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. 

Guide Report: March 17-21, 2014

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report
March 17-21
By: Hayley Carmody


Over the past 3 months at San Ignacio Lagoon a lot has changed. Flowers are blooming and new babies are being born. The weather has returned to sunny with ever present wind, which help provide the energy needed for the camp. Meanwhile the osprey nest next to the boat launch has just welcomed their new chicks. The mother has been diligently sitting on her eggs and had even gotten use to people walking by 4 times a day. Now as we walk by we hear the chirping chicks. This lagoon is the home to many animals year round, not just the gray whales.
It is always amazing to see the whales and each trip out is different. Sometimes the whales almost seem as if they were waiting in the observation area for a friendly boat to come around, while other times they are having their own experience and we are able to appreciate the beauty. No matter what happens people are always moved by being in the lagoon. They understand the beauty and purity of these whales and recognize how important conservation is in this lagoon.
One trip out we met a mother who has come up to the boat before. She has a white face, with no barnacles and a patch of whale lice behind the blow hole. This whale is known for being a very friendly whale. She pushed her baby up to the boat and they stayed with us for over 30 minutes. The baby opened his mouth over and over again and let everyone get a good pet inside of its mouth. It is always special to get to know a whale and have her feel comfortable enough to come to the boats. 




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gray Whale Census: March 19, 2014

Gray Whale Census

San Ignacio Lagoon
Biosfera El Vizcaino, Baja, Mexico



Census date:  March 19, 2014

Gray Whale Calves:  57
Adult Gray Whales:  74

Total Gray Whales:  131





Monday, March 17, 2014

Guide Report: Mar.13-17, 2014

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report: Mar.13-17, 2014
By: Liisa Juuti



This week’s group was lucky on their whale watching trips; everyone had a close encounter with a mother whale and calves, especially one lady that got fluked by a baby whale practicing her tail coordination skills. The weather is getting warmer and the sun was out all the time. Mother Nature showed its power on the last day with winds as strong as 35 miles per hour. We spent the day by watching an interesting documentary of migrating animals, learning about the different bones in the bone yard (we also found some funny looking spiders in the mangroves), and going on a nice afternoon walk to the shore.

We had an interesting and productive walk to the shore at low tide, observing an octopus hiding under the rocks, as well as a brittle star, chocolate clams and some scallops. Once we got back to our camp our guests were delighted to have Maldo prepare them the very fresh chocolate clams with lime and chili sauce. They showed their nerve as they swallowed clams that were still moving. The food could not have been fresher. Then we had delicious local oysters barbecued during the happy hour. Yummy!

During the guests’ stay at Campo Cortez we give them presentations on different topics. First Rubi, one of our guides, talked about the community’s history and how the ecotourism started in San Ignacio Lagoon. The second night there was a presentation of the gray whale. Then Hayley, our other guide, explained to us about the mangrove ecosystem and other plants around the lagoon. On the last night Maldo, the co-owner of the camp gave an interesting talk about how Campo Cortez operates and what does the family do after the gray whale season ends. The gorgeous full moon left our guests speechless and the beautiful sunrise accompanied their journey back home.