Touchy, Feely … On a Grand Scale!

Over the past few days, I’ve highlighted the friendly gray whales of Laguna San Ignacio (Baja, Mexico) … spyhopping in the first post, and breaching in the last post. Today’s post highlights the real reason a lot of people travel to Laguna San Ignacio … to touch the friendly gray whales!

For many years, the gray whales of Laguna San Ignacio have been friendly to boaters in the waters here. Since they are protected here, they have “acclimated” to humans and actually seek them out. When you enter the lagoon in one of the pongas, it is not uncommon to have a whale, or even two, move right up to the ponga. In fact, I have had a gray whale cow actually get on the outside of her newborn calf, and push the calf right up to the ponga! What a way for a mom to show her newborn that humans in the lagoon should not be feared! I’ve also had an adult whale spyhop right next to the ponga I was in!

Here are a few images I captured of the friendly whales approaching some other pongas around us in the lagoon. In this first set, a mom (on the left) and her calf (on the right) have just surfaced right next to the ponga:

Touching the friendly Gray Whales

Touching the friendly Gray Whales

In this next image, a calf seeks out the attention of a nearby ponga:

Touching the friendly Gray Whales

Eventually, it was our turn! Soon a mom and calf approached our ponga. Here is the calf (mom was at the other end of the ponga). Note that the youngster had his eyes out of the water and was watching us with much interest:

Touching the friendly Gray Whales

I have to say that an experience like this is a life-altering one, stirring the emotions within oneself … especially if the whale has his eye right there and is watching as you touch/rub it. It also stirs the emotions within you about how many countries still prescribe to the barbaric practice of harpooning whales. Too bad more people can’t see the soft side of these monstrous beauties!

Whenever touching the whales, there are some rules that are set down to everyone entering the lagoon. First, no hands around the blow-holes or eyes. Second, it is suggested you rub the whales’ skin … they seem to really love this. And when you enter the lagoon, you only have 90 minutes with the whales (actually, you have one allotted session in the morning and another in the afternoon). There are strict guidelines for pongas in the lagoon … only a certain number of pongas are allowed in the lagoon at a time … others must wait outside, until someone else’s time is up. This is strictly monitored via radios. And finally, all ponga drivers are “certified” and trained in whale behavior and working around the whales.

Oh, and just in case someone is wondering “what does it feel like to touch a whale?” … to me, if feels like touching a rubber, inner tube. Only much, much more exciting!!!



Posted in Mammals, Nature Photography, Travel Photography
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