We awoke this morning alongside the dock in San Carlos on the northern bank of Magdalena Bay. Buses awaited to drive us to Lopez Mateos where we could board local pangas – small fiberglass boats that offer excellent views. The pangas would take us along Hull Canal to Boca de Soledad, a narrow inlet to Magdalena Bay where gray whales use these calm waters for their breeding and calving grounds.
Life jackets on and cameras ready, we sped along the water towards the open Pacific. The sandy dune shoreline was laced with mangrove trees, creating a barrier to hold the calm lagoon separate from the waves and wind of the open Pacific Ocean. Frigate birds, western gulls, terns, herons, and a variety of other shorebirds perched along the shore and in the mangrove forests while brown pelicans dived into the lagoon for fish that only their birds-eye view could spot.
At last, we saw the heart-shaped blow of a gray whale in the distance. Our “pangero” (captain) drew us cautiously closer to where the blow had been, and we stopped and waited
for her to approach us, or any of the pangas in the area. Sure enough, she surfaced and greeted each boat with a pffftttt of whale breath and salty ocean spray over ten feet high. This dance of pangas, whales, and joyful giggles of humans lasted over an hour, until we had to come back to shore for a quick lunch.
Fueled up with a delicious lunch of local fish, chicken, and cookies, most of the group headed back out for more time with the whales. Although the skies had darkened and the wind had picked up, the whales were still active and curious and now joined by some coastal bottlenose dolphins. Satisfied and filled with appreciation for these magnificent creatures, we headed to the dock and back to National Geographic Venture for a well-deserved delicious dinner.