The grey whales from Baja California are a friendly bunch –could a cetacean smooch here be the world’s greatest wildlife encounter?
They say you always remember your first kiss. Well, l’m not absolutely sure I do (it may have been on the Isle of Man; I vomited afterwards but that was probably more to do with the ice-cream I’d just scoffed). However, I do remember kissing my first whale. It was around 3pm on Friday 28 February 2014, in San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California.
Seven of us, plus our guide, were in a small panga (motorboat), bobbing around on a sunny afternoon. We’d watched jealously as a mother and baby grey whale approached a boat mom away. Then we held our breath as they turned and headed towards us. When they were halfway, they sank from view; we stared intently at the water, eager for a sighting. Our hearts pounded as they surfaced right by our boat.
The 4.5m-long baby turned on its side, her eye peering up at us, seemingly inviting us to stroke her. Her skin was soft and smooth, like latex. The mother also rose, and we could appreciate her size: nearly 15m long. Her skin was covered in patches of barnacles, but was smooth between the outcrops.
The baby kept vying for attention, and thrust her head up towards us. Kissing her seemed to be the only thing to do. It would have been rude not to. After a few more minutes of the mutual love-in, the pair sank down, swam under our panga and headed for another boat.
The encounter was so momentous that afterwards we couldn’t recall whether we had been screaming or whether we were in awed silence. We conferred and decided it had been both. I turned to one of my companions, Lindsey, to see her wiping away tears of joy.
“Pinch me,” I said.