The Sea of Cortez
Whale Watching

common dolphin pod

Larry and I vacationed in March of 2001 in Loreto, a little town on the east coast of the Baja Peninsula.  Our main objective was to dive around the islands in the area, but it turned out that we arrived at just the right season to whale watch.  The place where we stayed,Baja Outpost, provides pangas and equipment for diving, whale watching, snorkeling, kayaking, and transportation to the numerous beaches.  We dove for four days and whale watched for two.  We would have been very lucky had we been whale watching on the days that we dove!  On the first day out, we saw the blows of several whales, including one which our caption said was a blue whale.  We watching it fluke in the distance, clear even from a mile away that it was larger than the humpbacks I was used to.  Another day we passed at least a dozen whales in one area.  When we went out specifically to look for them, however, we felt lucky to find a solitary animal an hour's panga ride from Loreto.  It was a fin whale, second in size only to the blues, and he or she was magnificent.  The water was clear enough that we could see the whole whale beneath the surface as a white shadow.  Mexican whale watching captains tend to be more aggressive than their counterparts in the states, which seemed necessary when watching this whale.  Though it dove for only about six minutes, it came up in no discernable pattern.  Usually we would see it from a distance and zoom toward it, only arriving when the whale had already taken half a dozen breaths.  We were pleased that they seemed to take a dozen before descending again.  Once close to the whales, though, our captain was very respectful, unlike the private American boat from California that joined us for a few minutes.  Seeing the rostrum and the line of the mouth was especially exciting for me.  This whale never showed its tail, but it did charge through the water a few times with truly impressive speed, the water in utter turmoil behind it.

We gave up diving on our last day in the hopes that we would find a blue whale.  Apparently, the Sea or Cortez is one of the few places where there's a good chance of watching blue whales and some guests a few weeks before us had been close enough to almost touch one of the thirty foot wide flukes of a blue whale as it dove near the boat.  We cruised back to the same area where we'd found the other whale and found two finsbacks together, one of whom was the same whale from the previous trip, (judging by the nicks in the dorsal fin).  Neither of these whales fluked, either.  We still had some great looks at them, though, and maybe we'll return some day to look for that blue whale.  Unfortunately, good diving and good whale watching don't coincide seasonally.  On a few days, we were also lucky to have some dolpin interaction.  Just following our magnificent second dive, (see Sea of Cortez Diving), part of a huge pod of bottlenosed dolphins rode our bow while the rest breached and porpoised.  A few days later we had common dolphins play with us several times for long stretches on a perfectly calm sea.  The water was so clear we could see their whole bodies under the water, barely moving to surf along with us.  One breached directly alongside the boat just at eye level, (to take a look at us, I think); this dolphin was so close, I could have reached out and touched her.  Since we were there to dive, I considered all marine mammal encounters to be an added bonus.  Photos were taken with my trusty 35 mm automatic Pentax, 140 zoom camera.


Click for enlargements and captions

Wildlife in Southeast Alaska
Whale watching in Laguna San Ignacio
Whale watching in Magdalena Bay and Sea of Cortez (2004)