Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gray Whale Census

Gray Whale Census

San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, Mexico

April 16, 2014

Gray Whale Calves:  71
Gray Whale Adults:  71

Total Gray Whales:  142

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gray Whale Census

Gray Whale Census
San Ignacio Lagoon

April 7, 2014

Gray Whale Calves:  85
Gray Whale Adults:  85
Total Gray Whales:  170

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Guide Report: March 25-29

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report

March 25-29

By: Liisa Juuti


Last night I asked my fellow guides what do they feel when being around the whales. We were in the middle of the desert at night, staring at the sky with beautiful shooting stars, waiting for the car engine to cool down to get back to our camp. Our attempt to get to the village to celebrate the whale festival had failed and we were contemplating our experience of the camp under the stars. "Joy. Happiness." says Rubi, pouring the last bit of water to the radiator. "Well, they just totally crack me up every time I see them" says Hayley while making odd movements and singing a song with whale-related lyrics. It is our second last night at the camp.

The next day, on our last day at the camp, Cuco kindly offers to take us, guides, to a whale watching trip so that we can touch, kiss and play with them, too. But to our surprise and amusement NONE of them approach us. Not a single one of them! We sing to them, splash, call for them in different tones, just as we encourage our clients to do. But they keep hiding. Hayley wonders if they have already left the lagoon. But I know they are still out there. Maybe they are too sad to come and say goodbye, I reckon. We end up having a wonderful yet nostalgic whale watching trip, without seeing any whales. 

It is difficult to leave the lagoon. I have gotten used to the busy routine, ever changing sunrises, the sound of the bell calling for whale watching or happy hour, the stingy look of the coyotes, the red mangrove seeds floating in the water, the whale smell on my face and the "norteƱa" music. Not to mention the gorgeous night walks to the bathroom lit by the stars and moon, the daily interaction with the whales or the many giggles with the guides and the family at Campo Cortez. It has been such a positive and intense experience and I have difficulties assimilating it. All I can say is THANK YOU. Thank you whales, thank you family at Campo Cortez, thank you Hayley and Rubi, and thank you clients! Not only have I learned from the whales, birds, invertebrates and plants around the lagoon, but also from the many interesting and inspiring  guests. Oh, and what do I feel when around the whales? Peace. Bliss. Grace. And Love. What else can one ask for? I am ready to migrate to my home, just as the grays. See you next year!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gray Whale Census: March 28, 2014

Gray Whale Census
San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, Ca. Sur, Mexico

Date:  March 28, 2014

Gray Whale Calves:  27
Adult Gray Whales:  28

Total Gray Whales:  55

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guide Report: March 21-25

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report

March 21-25
By: Hayley Carmody

We just finished another very busy week at Campo Cortez full of interesting people from all over the world. People hear about the gray whales being friendly in San Ignacio Lagoon, but it is truly an experience that picture and videos cannot do justice. It is something that does not get old, and will always move you. Every group asks me if this job gets old, but the whales are healing and make everything worth it. Each time a whale approaches the boat I become giddy and cannot stop laughing and loving every move these animals make.

Campo Cortez is a leader of ecotourism in Mexico. On the final night of the groups Maldo gives a talk on Campo Cortez. He has been taking people out to see the whales for 28 years and has run Campo Cortez for 15 years. All of the people who live in this lagoon are the stewards of the wildlife. Maldo camp is one of the few places in all of Baja to obtain an eco-friendly certification. This involved around 2 years of work where Maldo and his family redid the camp so that everything is recycled and reused. Maldo passes this love for the environment to everyone in his family and all the visitors to the lagoon. It is because of people like him that this tourism has developed in such a pure and beautiful way.

Guide Report: March 21-25

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide ReportMarch 21-25By: Liisa Juuti

What an exciting week in the lagoon full of mothers with their curious and playful calves begging for attention. The representatives of CONANP (the National Commission for Protected Areas) do an official counting of the whales in the lagoon every week. They run the boat at a slightly higher speed than the whales swim, scanning through the entire lagoon and counting them by their blows. At the moment there are 131 whales in the lagoon; 57 cows with their calves and 17 males.

The calves are growing up fast! When born a couple of months back, the grays in this lagoon were around 4 meters (12 feet) long and weighted about 800 kg (1800 pounds). During the first months they drink 150 liters (50 gallons) of their mothers’ 53 % fat milk per day and can grow 80 kg (180 pounds) per day. Now they measure about 6-8 meters (18-24 feet). The gray whales are born with their tail first to avoid drowning. There is always another female, “midwife”, assisting the birth. The mothers wait until the calves are about the half of their total size before they start heading back to their feeding grounds in Alaska. I read that once the calves are a bit older, the mothers take them to the Southern parts of the lagoon where the current is stronger as to train them for the North-ward trip. It is estimated that only 50-70% of the calves make it to the North though, due to the deaths caused by the orcas.

One of my sisters just had a baby and so she asked me whether I think the mother whales feel the same bliss with their new born around as we humans do. When you see the calves resting on their mothers back, swimming in perfect synchrony or the mothers lifting their babies to get them closer to the boats, I don’t doubt the love bind between them at all! During the whaling period the gray whales were known to be the hardest whale to kill, defending their life and that of their babies to the end.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Guide Report: March 17-21, 2014

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report
March 17-21
By: Liisa Juuti

As the season gets closer to its end, I am getting keener and keener on this beautiful lagoon. Needless to say, I have completely fallen in love with the whales.  I truly feel blessed to interact with a wild animal in its breeding ground in such a direct manner, and most of all, to have the privilege to share the experience with all our guests visiting Campo Cortez.
The grays have been around for thousands of years. You can see images of them in ancient cave paintings in Baja Peninsula. In the 18th and early 19th century whaling became a popular industry around the world, mainly because of the whale oil used in lighting the European and American houses. The three breeding lagoons in Mexico, San Ignacio Lagoon included, quickly became slaughter houses for thousands of whales. The whole species nearly went extinct but the banning of commercial whaling by International Whaling Commission in 1946 and a switch to petroleum products saved the gray whales. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for the visionary and conservationist Pachico Mayoral’s (RIP) courage to approach a friendly gray, maybe the whole whale watching industry wouldn’t have started.
Gray whales live up to 80 years. Only 25 years passed between the end of the whaling period and the first friendly contact with a gray whale, so possibly the very same whales that witnessed the massacre of their whale brothers in these lagoons are the same ones that came to get their tummies scratched in the early 70s and maybe even today. I find it irrelevant to discuss whether the grays remember their past. What is for sure is that we do remember.

It is critically important to protect these breeding areas. Besides the killer whales, humans are gray whales’ biggest threat. Big corporations have always had an interest in these lagoons. Thanks to the local people Mitsubishi’s plans for the world’s largest salt mine in San Ignacio Lagoon 20 years ago were stopped. The project would have had hazardous consequences both for the lagoon and to its whales. However, the salt plant was never made illegal and the threat of a large corporation coming in is still very real. Those who have had the opportunity to visit the lagoon and interact with the grays know how unique and fragile this place is. We need your help! Keep this lagoon always in your hearts and stay up to date with the issues that San Ignacio faces.