Marine life in Baja California
The Gulf of California, or Sea of Cortez, is cradled in the arm of Mexico’s Baja California and is one of the best places in the world to view whales and dolphins. Not only are resident and visiting marine mammals plentiful, but the diversity of species is phenomenal. Baja California cruises that have a staff with decades of experience truly make all the difference in finding these elusive leviathans, whether your goal is photography or simply the chance to watch these fascinating creatures.
Passengers on Baja California cruises in the Sea of Cortez often see blue whales from January to March, the largest animals to have ever lived. Their primary food is krill, crustaceans that increase in number and attract these 100-ton creatures before they make their way to either Costa Rica or islands off California. There are over 650 fin whales resident in the gulf that also feed on krill and millions of schooling fish like sardines, anchovies, and herring. Also frequently encountered are sleek, dark Bryde’s whales that forage for schooling fish. Humpback whales are numerous off the tip of Baja California, and some of them as well as a few gray whales pass into the southern part of the Sea of Cortez. Most gray whales mate and give birth in lagoons along the Pacific side of Baja where they sometimes seek out friendly people in small boats on Baja cruises to offer them an experience of a lifetime.
Other marine mammals are charismatic dolphin species that thrill countless numbers of travelers on Baja California cruises. You may encounter hundreds to thousands of long-beaked common dolphins. These beautifully marked acrobats forage in groups, love to bow and wake ride, and have been observed to jump as high as 26 feet. Bottlenose dolphins are also common and a joy to watch. They also bow ride and are easy to photograph if you can hang over the rail and look straight down on them. In the more northern areas of the gulf there are hundreds of resident sperm whales that feed primarily on jumbo or Humboldt squid. Short-finned pilot whales are seen regularly as well. The males may be 18 feet or more long with big, bulbous melons atop their black shining heads. Killer and false killer whales are always exciting to encounter in the Gulf of California as well as the less frequently seen spotted, spinner, and Risso’s dolphins.
If you’re after giggles, a swim with California sea lions is what you need. Sub-adults love to rush full speed at your snorkeling mask, veer off at the last moment, return to give your flippers a tug, and then stare at your face at close range. They quickly transport you into your youth no matter what your age. They are so graceful, that your experience may be like watching either a ballet or a circus or both.
Seabirds are often gliding around the ship when you’re on a Baja California cruise, especially when you’re stopped watching marine mammals. The more entertaining ones are brown and blue-footed boobies with their outrageous feet. If you’re lucky, you may see Heermann’s gulls stealing fish out of the pouches of pelicans, storm petrels fluttering near the surface, or shearwaters gliding effortlessly inches from the wave tops. Another truly exciting species is the brilliant white tropicbird with its ever-so-long tail streaming out behind. This seabird is much more often seen since rats were trapped off its nesting islands. When you’re cruising for whales in Baja California, it seems like you always encounter something sensational.
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