Whale Hugging (and Watching)

A humpback whale in the Sea of Cortez.

I must have been 13 or 14 the first time my parents dragged me whale watching off the coast of Maine.  I was a difficult, moody teenager, and not only was the prospect of doing anything with my family seriously uncool (not to mention unspeakably embarrassing), it was cold and cloudy and choppy.

After two hours in the car and four hours on the boat, we saw one grayish smudge that was supposedly a whale. It was boring and disappointing—pretty awful, really—and in true teenager form, I pouted and sighed the whole way home.

A decade and a half later and 4,300 miles away, I finally got my chance. When my husband, John, and I traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in March, our vacation not only coincided with Spring Break (Dispatches from the front lines (of Spring Break)), we were also in time for the main whale breeding season.

Watching those beautiful, majestic creatures was so much better than I could have imagined on that day so long ago.

(Here’s a slideshow of some of my best photos. Those were quick little devils though—much faster than the shutter on my camera, and I was lucky to get the shots I did. The audio is a recording of humpback whale sounds played on the boat. I picked it up using the video function on my camera and I extracted it to run with the photos.)

Every Spring (about January to March), thousands of Humpback, Gray and Blue whales swim five or six thousand miles from their feeding grounds in Alaska to their tropical breeding waters off of Cabo Who can blame them? I’d want to escape the Alaska winter too.

And such water! Surrounded by cliffs and desserts that drop into a sea that’s a thousand shades of blue (from aqua to cerulean to royal) Cabo means the Cape in English and it sits at the very tip of Baja California, surrounded on one side by the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

Its iconic stone arch (El Arco) helps mark Land’s End (La Finisterra) for the whales—or any sailors who happen to stop by. And it seemed to be a playground for the little pod (mommy, daddy and baby) our whale watching boat stumbled upon only a few hundred feet from shore.

 (I edited this video together using multiple video clips I took on my camera. It begins to give a sense of the beauty and majesty of these whales. I’m a much better photographer than videographer.)

They were adorable—if one can call a several-ton animal adorable—and having a grand old time, jumping and splashing in the water. Although we were in a rather large catamaran that stayed perhaps 20-50 feet away, other whale watchers were in dinghies that got within perhaps five feet. I kept thinking of that picture that went viral on the internet a few months ago—the one where a whale jumped out of the ocean, and landed on a couple’s sailboat. (Whale of a tale! 40-ton mammal lands on yacht)

I don’t think they would have been quite so adorable then, but from a distance? Cute and almost cuddly.

And while I’m sure the tourist industry is making a lot of money on the creatures, I’m just happy that there’s a way I can enjoy them, they can live free, and they’ll still be around for my future children to enjoy.

(Just for fun, from The Ocean Project)

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2 Responses to Whale Hugging (and Watching)

  1. Pingback: Dolphin Party | Postcards & Prose

  2. Pingback: Whale Watching in Baja California | Postcards & Prose

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