I just returned from a trip to Baja California Sur, Mexico, and the highlight of my trip was an hour-long boat trip to see the California gray whales in Magdalena Bay. Aside from a kayak experience when my little boat and I were just a few inches from a humpback whale, this was the closest I’ve been to a whale in the wild.
Magdalena Bay itself is approximately 50 miles across, and protected from the surge of the Pacific Ocean by two sandy barrier islands: Isla Magdalena and Isla Santa Margarita. While there are three small channels between the islands, there is only one large enough for California gray whales to pass through from the ocean to the bay. It’s here where the whales mate in winter, and females (called cows) stay behind with their calves until they’re ready to make the voyage north for the summer.
The best time to see the whales in Magdalena Bay is during the months of February and March. In the port town of López Mateos, there are a handful of operators with pangas that can hold up to six people, plus your boat captain. It costs 800 pesos (about $66.50) to take the boat out for one hour—regardless of whether you fill the boat. If you’re traveling alone or in a small group, it’s less expensive to get together with a few other people to share a boat.
I could have stayed out all day, floating on the water and seeing whale moms and kids swim near my panga. On the way back to López Mateos, a lone coyote ran along the water’s edge. There were no other animals besides whales, birds, fish and the coyote. It’s an amazingly wild place, and I’d go back in a second.
I was a guest of the Mexico Tourism Bureau during my time in Baja California Sur.