Baja California, Mexico – The Kiss of The Devilfish
Magic every time
The days slipped by, always with the same routine of two boat trips, but every time we went out the whale encounters would be as unique and magical as our first. To get the most out of the day, we were encouraged to head to bed early at night, with the dining/ meeting room closing at wpm. I woke several times to the sound of coyotes calling out. Outside the sky was so heavy with stars that you felt you could reach out and touch them. I would get up at first light, get myself a coffee and a chair, and watch the sun rise over the shimmering lagoon.
On my last afternoon we had an encounter with a particularly friendly whale and its baby. They came to the boat again and again, seemingly never tiring of the contact. Occasionally the pair would go to another boat, but they would always come back to us. The baby kept turning over, wanting its belly scratched. Lindsey, a nurse back in the UK, quipped, “That’s the best belly that I’ve ever rubbed!”.
The mother was friendly too, coming close in order for her head to be scratched. Perhaps she had fond memories of being stroked as a baby herself.
Back at the lodge, we were on a high as we downed happy hour margaritas and swapped photos and yarns. I was leaving the next morning in advance of the group. “Back to the real world,” someone said, giving me a sympathetic look.
The real world? I had been living in an alternative reality for several days, a world where whales and humans hugged and kissed. I was now seriously questioning just which the real world was.
Regional capital: La Paz
Time: GMT-7 (Apr-Oct GMT-6)
Visas: Not required by UK nationals. If accessing Baja via the USA, you need an ESTA
When to go:
The season runs January-April. Later is better — although there are fewer whales, there are more calves, and the whales are more playful.
The author travelled on the Festival of Whales trip, led by Mark Carwardine and operated by Wildlife Worldwide. The ten-day trip runs from 20 February in 2015. It costs from £4,490, including all flights, two nights in San Diego, six nights at an ecolodge, whale-watching, workshops and lectures, and most meals. The 2016 departure is 1 April and costs from £4,995. Wildlife Worldwide can arrange individual trips during the season too.
Extensions, such as whale-watching in Baja’s Sea of Cortez or visits to the annual monarch butterfly gathering near Mexico City, are also available .
Food & drink:
Expect locally sourced Mexican dishes such as fish stews, rice, scallops, beans, salads, tortillas and quesadillas.
What to take:
Pack clothes that you don’t mind getting wet — even if the sea is calm, you are likely to get splashed or sprayed by the whales. Take layers (it can get cold out on the water), waterproof shoes or sandals, a waterproof bag for your camera, polarised sunglasses (to help see into the water), binoculars and sun protection. A GoPro camera (or similar) is great for shooting underwater.