contact us

About Carla White

Carla White is a freelance writer, public relations/marketing consultant and event organizer based in Ensenada, Baja, California. Carla and her husband Jim moved to Baja in 2003 from the Los Angeles area believing that, thanks to the internet and satellite communications, they could continue working from home while enjoying a richer, more affordable lifestyle. So far, they’ve been right. Connect with Carla Google+

Gray Whale Migration Update and Census Through the Years

Gray Whale Migration Update

by Keith Jones, Baja Jones Adventure Travel, author of Gray Whales, My 20 Years of Discovery

“January 20, 2013:  We expect a great whale watching season.  This year our first trip is January 26.  Come join us for a vacation like no other.”

 

The whale counts below are a result of a long term gray whale census study that has been taking place for more then 20 years.  It is a combined effort of the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve and SEMARNAP (Mexican fisheries).

Because the migration is underway and the early results are good, I thought I would put together a brief report to help you all understand what the new figures mean.  Here are some whale counts taken the past several years.

 

Gray whale census through the years
Date Baby Whales Total of all Whales
January 26, 2006 250 1,100
February 11, 2008 187 481
January 25, 2010 53 197
February 15, 2010 183 573
January 17, 2012 234 559
January 9, 2013 106 342
January 17, 2013 234 559

As you can see from the early whale counts this year, we are on track to have a most excellent whale watching migration this year, 2013. It is not so easy to make an accurate prediction of what the peak whale count will be this early in the season, but I will go out on a limb and say the final baby whale count will be around 350 and total whales counted inside the lagoon will be around 1,200.

If my unscientific prediction is accurate, this will be a better than average whale migration count inside Laguna Ojo de Liebre.

The gray whale migration is in full swing...and it will be a banner year!

The census always begins in one of two locations. Either at the most inside locations for boat embarcatons where the ejido Benito Juarez boats go out whale watching or at the location nearest the mouth of the lagoon at Chaparito the salt company docks, where Mario’s whale watching and Laguna Tours boats are docked.

The boats cruise slowly along the east side of the lagoon and then continue to circle the odd shaped bay, on the return cruising along the west side of the bay. The lagoon is long and narrow with a dog leg turn much like a long golf course layout.

If the weather is inclement and rainy, windy or foggy the whale count is sometimes affected because it is more difficult to see the whales or the spouts. But I have found the count to be extremely consistent. Because the same staff works the census each time, they bring a continuity to the process that averages out the few bad days that might affect the count.

At the end of the whale watching day the biologists and staff from the two boats get together and compile a final count that is then issued as the official Censo for that date.

Come along on one of our whale watching trips and see for yourself what 500 or 1,000 or 2,000 whales all in one small lagoon look like. For more information, email Keith Jones at keith@jonesadventures.com.

Want to know where to stay when visiting the Gray Whales in their lagoons?  Read more at Baja.com.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Possibly Related Posts:


Bahía Asunción Welcomes the New Year with New Tourist-Friendly Services

Bahía Asunción says ‘Happy New Year’ by adding new tourist-friendly services to welcome visitors.

by Shari Bondy

First of all, we bid you Happy Happy New Year from Bahía Asunción.

We are very excited about all the new tourist-friendly services that will be offered in our village in 2013. Now that the road in is paved, tourism has increased, bringing a welcome boost to the local economy. Even the potholes are being repaired and new pavement laid between Vizcaino and the Asunción turn-off. The main market, Miramar, now even offers a bank machine for withdrawals from a bank card and exchanges dollars for pesos with a decent exchange rate.

 

Tourist-friendly services include a new Pemex gas station in Bahía Asunción.

There are several new projects on the books for this year including a new Pemex gas station which will be a big asset to the community to have cheaper, more reliable gas service. This is especially important as the region begins to fill up with tourists coming to see the whales, cave paintings, flora and fauna, and just to get away from it all!

 

Van service will offer a much-needed transportation method in Bahía Asunción.

Another excellent addition is a scheduled bus service to Vizcaino that will meet up with the buses that travel up and down the peninsula! The bus company Aguila has provided a beautiful new bus that will run twice a day on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturdays and Sundays, leaving here at 7 a.m and 3 p.m.,  and returning from Vizcaino after the buses come in from north and south at 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.   For 175 pesos (roughly $14) one way. It will be great to finally have that travel link.

Another welcomed addition will be a new restaurant-bar at the entrance to town. The construction is nearly complete and it looks spectacular. So our little village is growing…but don’t worry…it will always have that small town friendly feeling like old baja!

 

The La Bufadora Inn is a great place to stay in Bahía Asunción and Villa Bahia is a cool spot in Bahia de los Angeles.  Want to find out more about the region?

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Possibly Related Posts:


Gray Whale Babies Getting Schooled

*Gray Whale Migration Update:  December 2012

December 20, I received word from my fishermen friends at Laguna Ojo de Liebre that there are now gray whales inside the lagoon.  Gray whales are being sighted off shore of Southern California as they make their way south.   We expect a great whale watching season.  This year our first trip is January 26.  Come join us for a vacation like no other.  Keith Jones, Baja Jones Adventure Travel, author of Gray Whales, My 20 Years of Discovery

by Keith Jones

 

Gray whale babies - getting schooled in Baja

 

Gray whale moms have a lot to teach their offspring before they head out into the open ocean on their northward journey.

The first training we notice inside the lagoons is the strengthening exercises the baby is put through as the mother whale swims against the incoming or outgoing tidal flow.  She forces the baby to swim alongside her as he gains strength and stamina.

 

 

Next as the baby seemingy plays upon his mother, we notice she will raise up out of the water, causing the baby whale to lay upon her back.  This is more serious training, although to the youngster it is just playtime.  Learning to stay high upon his mother’s back may be the one thing that saves him when a marauding orca pack attacks the mom and baby.  His only place to hide, is upon his mother’s back.

As the season progresses into mid-February a one or two day phenomenon will usually take place. I have written other times about the “baby breaching school,” a time when mother whales seem to show their kid exactly how to jump.  This training takes place at a time when most of the baby whales are strong enough to jump nearly clear of the water.  This training is something rarely seen because it only occurs for a very brief time.

 

Whales in Guerrero Negro

Another interesting training practice I see inside the lagoon generally takes place from mid-February on. This is when at one location near the bay entrance we see dozens of mother and baby whales surfing in the ocean break along the east shore of the entrance.  The mothers actually swim with the baby against the breaking swells.  This is serious physical conditioning and trains the young whale to swim and breathe in rough water conditions.  I’m convinced those whales swimming in the surf will soon be leaving the lagoon to begin the long swim north.

Want to know where to stay when visiting the Gray Whales in their lagoons?  Read more at Baja.com.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Possibly Related Posts:


Gray Whales in Guerrero Negro: Now is the Time to Plan Your Trip

by Carla White

It’s called the ‘gray migration’, but it’s not the surge of Baby Boomers seeking warm and affordable places to live south of the border; the phrase refers to the annual pilgrimage of gray whales leaving their cold northern waters to travel to the friendly lagoons of Baja California.

 

For eight months out of twelve, things are pretty quiet in Guerrero Negro, half-way down the Baja peninsula.  It’s desolate, wind-swept and remote —  not the kind of place you would expect miracles.  And yet, every year like clockwork, this small town and its infamous Scammon’s Lagoon (Ojo de Liebre) become the staging place for lots of them, when the once-nearly-extinct California gray whales arrive at the vast but sheltered lagoon to spawn and give birth to hundreds of baby grays, called calves.

History

The true miracle is that the gray whales exist at all.  In the mid-1800s, the whale population was estimated to be at 20-30 thousand.  Almost overnight and at the hand of one enterprising seaman, this number was decimated.  Captain Charles Melville Scammon and his crew waited for the whales to populate the lagoon and then managed to close off the entrance.  Scammon and his men developed an ingenious way to hunt and kill the spawning whales (a time when they are at their most vulnerable) using an efficient technique that was soon adopted by other whalers.  Suffice it to say, the carnage was great. In just a few short years, the gray whale population had almost vanished.

Photo courtesy of UNESCO: Mexico's Whale Sanctuary

Today, the gray whales thrive thanks to the efforts of the country of Mexico, the first nation to implement an active whale preservation program.  The government set an international precedent by establishing the Whale Sanctuary in Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Baja, California Sur, mandated by Presidential decree. In 1988, the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve was created to encompass two areas used by the gray whales, Laguna Ojo de Liebre and Laguna San Ignacio.  In addition to the establishment of protected areas for the whales, the government has also enacted legislation prohibiting the harassment, capture of physical harm or killing of gray whales.

The Migration of the Gray Whale

Every fall, the Pacific or California Gray Whale begins a two- to three-month migration south, along the western coast of Canada all the way down to Mexico.  The whales, which travel in small groups, cover an astounding 5,000-7,000 miles in this period.  Many seek safe harbor in the Guerrero Negro region, part of the Vizcaino Desert Biosphere Reserve, while others continue to locations along Baja and even into the southern part of the Gulf of California.

The whales typically breed every two years, and the mother (cow) will give birth to a single calf.  It is important for the creatures to find protected, shallow warm waters where they can breed and give birth to the young whales without fear of predators.  In these friendly waters, high salt content is important because it gives buoyancy to the babies in their early weeks.  In addition, it is believed that the lagoons are chosen by the whales because their shallowness is less inviting to sharks, which will otherwise prey on the baby whales.

Sometimes -- not always -- a one-on-one experience can be had with whales.

 

About Guerrero Negro

February and March are the key months for whale-watching in Guerrero Negro, which is about 440 miles from the San Diego/San Ysidro border crossing and a half-way stop between Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas on the Transpeninsular Highway.  Although private planes can be chartered to get there, most people arrive in Guerrero Negro by tour bus (check out Baja California Tours) or car.  The drive should only be attempted in daylight – nighttime driving is fraught with hazards that can include switchback roads, fast semi-trailer trucks and wandering animals.   Good stops along the way include San Quintin or Catavina, both of which feature pleasant Desert Inn (formerly La Pinta) hotels.   It’s a good idea to gas up when you have the opportunity in San Quintin or El Rosario.  The Pemex station in Catavina has not been open for a long time, but there are usually several men lining the road there, offering gas cans for sale.

Just to the north of Guerrero Negro, you cross into Baja California Sur, changing time zones. (On Central Standard Time from April through October, Guerrero Negro is an hour ahead of California and northern Baja).  Outside of town is a federal checkpoint, where you will most likely be asked to show your passport and travel visa –if you do not have a Mexico travel visa, you will be required to purchase one there.  Shortly after the checkpoint, you will veer off the highway to the right and into town.

Where to Stay in Guerrero Negro

Guerrero Negro is small, hence accommodations are somewhat limited and reservations should be made in advance.

The Malarrimo is basic but clean, and the hub of eco-tours.

The best choice for whale watchers is the basic but fun Hotel Malarrimo, run by Luis Enrique Achoy Cota. (The Malarrimo trailer park is also available, with 22 RV sites).  For one thing, the eco-tours leave from the hotel’s parking area.  For another, the hotel is very clean, inexpensive ($45 per room per night) and has the best restaurant in town (an important consideration, given that Guerrero Negro is not known for its abundant dining spots).  The famous giant Guerrero Negro sea scallops and locally cultivated oysters on the half-shell come highly recommended!

The Halfway Inn (formerly the Desert Inn) is also a good choice but is a bit outside of town.  Depending on season, the rooms run approximately $75-80 per night.  Don Miguelitos is an inexpensive and acceptable choice.

 Whales Up Close – The Tour

The whale-watching eco-tours take place twice a day, and begin at the Malarrimo Hotel, with buses leaving from the parking lot.  It is about a 30 minute trip to the lagoon, where a fleet of small boats (pangas) awaits.  Each panga carries up to 10 people.  Once out in the lagoon, the boat operators act as spotters and relay whale sitings to each other.

Sometimes it takes awhile, sometimes not.  But it is not unusual to see a mature whale breach the water straight up, like a missile (males average 16 tons, females 30-35 tons).  .  At times, whales appear to roil the waters all around, including cows and their babies that snuggle tightly up against mom’s side.  Every once in awhile, like a huge shadow, a whale will glide beneath the panga boat, coming up to roll over right next to breathless boat passengers. As the sleek beast turns, barnacles and lichen are visible on the whale’s skin.  There is often a moment when a big whale eyeball gazes at the humans with benign curiosity as its head lolls slowly back into the ocean.  Sometimes, the whales are close enough to touch but, as the boat operator cautions, it’s vital not to touch the whale anyplace near its blowhole!

The three-hour-tour (yes, Gilligan) passes by in a flash, usually ending with a quick visit to some rather lardacious sealions who bark their goodbyes to the ecotourists.

Eco-tours, operated by Malarrimo Eco-tours, are $45 per person, with a $4 additional National Park fee charged.

For more ideas on what to do in and around Guerrero Negro, check this column in the next few days.  In the meantime, start planning your trip…you’ll have a whale of a time!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants,hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Possibly Related Posts: