Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2015 Trip Calendar

2015 Trip Calendar
San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, Mexico
Gray Whale Birthing and Mating Lagoon

Here is our latest 2015 trip calendar. Dates are available as of today, but please check with us as the season moves forward.







Monday, May 12, 2014

Gray Whale Video

Here is another video from one of our guests traveling by bus to San Ignacio and then on to Campo Cortez.


http://slotravelsecrets.vids.io/videos/1c9bd9b61818e0cb94/whale-watching-2014-mp4

Monday, April 28, 2014

Census: April 28, 2014

Gray Whale Census
San Ignacio Lagoon

April 28, 2014

Gray Whale Calves:  27
Adult Gray Whales:  30

Total Gray Whales:  57


Sunday, April 27, 2014


March-April Final Guide Report 2014 
by Noly Lira

We Belong to the Desert, We Belong to the Lagoons!

Another year has come and gone, and another season of the whales has ended at Campo Cortez.  Once again, it’s time to reminisce, to share and to cherish the extraordinary experiences we had at the laguna.

Cow/Calf Spy Hop



We traveled together along the dusty, bumpy roads and shared stories of trips past and places still to visit. We began as strangers and ended as friends.  Friends that will have shared in a truly unique experience.  One that will last not just through our photographs, but also through the stories that we will continue to share with those we love.


Eat-Sleep-Splash!


There are far too many camp moments to share them all.  The incredible food.  The starry nights, the smell of the ocean, the spray of the water on your face as the whales break through the water and sound off with an echoing blow as they take a breath.  


Fluking


  











  


The look in the whales’ eyes when they see you and hear your unadulterated joy as you scream with delight over a spy hop, fluke or breach. 
Breaching Baby

The moments also include the thrilling privilege of observing a mother whale teaching her calf in preparation for the very long migration north.  

 As rare and delightful an experience as one will  ever encounter anywhere in the world.   We live our lives filled with days of appointments and events that can be all consuming.  As you live through your busy lives, my hope is that the relaxing and calming atmosphere of Campo Cortez will remain with you throughout the year.
 
We owe it to the whales to lead their cause; to protect them and to also protect the rugged beauty of the incredible desert and arid vegetation that make up “Reserva de la Biosfera El Vizcaíno.”   
  
This magnificent corner of the world is filled with many opportunities to experience magical moments that will resonate within our souls for the rest of our lives.
It is worth noting that the local citizens in and around Campo Cortez are no different then we are. They love the whales, and want to protect the lagoons and all the creatures that inhabit the reserve.  

 These warm and friendly locals are as much a part of the Baja experience as the flora and fauna that we encounter.





Thank you to all who shared the camp this season, and to the fantastic staff as well.  From the owners and administrative support in San Diego, to the cooks in the kitchen,  the Pangeros (boat drivers), the guides, and of course the biggest THANKS of all to the whales for their forgiving, joyful spirit.  As many of us can attest, once you’ve kissed a whale, you will be forever changed.



It is such an incredible privilege to be your naturalist/guide through the journey, and to be a small part of something that is so much bigger.   



                                                Until next year.... 
                                                        
                                                                    Noly

                                       Keep the smiles, laughter, and joy…




 Photos by Noly Lira




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 29

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report


March 30, 2014

By: Hayley Carmody

The season is sadly coming to an end. Almost all the single whales have gone and the mothers and babies are doing their last minute training before the journey back to their feeding grounds. Rubi, Liisa and I have developed a close relationship with the whales. At night we discuss the different whales that came up to our boats and the funny things each one did. It is almost as if we feel the whales have become our close personal friends. We each have a different relationship with the lagoon; Rubi has been working in this lagoon for the past 18 years and knows all the people and history of this place, Liisa came here not really knowing what to expect and fell in love with the magnificence, where as I first came to Maldo’s house at 4 years old to see the whales and kept coming back. Each of us has a different reason that brought us to the Lagoon, but our love of these animals unites us.


This lagoon touches everyone who comes to it. It is impossible not to fall in love with the extreme beauty of the lagoon, the breathtaking whales and the diversity of wildlife here. It is important to always keep this lagoon in our hearts and minds. I encourage everyone to stay up to date with the issues that this lagoon faces. San Ignacio lagoon is a very pure place that is full of natural resources. It is because of these resources that so many different animals call this place home. This also means that big companies are always trying to come into this lagoon. The threat of destruction is real, but with support from people like you we can help protect this lagoon. San Ignacio Lagoon is a special place that deserves to stay pristine and enjoyed by everyone around the world. 

Guide Report: March 25-29

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report

March 25-29



By: Liisa Juuti


FINAL REPORT

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 "norteña" 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. 

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.





Guide Report: Mar. 13-17, 2014

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report
March 13-17
By: Hayley Carmody

This week at Campo Cortez we had another group of amazing and inspiring people. Everyone was able to appreciate the whales in their wild environment as the whales came up to the boats to be touched. We have seen this behavior many times during the season, but it always amazing when a mother brings a new born whale to a boat of screaming yelling people. We have no idea why the whales like to be around people; maybe the splashing entices them or possibly they come to this lagoon for the people watching. We may never know the reason, but that is part of the magic.



On the last day with this group of people we heard from the ranches that the North winds were coming. We rushed out to the observation area before the wind picked up and met one friendly whale. Possibly the whale could sense that the winds were picking up and the boats would leave because the baby went to visit most of the boats in the lagoon. After about 20 minutes in the observation area the sheriff official closed the lagoon when the wind picked up. We went back to the camp where we engaged in other activities. We watched a movie about different migrating animals, went on a nature walk to mangroves and explored during low tide. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Guide Report: Mar. 9-13, 2014

Ballenas Grises de Laguna San Ignacio

Reporte de Guia
Grupo  del 9-13 de Marzo, 2014
De Rubi Gabriela Moreno Cordero

El grupo de los Reconocidos Ambientalistas, Orca Network nos visitó de Nuevo como lo hace cada temporada, traen a sus amigos y simpatizantes que apoyan sus grandes esfuerzos por proteger a los diferentes mamíferos marinos que se encuentran especialmente en peligro o amenazados por las manos de los humanos, celebraron con nosotros la apertura de su nuevo centro de visitantes en Washington “The Whale Center”.

El día inicio tranquilo con el mar calmo, pero con la ansiedad e impaciencia por ver las ballenas como es costumbre, sobre todo en aquellos que nunca han estado en contacto tan cercano con ellas, teníamos visitantes que ya habían estado antes en otros sitios del mundo intentando ver ballenas de cerca, pero solo pudieron observar lomos y soplidos, por eso venían con ese deseo de tenerlas cercas y poder apreciar su grandeza.

Salimos en la hora de siempre a nuestro primer día de observación, cada una de nuestras embarcaciones  buscarón por partes distintas encontrar a esas bellas madres con sus crías juguetonas, que ya en este tiempo de la temporada podemos reconocer y hasta les ponemos nombres específicos, para saber de quién hablamos.
La Suerte estuvo a nuestro favor, llego a nuestro bote una madre de lo más juguetona que abría la boca como muestra de lo encantada que estaba, era impresionante ver como a propósito hacia burbujas con su boca echándonos el agua que escurría de entre sus cerdas, enloqueciendo a todos de gozo dejándonos incrédulos de tan espontaneo y divertido comportamiento.




Engish Translation
The group of recognized environmentalists, Orca Network visited us again as they do every season, bringing with them their friends and supporters that support its great efforts to protect the different marine mammals that are especially in danger or threatened by the hands of humans, celebrated with us the opening of its new visitors' center in Washington "The Whale Center".
The day began quietly with a calm sea, but with anxiety and impatience to see whales as usual, especially in those who have never been so close to them in contact we had visitors who had been before in other places of the world trying to see whales closely, but could only observe backs and puffs, that came with that desire to have them close and appreciate their greatness.
We went out in the usual time to our first day of observation, each one of our boats sought by different parties find these beautiful mothers with their calves playful, that already in this time of the season until we can recognize and put them specific names, to find out who we are talking about.

Luck was in our favor, a playful mother came to our boa and opened her mouth to show us. it was amazing to see how to purpose toward bubbles with her mouth throwing the water dripped down from among their sows, "going crazy" to all of joy letting ourselves be disbelievers of just as spontaneous and fun behavior

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guide Report: March 9-13, 2014

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report: Mar.9-13, 2014
By: Liisa Juuti

9.-13. March
The whale watching trips were very successful with stunningly beautiful weather and mothers in abundance bringing their calves to us. We named one of them “Teasy” since she wouldn’t let us touch her or her baby, but swim in zig-zag beneath the boat instead and tease us, the calf copying her mother. They would pop their heads up, splash with their flippers, and keep on swimming around us. When the time was up to get back to the camp, to our very surprise the mother and the calf started following the boat, at quite a speed! Their behavior is just astonishing.
In one beautiful afternoon we took our clients to the “boneyard”, an area where we’ve collected bones found in the area. It is surprisingly difficult to guess to which mammal each bone belonged to. Maldo explained us the origin of the bones, showing dolphin skull, turtle shell, gray whale’s shoulder bone, ribs, jaw and so on.  Each year there can be found 2-4 gray whales on the shores that have died probably due to a sickness. Some babies found dead are casualties of the males chasing the females for mating. In the beginning of the past decade there were 34 whales found dead in the lagoon, thanks to the phenomenon of “El Niño”. On the way back a stingy looking coyote greeted us, with a fresh octopus in his mouth.

The local children in our camp got spoiled with the younger clientele playing football and other games with them. Although sign language seemed to work quite well, the interaction helps them to learn some basic English, too. The children study English at school, but the practicing with English-speaking foreigners prepare and guarantee the fluent communication in the future. 


Guide Report: Mar.9-13, 2014

Gray Whales of San Ignacio Lagoon

Guide Report
March 9-13
By: Hayley Carmody

San Ignacio lagoon has turned from a breeding lagoon to a nursing ground. Many of the single whales have left leaving the mothers and babies alone in the lagoon to work up their strength for the migration back up. The weather has been amazing as we head out in the boats and experience the whales. The number of friendly encounters has been increasing as the babies are older. Every person who goes out to see the gray whales is changed and enchanted by this magical place.



This group of people was organized through the Orca network and full of people who love all whales. For many this was their first time seeing gray whales in San Ignacio Lagoon. Others had experienced the gray whales in other parts of their migration, but they soon realized that the behavior of the gray whale in these lagoons is much different. It is always special to see a wild animal come up willingly to see people. This lagoon help people realize that the best way to experience an animal is in the wild. Parks that confine marine mammals in pools inhibit people from understanding the real essence of these creatures and harm the animal. When you see an animal in the wild free to do whatever it wants you connect with the animal on a much deeper level. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Census Report: Mar.10, 2014

Gray Whale Census Report
San Ignacio Lagoon
Vizcaino Biosphere, Baja Sur, Mexico

March 10, 2014

Gray Whale Calves:  84
Adult Gray Whales:  120

Total Gray Whales:  204


Guide Report March 5-9, 2014

Ballenas Grises de Laguna San Ignacio

Reporte de Guia
Grupo  del 5 – 9 de Marzo, 2014
De Rubi Gabriela Moreno Cordero

Empezó el día con una salida emocionante todos listos para ver a estos inmensos Mamíferos marinos, algunos de nuestros visitantes que eran de Canadá y del norte de USA, quien nos platicaban que miraban cada año la migración de la ballena gris cerca por las costas canadienses, pero nunca de cerca como lo esperaban ver aquí en la laguna San Ignacio.

Iniciamos el viaje en lancha a las 9:00 am estábamos en el área de observación cada vez más ansiosos por ver a estos seres tan maravillosos,  inmediatamente empezaron a surgir de todas partes sobretodo madres con crías,  nos espiaban, brincaban, hasta que una se nos acercó a mostrarnos su cría, una hermosa hembrita juguetona, que rolaba encima de su madre, abría su boca como si sonriera, la madre observaba a poca distancia hasta que se nos acercó para sentir nuestras manos acariciándola también, dejándonos a todos como es costumbre con un gran sabor de boca.

Los días siguientes tuvimos la misma suerte, las madres con las crías amistosas venían a disfrutar de nuestro toque gentil y amoroso, con la confianza de una madre protectora observaba como la cría disfrutara de nuestra algarabía, mientras ella esperaba paciente que el tiempo de nuestra visita terminara.

El día de partida del divertido grupo llego como es costumbre tomamos las fotos de grupo y nos despedimos con lágrimas en los ojos, al saber que este viaje de ballena había terminado, llevándose cada uno en sus corazones una conexión eterna con estas hermosas criaturas.




Engish Translation
The began the day with an emotional boat departure out to see these huge marine mammals, some of our visitors who were from Canada and the Northern USA, whom talked us that they watched each year the migration of the gray whale near Canadian coasts, but never closely as they expect it to see here at Laguna San Ignacio.
We started our boat trip at 9:00 am we were in the viewing area ever more eager to see these so wonderful beings, immediately began to emerge from everywhere above all mothers with calves, us spying, jumping, until one came up to us to show us his breeding, a beautiful playful female, clocking up his mother, opened his mouth as if smiling. The mother watched a short distance until they approached us to feel our hands stroking her also, leaving us all as usual with a great taste.

The following days we had the same fate, mothers with pups friendly came to enjoy our gracious and loving touch, with the confidence of a protective mother watched the breeding you will enjoy our exhilaration, while she expected patient that the time of our visit will be terminated.

The day of departure from the fun group arrived as usual, we took the group photos and we said goodbye with tears in their eyes, to know that this journey of whaling had finished, taking each one in their hearts a eternal connection with these beautiful creatures.