The friendly gray whales in Baja California are what drew us.
When most of our friends say they’re going to Mexico...
...they usually mean Cancun or Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta.
If they say they’re going to Baja California...
...they mean they're going to Cabo San Lucas or someplace near there….
But we were going to see those whales, not for beach or pool time…
There weren’t any good beaches where we went….
…but there were plenty of gray whales.
We’ve always watched Gray Whales migrate south past the California coast in fall and return north in the Spring.
We had heard about those friendly whales in Baja for years.
We had friends who had moved to Baja California, and they went down every year to see those whales in the San Ignacio Lagoon.
When they invited us… I couldn’t resist, and we
started making plans.
Well, we didn’t have to do much planning… we just had to say yes.
They did the planning… that is, they knew where to stay and where to eat.
As we found out that is important if you’re driving in Baja California.
They met us at the border and off we went.
Driving through Baja California isn’t quite the adventure I thought it would be, but it isn’t for the faint of heart either.
Most of the road is in fairly good condition, but it is a two lane road and there are lots of trucks on it.
The portion of the road that ISN’T in good condition is really pretty challenging.
Plenty of potholes and dirt sections...
Be sure to have a good spare tire and repair equipment.
There were routine military checkpoints to go through. None were intimidating… in fact, here’s a story for you….
Even with experience and careful driving, we did blow a tire on one of those potholes. We limped along to a military checkpoint where they actually helped us and changed the tire for us. Several miles down the road in Guerrero Negro, we found a tire dealer and got a new tire.
That’s what this is all about, right?
It took us two days to drive to the town of San Ignacio. We stayed at a terrific B&B there.
It was another hour to get to the San Ignacio lagoon… one of the lagoons where the gray whales come to give birth in the winter. The moms stay in the protected lagoons with their babies until they are big enough and strong enough to make the long migration back north.
Through the years, they have become friendly… they feel safe and will approach the boats that go out to see them.
Here a mother whale was looking us over. This is probably my imagination, but I think she liked it when I took off my hat... she came right up to the boat.
The operators in the San Ignacio area take measures to protect the whales and make sure they are not stressed or harassed. A limited number of boats are allowed on the lagoon at any one time, and once you are out, you can only stay in the area where the whales are for 90 minutes.
Still that is plenty of time to see them up close and get to watch some amazing behaviors.
There are tours you can sign up for of course, but you can drive to see
the whales in baja on your own… or with the help of friends.
It’s about 530 miles (851 km) and takes about 11 hours from Tijuana to San Ignacio. You do have to research and know where the gas stations, hotels, and restaurants are. There are enough available, but there is a lot of open land in between.
We drove 6 hours the first day and stayed at a nice little hotel in Cataviña….
That nice little hotel is about all there is in Cataviña.
The Hotel Mision Cataviña had a good restaurant. And it is in a pretty desert setting with interesting rocks and cactus.
There was a new mini market across the way, but
no gas in the vicinity. (This hotel may previously been called the
Desert Inn... not sure.)
On the way back we went past Cataviña and stayed at the Hotel Jardines Baja in San Quintin, Baja California. It was in a lovely garden setting and had a restaurant adjacent for dinner, but no breakfast.
In San Ignacio, we stayed at what our friends affectionately called "the yurts."
There are a couple of hotels in the little town of San Ignacio. The yurts we
stayed in are officially called the Ignacio Springs B&B. It was delightful with a wonderful dinner and breakfast. It really is an oasis. We called them "yurt mcmansions".
They can give you information on seeing those whales in Baja too.
From the sleepy little town, it is another hour drive to the lagoon. There are a number of camps at the lagoon where you can stay in tents. The facilities look nice but very basic.
The local operators depart from these camp areas. We opted to go out on the pangas (that’s what they call the little boats they take out) for two days, but drive back to our B&B because it was so comfortable.
There is more to see if you opt for a do-it-yourself drive through Baja California.
And the whales… We loved the friendly gray whales in Baja, and we encourage you to go and meet them. It’s sure to make a conservationist of you!