18 May Mexico
Despite mostly consisting of sand and cacti, the Baja California is one of the best locations for whale watching in the whole world.
In the shallow lagoons of the Baja California and the California Sur, every year thousands of gray whales gather to give birth to their calves. The waters around the Mexican peninsula are one of the world’s areas most rich with species, including blue whales.
The Baja California is one of the most important regions for whale watching in the whole world, as various kinds of whales use the subtropical waters of the Mexican peninsula as winter quarters. Especially gray whales, humpbacks, finbacks and blue whales are regularly seen here from December to March. Various kinds of dolphins live here all year long.
The Gulf is both starting point and destination of the gray whales’ long journey: Every year they migrate between the Gulf of California and the coast of Alaska, one of the longest known maritime migrations. They give birth to their calves in the shallow lagoons of Mexico between December and March. In April they start moving north with their offspring for feeding.
Humpbacks, finbacks and blue whales, too, use the warm Gulf for spending the winter. The main focus of all whale watching tours lies on the curious and gentle gray whales, which often approach the small boats and can sometimes even be petted. The calves are often very active and playful in those waters.
»The gray whales’ annual migration between Mexico and Alaska is one of the longest known maritime migrations worldwide.«
Mexico’s whale watching industry has improved a lot in the last 20 years, resulting in great tour operators and strict guidelines for protection of the animals. Aboard many boats, biologists give information about the whales’ annual travels to the tourists. There are, however, still many bad tour operators, so that you should take care to only book tours at a licensed operation.
There are several annual whale festivals on the Baja peninsula, e.g. on Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateo in January, the “Festival Internacional de la Ballene Gris” in Puerta San Carlos in the south of the peninsula in late February or the annual celebrations ending the whale watching season in the Laguna San Ignacio.
Beside whales, the Mexican peninsula also offers remote islands, lone beaches and lots of cacti. You can also research whale sharks and accompany baby turtles into the ocean.
There are countless bays, islands and beaches at the Gulf of California. They are ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving. The Bahia des Los Angeles and the beach of Loreto in the east of the peninsula are deemed the most beautiful bays, the Isla Espiritu Santo as the most beautiful island, which is best reached from La Paz. The oldest of the last three remaining coral reefs of the western coast of North America can be found at the Cabo Pulmo Marine Park.
The two towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are often combined into one area: Los Cabos. This is where the Pacific and the Gulf of California meet and also where you find the famous rock formation of El Arco, which can be explored by boat. The area around Los Cabos offers lone beaches, crystal clear waters, scraggy deserts and high mountain ranges, making it one of the most popular destinations on the whole peninsula.
Playa del Amor and Playa del Divorcio are next to El Arco and combined, they are the only beach that borders on two oceans, the Pacific and the Gulf of California. The Playa del Amor is deemed the most beautiful beach of the peninsula. The water is very calm, making trips in glass floor boats a possibility. Divorcio Beach facing the Pacific has rough waters and is best reached by water taxi from Playa Medano.
Not far from the bay of San Ignacio, one of the main towns for whale watching, a giant oasis with thousands of date palms and fig trees rises from the desert sands. Further up north, at Guerrero Negro, things look a lot different: Dried up lagoons, leaving salty ground. Guerrero Negro is also where tours to watch gray whales in the Parque Nacional de la Ballena Gris start.
»The Baja California is known as the biggest cacti-garden of Mexico. Especially in the Catavina Desert, you will find them in all shapes and sizes, some of them growing to a height of 20 meters.«
The Baja California is known as biggest cacti-garden of Mexico. Especially in the Catavina Desert, you will find them in all shapes and sizes: Endless forests with more than a hundred kinds, some of them exclusive to this place. Some grow to a height of 20 meters and to a diameter of 1.5 meters. Cacti grow both in the interior of the country, but also near the coast. Also exclusive to the Baja California: Sausage trees.
In La Paz Bay, you can join scientists for boat rides and give them a hand with their work: Whale sharks are observed, identified and marked to better understand their migration routes. With a length of up to 13 meters, they are the biggest fish in the world – yet, completely harmless. A tour costs 85 Dollars; the money is used for research.
From the middle of November to February (occasionally also in March and April), you can accompany baby turtles into the sea at Todos Santos at the western south coast. The Tortugueros Las Playitas save endangered nests and release the baby turtles into the ocean after they hatch. Joining the “Hatchling Release” is free, donations are welcome, though. You can also adopt a nest with about 20 to 50 eggs in it. Also, you can go for a swim with whale sharks here.