Boca de Soledad, Magdalena Bay

Mar 09, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird


The first full day of our expedition in Magdalena Bay started early with magnificent frigates coasting over the bow and small groups of bottlenose dolphins crossing our path throughout the morning. Glowing pinks, yellows, and blues filled the sky as the Baja sun rose before 7 a.m., waking us all with a feeling of awe and excitement for the day ahead. We journeyed through the winding, twisty mangroves of Hull Canal for several hours before lunch, admiring the beauty of this remote Mexican landscape. The red mangroves lined the water with their tall prop roots showing, holding a variety of birds and their nests above the salt water. Brown pelicans and double-crested cormorants were seen high and low within the mangrove ecosystem. Steep, sloped sand dunes carved were carved by wind with intricate, repetitive patterns of ridges and waves.

After we had a fantastic lunch of fresh greens and bowls of hot pozole—a local soup made from a delicious combination of sweet tomatoes, spicy peppers, and sour lime juice flavors—we loaded into the expedition landing crafts to visit the sand dunes and have our first chance to observe the gray whales up close. The weather changed throughout the day, shifting the afternoon to more wind, so traveling across water became an adventure as the hours passed. We broke into small groups, branching out in small boats across the bay in search of whales. Light sea spray misting our faces became large waves of sea water lifting our boats and raising us to see whales both near and far off in the bay. Poof, poof, poof. We could hear whales behind us, in front, see the blows, hear the breaths. It was impossible to glimpse every whale around us—there were simply too many. Salty waves crashed over the sides of our boats as we observed spy-hopping, breaching, and rolling whales at the surface.

Though some of us were wet from head to sandal, the massive smiles on each of our faces told the complete story at the end of our afternoon. We found the whales. What a treat to begin our trip with such a successful day!

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About the Author

Christine West

Undersea Specialist

Christine was fortunate to grow up in the Pacific Northwest on the shores of the Puget Sound. After graduating from the University of Washington, she decided to pursue her love of the ocean and exploration. Her passion for marine biology has inspired her through over 4,000 scuba dives around the globe in temperate and cold-water conditions, as well as snorkeling and freediving in extraordinary habitats such as in river beds with spawning salmon, in recently de-glaciated bays and lagoons filled with ice and glacial silt and in deep blue water with large marine animals including humpback whales, hammerhead sharks and pilot whales.

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