Lopez Mateos

Feb 13, 2020 - National Geographic Venture

Wow! But I get ahead of myself…

This morning we pulled into Porto San Carlos 20 minutes after an almost perfect sunrise. The sky was azure blue, the water flat and green, and the sun was ablaze with reds and oranges, or perhaps they were guava and mango.

Our mission today was to bus to Lopez Mateo and board pangas in an attempt to see gray whale moms and claves up close and personal – by any standard, I believe we succeeded! Lopez Mateos is a small town that was built around commercial fishing. Today, it hosts the annual Festival De La Ballena Gris for three days in January. The town itself is still a hardscrabble villa populated by many rugged individuals who make their living on the sea, but today, most of those jobs are actually in eco-tourism, taking folks from away out to get their whale fix in a panga for a couple of hours while the rest of the world does what it will.

Our first round of tours was wonderful, marked by many close encounters with mother and baby pairs of gray whales traversing the Boca de Soledad in an effort to get the babies in shape for a 7,000-mile migration back north to the Chukchi sea. The weather was perfection as many of our guests were inducted into the fellowship of those who had been up close and personal with the gray whales by virtue of a whale snot baptism.

At 1:00 we returned to shore for a fine lunch at the Union Restaurant where we dined on fish and chicken that had been given a most authentic Mexican treatment. The second round of whale tours was, if anything, better than the first, but that has indeed been the motif of this trip. Returning to the Boca, we found even more whales than had been there previously, and they were spy-hopping at a truly amazing rate. The sea-state had picked up a bit, but none of our guests would hear of abandoning the whales for the comfort of the dock as we witnessed a phenomenon that is unique to this amazing place.

We re-boarded the busses and made our way back to Puerto San Carlos just as the sun was hitting the horizon, putting the cap on a yet another perfect Baja day. A buffet of brisket, chicken, and fish with all of the fixings was a fine way for guests to share their experiences, as our impeccable bar team mixed up a large batch of their wonderful mango-ritas!

National Geographic Venture fired up her engines, and cast free of the dock in Puerto San Carlos, once again heading out of port and into an unknown future. I have no doubt that tomorrow will be the equal of today, bringing many new and wonderful spectacles to the guests aboard National Geographic Venture.

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About the Author

Jeff Campbell


Jeff Campbell fell in love with the ocean while attending boatbuilding school in Eastport, Maine. Since completing his MS in Marine and Estuarine Science at Western Washington University, he has worked for NOAA documenting the ecological impacts of transoceanic fiber-optic cable; the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife developing an aging method for sixgill sharks; the Lummi Tribe as a Harvest Biologist; Northwest Indian College teaching Fisheries and Wildlife Biology, and as a volunteer for the Whatcom County Marine Mammal Stranding Network. He has been involved in research developing mitigation methods for harmful algae blooms, sterilization methods for oil tanker ballast water, and techniques for screening refinery effluent for harmful ecological effects. He also served as Principle Director on a USDA-funded grant using student interns to study the impact of nutrient-rich run-off on seasonal dead-zones in Bellingham Bay.

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