Campo Cortez at San Ignacio Lagoon
January 26 thru 31st
By Norma Lira
|Up Close Gray Whale|
It never fails to amaze me how serene Campo Cortez is, and this trip was no different. The only sounds we heard upon our arrival to the camp were the wind and the waves, and the calls of the numerous sea birds that migrate through the area every year.
|17th Century Mission|
The temperatures couldn’t have been better during our stay. It was warmer than usual during the days, with beautiful sunsets and cool star-filled evenings. Mornings began with a fresh cup of coffee, fresh juice and a hearty breakfast. And then it was off to venture out into the Laguna, for the real reason for our trip: close encounters of the friendliest kind! Our tour group was the first to the camp this season, and its members hailed from near and far: from Depoe Bay, Oregon, Mammoth Mountain and Hermosa Beach, California, to Dover, England. Each member brought his and her own unique enthusiasm to Campo Cortez. We all immediately connected at the meet-up spot in San Diego where we then boarded the shuttle to begin our Baja adventure.
|Museum Cave Paintings|
We bonded during the bus ride south, and when we arrived at camp we were tired but very enthusiastic to get out onto the water. Everything was prepared and awaiting our arrival. After settling into our private cabanas, we had a fantastic lunch before heading out in our pangas (skiffs) to meet these beautiful and majestic whales. Laguna San Ignacio is part of Mexico’s El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, which is the largest wildlife refuge in Latin America.
During the winter months, the Baja lagoons also happens to be the primary calving ground of the magnificent migrating Pacific Gray Whale, and large numbers of these whales are seen up close and personal. During these months, you can count on incredible observations of courting and mating whales, Fluking, Breaching, Spy hopping as well as mother whales and their newborn calves. The mothers (or cows as they are called) teach their young calves how to navigate through the lagoons and prepare for the eventual long trip home.
And this trip didn’t disappoint. We had several of the cow-calf pair’s swim right up to our boat. Their enormous size dwarfing our little panga. But there was nothing to fear from these gentle giants, as the mother whales would push their calves up to the panga’s, as if to introduce us to each other. If you ever get a chance to look straight into the eye of a mother or baby whale that is looking right back at you, you will be changed forever. And the beautiful thing is…if you’re lucky, it may happen more than once, as it did on our trip.
The guests were over joyed with the Campo Cortez experience. For those who may not get a chance to return to the lagoons, they will have incredible memories to last a lifetime. For those fortunate enough to get a chance to return in the future, that time can’t come soon enough. As a Marine Naturalist I am so very grateful to have the opportunity to meet so many amazing people that love their encounters with nature, including the magical moments in the Laguna. Sharing these unique and very special experiences with those who have the same appreciation makes it that much more memorable.