding grounds.
After a blistery trip out into the lagoon we slowed down and began to scan for the whales. In no time at all our captain had spotted a mother and baby and sped off for us to see them. For a more thorough account of our time petting and playing with the whales click here. I was impressed the entire time with the captain’s professionalism in balancing our interaction with the whales with the whales safety.
The captain only used the boat’s engine, as guaranteed by Malarimmo, to get us within 20 meters or so of the whale, allowing the whale to choose to come the rest of the way.
Before heading back to shore we were provided with a lunch consisting of a fruit soda which I will not try again, a very tasty chocolate bar, and a moderately sized fish sandwich. After a few more encounters with the whales, with dolphins playing nearby, we bid adieu and headed back. En route the captain stopped several times for us to view various birds atop buoys as well as large colony of resting sea lions.
The tour was a complete success and at $49USD each was a much better deal than any whale watching we could have done in the USA. Despite the boat being small and exposed to the elements and therefore uncomfortable, I found it much preferable to be able to get so close to the animals. I fully recommend this as a great trip but advise it is best to dress for the weather and to be prepared to get a bit wet as the whales have a tendency to blow some water in your face.