Whale watching is the perfect compliment to sea kayaking in Baja Mexico. Nearly half of all whale species have been found around the Baja Peninsula. For some whales, this region is critically important and supports the majority of their global population.
With so many whale species present, and in such large concentrations, Baja California is one of the world’s premiere whale watching hot spots. Combine this with some areas of sheltered water, and we have the perfect conditions for taking beginners kayaking with whales in Mexico.
The two sides of the Baja Peninsula are vastly different, in terms of marine habitat, whale watching, sea kayaking opportunities, and weather. The eastern shore faces the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California. This body of water attracts a greater variety of whales and other marine mammals than any other sea on the planet. While there are times that winds can churn up the Sea of Cortez, most of the time it is calm and inviting to sea kayak tours.
Blue Whale Watching in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez
Compared to the west side of the Baja Peninsula, the Sea of Cortez has warmer weather and a climate more in line with most people’s expectations of a Mexico vacation on the beach. The water is warmer, too, and supports many beautiful tropical fishes. Due to the overlap of the temperate and tropical faunal zones, the Sea of Cortez boasts the greatest variety of fishes and marine invertebrates found anywhere along the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean. Many kayak tour guests here spend as much time in the water swimming and snorkeling as they do kayaking.
The Sea of Cortez is one of the last sanctuaries for globally decimated blue whales and fin whales. From 12-30 blue whales forage in the Loreto Islands area between January and mid-March each year. Other whale species present include: humpback whales, Bryde’s whales, minke whales, orca whales, sperm whales, and several others. Our kayaking trip routes in the Sea of Cortez take you to best area for whale watching encounters, a region where scientists are focusing their studies of the whales. Whale biologists have dubbed it the “Blue Triangle” as it is one of the last places on earth where blue whales are reliably found and it is believed to be a calving area for this critically endangered species.
The Blue Triangle kayak tour takes place in the only part of the world where blue whales can be regularly encountered by sea kayak. Sea Quest trips have had a 95% success rate for sighting large baleen whales in the Sea of Cortez and we expect this to continue into the future. Please keep in mind, that some Sea of Cortez kayak tours see whales on only a single occasion. But more often, our trips have the fortune of seeing whales nearly every day. These sightings can range from lone whales cruising the distant horizon to small pods of foraging whales lunging around and beneath the kayaks! Remember that oceanic conditions are not always consistent, and if the plankton bloom fails, as it does once or twice a decade, whale sightings may become scarce. In normal years, our schedule coincides with vast blooms of plankton that draw the hungry whales in to gorge. If you’d like to kayak with whales, your best chances of seeing these awesome mammals on our Baja sea kayaking trips are from February through April, with a slight peak in mid-March. During other months the whales are usually widely scattered or have migrated into the Pacific Ocean.
Gray Whale Watching Tours in Baja Mexico
Whale watching in Baja California contrasts markedly on the different sides of the peninsula. The western shore of Baja is dominated by the Pacific Ocean and this surf pounded coast is normally restricted to only the most skilled sea kayakers. However, several lagoons indent the western shore of Baja California and provide protection from surf and swell. This shelter makes the lagoons home to virtually the entire world’s population of gray whales. These 50-foot giants take refuge in protected Baja California lagoons from January to mid-March for their winter breeding season. Gray whales make an annual migration of up to 6000 miles between Mexico’s lagoons and the Bering Sea, the longest of any mammal.
Gray whales have twice recovered from the brink of extinction at the hands of whalers. Fortunately, Mexico has recognized the value of the lagoons and now protects the gray whales from various threats and disturbances. About eight thousand gray whales enter one lagoon known as Magdalena Bay, the location of our gray whale watching tour basecamp. Due to Magdalena Bay’s unique ecological and political situation, kayaks are not used for approaching the gray whales here. All up close whale watching in the lagoons is done in motorized skiffs that are operated by well-trained naturalist skippers.
The gray whale watching trips coincide with their season for birthing, nursing young, and rowdy breeding. Even if you choose just the one day of gray whale watching tour (included in some Sea of Cortez kayaking trips) you should see and hear almost continuous action. If you choose the multi-day gray whale watching tour, all of this can be observed right from the base camp, and you will fall asleep to the sound of breathing whales. On a daily basis we venture out in a skiff for close up whale watching. Some of the gray whales have become “friendly” and enthusiastically approach the skiffs to be petted and rubbed by the humans on board. Looking into the eye of a whale and feeling its whole body shiver from the pleasure of your touch is an unparalleled wildlife experience! Sighting gray whales is guaranteed on these tours.
Are Whale Watching Tours from a Sea Kayak Safe?
Absolutely, and it is a thrill that you will never forget! Whales peacefully go about their business while we enjoy their company from a respectful distance. Whales are intelligent, sociable, and remarkably agile for their size. They are very good at judging their distance from a kayak and will occasionally come very close, even swimming under our kayaks without creating a ripple! It is exceedingly rare for a whale to bump into kayak. We have seen it happen only a couple of times and it never resulted in a capsize – just great stories to tell! These minor incidents were caused by the kayakers ignoring guide instructions and paddling directly into the path of the whale when it was intensely focused on feeding.