San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California Sur

Apr 02, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


All through the night a light southerly wind helped to guide National Geographic Venture north toward today’s destination of San Ignacio Lagoon. This lagoon is one in the middle of three along the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula, where California gray whales migrate each year to mate and give birth. We have traveled to this lagoon specifically to be in the presence of perhaps the friendliest of all whales: California gray whales!

No other location on earth offers the opportunity for humans to interact so intimately and so easily with mother gray whales, who seem intent on showing off their newborn calves! Repeatedly, a mother whale will bring her calf alongside our fleet of pangas (small Mexican fishing boats used here in the lagoon to whale watch from) and actually encourage that baby to interact with our group! Without a doubt, these young whales are just as curious and interested in us as we are in them.

Our recent history and relationship with California gray whales would not seem to deserve this kind of affection. Twice in the last one hundred and sixty years, mankind has drove California gray whales along North America’s western coast to commercial extinction through aggressive whaling practices. Yet it seems that today these magnificent leviathans have either forgotten or forgiven our past transgressions against them.

Dear reader, there is no way that I can describe for you in words the excitement and awe that being so close to baby whales and their mothers can inspire in us. Perhaps the joy on the faces of the people in these photographs can convey those emotions. I would encourage each and every one of you to experience this for yourselves—come see what all the fuss is about!

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About the Author

Michael Nolan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez.

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