Wednesday, March 2, 2011

To San Ignacio Lagoon

In 2005, I took this photo of a gray whale in Magdalena Bay.

Almost time to leave for the Baja again. Ticket, snorkel and mask, pesos, my "easy Spanish" guide, flipflops, sunglasses. You get the picture. Gringo lady loose in Mexico.

My usual trip to Cabo is in February, but this trip is special. Cabo is just a 3-day "pit stop" at the Fiesta Americana resort in Los Cabos where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortes under my balcony, which overlooks Pelican Rock and the Council of Gulls (they meet at the water's edge for each sunrise).

After that, a bus North up Route 1--passing through Todos Santos, La Paz, Magdalena Bay, and across the peninsula and the mountains to Loreto.

As early spring pops the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin near the Washington Monument, I'll be on my way to San Ignacio Lagoon where mother gray whales give birth to their babies in the protected waters there.

Traveling with ocean acoustics expert Michael Stocker (trip organizer) will be me and about 10 other whale-inspired adventurers. Actually, kids take this trip with their parents and grandparents so it's not too "wild." Except of course, we're reaching over the side of a panga (small boat), and these friendly (30 tons) whales are right there to touch if any of us are lucky (which we are). Babies are only half a ton.

We are somewhere inland from the Pacific Ocean and below the Vizcaino Desert Biosphere. The area around San Ignacio Lagoon is a protected area where only locals can take us out to encounter the whales.

Our guide will be a member of the Mayoral family. The patriarch of that family is the first person ever to be approached by the gray whales back in 1970.

I'm honored to be a part of this group. But, all the details of getting ready for a trip like this (travel light! Bring a hat! Watch out for scorpions!) are a challenge.  

Jeez, what if I forget something? Or I chicken out and just stay at the resort in Cabo? That will never happen. Destiny is calling. I just hope my camera stays dry and I don't fall overboard.

I don't expect to be eaten. Not to worry, grays only eat organic -- tiny things from the bottom of the lagoon that they filter through their baleen. 

Reading about gray whales is a survivor's story. They used to be called "devilfish" because when a whaler harpooned a baby, the mother would kill the attackers and destroy the ship. I'd do that for my children, so I figure the grays and I have something in common.   

In the 1980s, grays were placed on the endangered species list for close to 20 years. Now, with their numbers at more than 20,000, they are off the list (last time I heard). 

Endangered? Well, I just turned 63. I'll let you know as soon as I get back!    

Visit Pachico Mayoral’s Website