“The whole Baja California peninsula is an energetic place, and it’s incredibly alive.” Gael Garcia Bernal
Baja is a wonderful place to experience ocean life up close and personal. A quick trip to Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja California Sur was on tap to celebrate my sister’s 50th birthday. We stayed in an all inclusive resort (more about that in my next post) and while there we were able to take part in a baby turtle releasing on the beach and a great whale watching tour on a zodiac boat.
No boat trip in Cabo would be complete without a trip to the famous Baja Arch. Although it was a bit of a rough sea day there were numerous tour boats in the area also taking advantage of the photo opportunity. This day on the water was my sister’s choice for a birthday excursion and I couldn’t agree more. Never having seen whales up close she was excited to get out on the water and hopefully experience the awe that comes with even a glimpse of this gigantic species. Fortunately luck was in our favor and we witnessed close up several Humpback Whales breaching and slapping the water with their tails and flukes.
The humpback whale is a Baleen whale, adults range in length from 40’-50’ and weigh approximately 79,000 lb. The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobby head. It is an acrobatic animal, often breaching and slapping the water. Humpbacks are famous for their vocalizations, the males produce a complex whale song, which lasts for 10 to 20 minutes and is repeated for hours at a time.
“We owe it to our children to be better stewards of the environment. The alternative? – a world without whales. It’s too terrible to imagine.” – Pierce Brosnan
Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 kilometers each year. Humpbacks feed only in summer, in polar waters (these whales came from Alaska), and migrate to tropical or sub-tropical waters to breed and give birth in the winter. During the winter, humpbacks fast and live off their fat reserves. During this time they typically loose up to 25% of their overall body weight. Can you imagine not eating for several months? Well that is the life of the Humpback in the warm southern waters during the winter.
Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Due to over-hunting, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, humpbacks are now sought out by whale-watchers just like ourselves.
The day was a huge success and for my family at least, definitely sparked a new love and respect for this incredible animal. The whole clan is talking about how they can possibly join Jerry and I on one of our Loreto trips next year! To have a huge, friendly whale willingly approach your boat and look you straight in the eye is without doubt one of the most extraordinary experiences on the planet and I get great pleasure in sharing this with folks each Spring on our Baja trips.
Switching from the largest living animals to a much smaller sea creature – baby turtles! The resort we were staying at had a variety of coordinated activities but by far my favorite was the releasing of baby sea turtles.
Sea turtles migrate the world’s oceans and have been coming to Baja’s Los Cabos beaches to lay their eggs for millions of years. Two of the world’s eight sea turtle species nest in Los Cabos. The smallest, the Olive Ridley, also known as the golfina, nests June through to December. The golfina feeds on shrimp, jellyfish, snails and algae, and can grow to 26 inches long, weighing up to 90 pounds. Golfinas are endangered species, suffering from the effects of long lines, fishing nets, development, and illegal poaching.
“Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”― Plato
Most mature sea turtle females return to the beach of their birth, to dig their nests and lay their eggs at night. Only about one in 1,000 of their offspring will survive the treacherous journey from the nest to maturity.
After incubation, they hatch, and take several days to claw their way out of the nest, instinctively making their way to the sea, following the moon and the horizon.
Many fall prey to birds as they struggle to reach the shore, others are led off track by deep grooves left from vehicular traffic and disorienting artificial lighting from beachfront hotels and residential areas. Once in the ocean, they face new predators or fall victim to long lines, gillnets, poaching and pollution. There are a number of organizations working to protect the Sea Turtles of Baja and there is an extensive program working to collect eggs and hatch the baby turtles to be released back into the ocean thereby improving that one in a thousand statistic.
We took part in the release of about 100 baby turtles on the beach in front of the resort and given a little luck and with help from mother nature we hope at least one of these adorable babies will make it to adulthood.
“And the turtles, of course…all the turtles are free, as turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.” Dr Seuss