Feb. 08, San Ignacio Lagoon
By: Rodrigoro Manterola
Hundreds of thousands of empty clam shells on the ground welcomed us to San Ignacio Lagoon, a reminder of ancient times not so long ago when uncontrolled fishing and a lacking in regulations depleted the area of all catalina clams, an endemic species that struggles to stay alive in a world that apparently won’t miss it when it’s gone.
Many things have changed since the 90’s and some catalina clams can be seen in the lagoon again. Now, after 20 years more or less, the lagoon is a protected area where the local fishermen self-regulate their work and protect the many species that call San Ignacio Lagoon their home.
Some of these species are around all year long; some others come from far north to shelter themselves from the cold winter, amongst them; the majestic gray whale, the reason for our own migration to San Ignacio.
Campo Cortez can be seen from the distance laying in the flat windy desert aside the Lagoon. From the road, the green cabanas blend with the shrubby vegetation and the mangrove. Planned to be environmentally friendly, the camp was once a bunch of tents that housed the dreams of the Fischer and the Friday families, who started the project twenty-some years ago. Now, these families work side by side not only to make some dreams come true but also to teach foreigners and locals the importance of keeping San Ignacio Lagoon healthy and alive.
For Lorna and I, to come to San Ignacio is a mix of dreams and hopes, hard work and a whole lot of learning lie ahead of us, to live in such a hard environment makes us feel so much more respect for the people, the plants, and of course the animals of San Ignacio.
The first few days…
The wind blows day and night, and my lips and ears are the first ones to notice the dryness of the deserts while Maldo assures me the wind will stop soon. Although the environment is demanding the most of us, the rewards are plenty. In just a couple of days I’ve seen more whales than most of the avid whale watchers I’ve come to meet in the camp, some of these folks have been following whales for years. I feel lucky to be here.
Today the wind stopped, from over 20 miles per hour to a flat zero, while that alone should be reason enough to celebrate, the main event was this morning; Lorna touched a whale!!
We were on our pangas with 8 of our guests. The conditions were perfect; no wind and a whole lot of whales. We were riding for no more than 20 minutes when a mother and her calf showed interest in us. Slowly but surely they got closer and closer until finally they were within our reach. Everyone on the boat got to rub the new mommy and the recently born baby. Tristan, a young boy who came to the camp from California, was singing at that moment. Some people believe singing attracts whales, some other people think singing does not make a difference, me; I think singing is great and it makes no difference if it makes a difference or not.