Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California

Jan 18, 2019 - National Geographic Venture

We began early today, boarding expedition landing crafts to head into San Ignacio Bay. Semi-turbulent water over the sandbar made for an adventurous ride. When we arrived at the beach, we were greeted by our skilled panga operators, known as “pangeros.” Once aboard, we set off in search of whales and other bay wildlife.

San Ignacio Bay is vast, and finding whales is no easy task. Nevertheless, our pangeros worked together to locate gray whales in the lagoon. During our panga expedition, we came upon several individuals. Some were turned onto their sides in the shallow water, appearing to feed by scraping mouthfuls of sand and silt from the bottom. This is feeding behavior is typical of gray whales, which sieve out the thousands of small crustaceans living in the muck on the sea floor.

Fortunes soared when our group came upon a female gray whale and her newborn calf. The calf was easily 15 feet long and swam vibrantly beside its mother. What a wonderful thing to see!

We saw numerous bottlenose dolphins in the bay, as well as California sea lions, and several intriguing species of bird. The latter included many pink-footed shearwaters.

We said goodbye to San Ignacio Bay as our National Geographic Venture pulled anchor and began the journey south, where a relaxing afternoon at sea followed. Highlights included a fascinating presentation on Baja’s history by undersea specialist Carlos Navarro and a massive group of long-beaked common dolphins coming in to ride the pressure wave of our ship’s bow.

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About the Author

Ivan Phillipsen


Ivan is a passionate naturalist with a background in scientific research. He has participated in studies of a diverse assortment of organisms: aspen trees, cactus wrens, aquatic snails, frogs, and beetles. He holds a M.S. in biology from Cal State San Bernardino and a Ph.D. in zoology from Oregon State University. The population genetics of freshwater animals was his area of focus. He has published a series of papers on the evolutionary biology of amphibians and aquatic insects. Ivan’s scientific work invariably involved backpacking into remote wilderness areas to find his secretive research subjects in their natural habitats.

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