Whale Watching

Feb-Mar 2005

Our Austrialia - New Zealand trip (2006) was the first trip we took where I consiously took notes with producing a web page in mind; however, I found in 2020 when I created this page that I'd created a slide show from the pictures I took. I will take some of those for this and add some of my recollections.

The whale watching portion of the trip was organized through a web site I found greywhale.com. I'm pleased to report they are still in business in 2020. In reading their current website, they have made some changes to the tour since we did ours. I assume the changes made were plusses and might make the tour even better; however, the tour as we took it was one Pam and I (at least I, for sure) have said if we were physically able, we would love to do again.


I don't believe this was our first time in San Diego, but it was one of the first times; therefore, it was not a hardship to get there the day before our whale watching experience was to start. We decided to take a tour of the city. The parks and scenes we saw were lovely.

As I recall, we were up early the next morning for a van ride from the hotel to Guerrero Negro. It was an all day trip. (It appears they no longer do this. It appears you fly down. I've mixed emotions about the change. It was a long drive and not the most comfortable conditions; however, there was some beautiful scenery along the way. Of course, there were the Federales - more about that later.)

You may be wondering why we would go whale watching in Baja when you generally associate whales with either Hawaii or Alaska. There are two reasons that come to mind when speaking about gray whales in particular. The first is the cove at Guerri Negro is called the nursery of the gray whales. Annually, "all" the gray whales come to this cove, the males and females do what they do, then the males leave, the females who got pregnant the previous year give birth and remain with the infants until the infants are large enough to safely travel north. (There are orcas on the way north who will try to make a meal of the infants.) The other important difference making Baja more preferable is the Mexican laws regarding whales. The United States laws indicate you may not pursue whales, and if a whale comes to you, you must vacate. The Mexican laws say you may not pursue; however, if they come to you, you do not need to leave. It allows for a much closer look at them.

 The above picture shows the major reason why Pam and I do not feel repeating this trip is feasible. If you look at the gear the ladies are wearing and picture getting in and out of the boat while in water, you'll have an idea. It was challenging one we were in our 60s, in 2020 the mere thought is very daunting.

Once in the boats, we saw whales almost immediately.

The two pictures above provide a good example of a tidbit our guides provided us with during the trip. Obviously, one of the ways of differentiating the age of whales is by size; however, relative distance at sea can be confusing. Another way is by noting the number of barnacles. Barnacles are collected over time; therefore, older whales have more barnacles. Using that logic, the whale in the lower picture is younger. – Aren't you glad you asked?

As you can see, we did get closer.

This led to one of the highlights of the entire trip. We have been out in the boat for some time when a mother whale and her child approached. The mother was about three times the length of our boat and child was about the length of our boat. They proceeded to swim under our boat. I can't say that we felt them swim under the boat but we could easily watch them do it. As they were swimming on, the people on the boat verbally thanked the whales for the up close encounter. With that they turned around and swam back under the boat going the other way. This time the people on the boat were even more vocal in their appreciation of the visit. So, sure enough, they did it for the third time. With that the guide on the boat told us that we had to go back in because we had already exceeded the time that we were supposed to be out. He started the motor and we left.

Of course, we on the boat continued to verbally thank the whales very loudly. As we were pulling away from the whales, the mother took one last look at us and seemed to me to be saying, "Don't you want to play with my baby any longer?"

Whales weren't the only thing we saw.

Our hotel.

Our room - notice the proximity of the door and bed,

Where we had our meals. Based on my lack of whale pictures, apparently we didn't see too many whales on this day.

The last day of whale watching brought more close encounters, another insight of whale behavior, and cost me a camera.

This picture is an example of one of the traits our guides told us about. It is apparent the mother whale (below the surface) is blocking the baby from approaching our boat. The guides told us how it seemed to be whale mothers were similar to human mothers in that some allowed their baby's curiosity and would allow them to approach the boat while other mothers (like this one) blocked the attempt to get close. The guides took this to be mothers being protective of their babies. While writing this I have begun to wonder whether it might not be a case of the mothers protecting us from rambunctious babies. While the babies are nowhere near the size of their mothers, they are big. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been surprised occasionally with the vigor and strength of a charge from a puppy. Can you imagine what would happen to our boat if the baby whale approached with the vigor of a puppy? So, are the mothers protecting us or their babies? I don't know, but I think it's a good idea either way!

Naturally, it was at this time my camera succumbed to the salty, sea air and sent me scrambling for my back up. During my scramble we were visited by another baby and mother. This mother either trusted us or the baby enough to let him/her come close. The baby swam along the side of the boat with its head out of the water and appeared to check us out. Since I was busy switching cameras, I didn't see it but someone on our boat actually touched the mother or baby. Talk about close encounters!

The next day was the drive up the Baja peninsula. As I recall now, it seemed longer and in thinking about it now is a good reason to fly people down. That being said, it did give us the opportunity to experience the Federales. We had been alerted to them on the way down but did not actually experience them. Because of drug trafficking down there the roads are patrolled by the Federales. If we were stopped, we were told to follow the Federales instructions explicitly and no wise cracking. On the way up, we were stopped and asked to exit the van. They did a cursory look through and then we were back on the way. The guide told us the trick was M&Ms. He always carried M&Ms and offered them to the Federales when stopped, things seemed to go easier that way. We did pass another van that had been stopped. It appeared to be a local family (kids and all). The Federales had taken the seats out of the van and were going over it with a fine-tooth comb. (I guess the family hadn't learned the M&Ms trick.)

After a night to straighten out our backs from the van ride. It was time to enjoy San Diego for a couple more days. The first stop was Sea World.

I won't bore you with too many of the pictures taken here, but this gentleman deserves some special mention. We, as we like to do when offered the chance, took a behind the scenes tour. This beluga whale was a fairly recent addition to the Sea World collection and was being kept in isolation. He had bonded with the trainers and they had found that he as with many other belugas like to have their tongue scratched. The trainer taking us around asked if there was anyone who would like to scratch his tongue. Since there were kids in our group, Pam held back, but when no one indicated they wanted to do it, she volunteered.

That's Pam scratching away.

Of course, you always must give the animal a treat after doing something right. So here we have Pam giving the beluga a fish. I'd never thought about it, but since the beluga supposedly really likes to get its tongue scratched, shouldn't Pam be getting the treat? Maybe she didn't do it right. :-)

The next day it was off to the San Diego Zoo and again I'll keep the pictures to a minimum.

Of course, I can't pass up the chance to show the picture of the baby panda hiding from the camera.

Did you know orangs checked their breath the way humans do?

The last day of the vacation was spent at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. We'd been there before but this time took the behind the scene tour which took us up close to some of the animals. Again, I won't bore you with all the photos, but here are some I find special.

It certainly allowed Pam to get up with some of the animals. As you can tell from the picture of her with the giraffes, she hated it!

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