One of the largest mammals on earth, gray whales intrigue us not only by their size but with also their actions. They exude peace and gracefulness. The depths of the oceans and lagoons are unknown to us but with trips like Natural Habitat’s: The Great Gray Whales of Baja we get a glimpse of their lives.
The anticipation and uncertainty was palpable as we headed into San Ignacio Lagoon. We were strangers in this world with only a small boat between us the murky water below. We didn’t know what to expect but just getting onto the water was invigorating and calming at the same time.
With the sighting of a flipper or the ever-present sound of the whales releasing air from the blow holes we realize we are not alone. These simple visual and audible cues are the first signs of the whales, but this is just a tease of the whales we will get to know much better.
As we get closer, we notice there appear to be two whales. Our expert guide describes what we are seeing: a mother and baby swimming in unison.
The whales seem overtly curious about us. They come close to the boat as if they want to understand us as much as we want to understand them.
We learn that the mother whales use this protected lagoon to nurture their babies. Growing ever bigger and stronger the babies seem to learn the ways of the ocean from their mothers. With the efforts of WWF and the Mexican government this lagoon is protected so the whales can thrive.
Over the next few days we meet many different gray whales. Each with a seemingly unique personality. This one followed our boat for many minutes. Who knows if it was the boat or the cheers of happiness of the passengers on the boat that drew the whale toward us.
Conservation is a long-term endeavor and as such many do not often get to experience the direct results of efforts to protect the Earth. Here in Baja we saw first-hand why conservation matters. The experiences we had were unique and awe inspiring. Even when we felt as if we were the ones being visited and observed.
By Noah Patterson, WWF