San Ignacio Lagoon - Guide Report
Feb. 22, 2015
by Maria-Teresa Solomons
Thoughts that stir: the start of a day at the lagoon
The mudflats glisten in the low morning light as I turn over at the alarm to reset it for the 3rd time perhaps. It first sounds at 5.40am when it is still dark but those few precious extra minutes before the sun touches the horizon, lingering between half sleep and half awake, are the luxury I choose to meet the dawn in my own time.
I inhale and exhale slowly for a minute or two to calm my pulse and hold my breath, and from my top bunk camper window, watch the changing colors outside, a beautiful contrast of clouds and reflections. Another couple of minutes pass by and I repeat the process again, each time extending the breath-hold a little more observing the thoughts that cross my mind.
I´m a freediver as well as one of the camp guides here and each day as we all revel in clearly the most intimate contact with an animal you are ever likely to have, I´m reminded of each other life altering experience, of every privileged encounter I have had underwater on my own, dancing amongst giants.
Although as part of the marine mammal protection act in this reserve as well as in Scammons Lagoon and Magdalena Bay, it´s forbidden to dive with the Gray whales, and even then only a very small section of the lagoon is within limits for whale-watching. In order to enter the area each guest receives a paper bracelet for each day that they enter the reserve, from the Secretary for Marine Resources and Natural Protected Areas (SEMARNAT), which is included as part of the Camp Cortez fee. In addition to this the San Ignacio community itself has instigated its own system of monitoring for who comes in and out of the area, and how many boats there can be at any one time. It´s perfect.
Being a guide here is perhaps an Overture to the song of the humpbacks I´ve felt resonate through me at different depths, or the resident Whale sharks I dive alongside in the Sea of Cortez, where I´ve spent many other seasons.
San Ignacio Lagoon is beyond a doubt the best place in the world for this close an encounter with the Gray Whale. There are almost no worlds that can even begin to express the indescribably sublime feeling that comes with the realisation that both mother and baby have chosen to turn towards the boat.
Holding my breath I remember how yesterday, she heaved her baby up to the extended arms and how I watched the escalating excitement of everyone out there, including the boat alongside waiting its turn. A touch, or more, a caress, is as breathtaking as the unexpected warmth of its spongy rubbery skin.