“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism” ~ Albert Einstein
Tis almost the season… whale season that is. Mexico and marine life have a very specific bond, and there are few places where it is felt more strongly than along the coasts of the Baja Peninsula. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortés on the other, this is one of the best locations anywhere to witness nature’s magnificent wonders. The Sea of Cortés is one of the world’s unique ocean environments, and is considered by some to be the most biologically rich body of water on earth. In late December through the end of March, it also happens to be one of the premiere whale watching destinations in the world.
RED Sustainable Travel makes its home in La Paz, which means “peace” in Spanish. This is the capital of the state of Baja California Sur and is the second largest city south of Tijuana on the Baja Peninsula. La Paz is also arguably the ecotourism capital of North America. Just outside the city itself are countless deserted beaches, calm bays and ecologically pure offshore islands. The region’s complex wildlife, plant life, and geology are truly astonishing. More than 850 species of marine life make their home in its temperate waters. Colonies of sea lions, pods of Humpback, Blue, Sperm, Fin and seasonal migrating Gray whales are a very common site.
Each year an estimated 12,000 of the world’s 21,000 Gray whales make a 6,000-mile journey to bear their calves in the warm waters of the Pacific lagoons to the north of Los Cabos. From there, many continue south, veering around the tip of the Baja into the crystal waters of the Sea of Cortés. Here they find peace and freedom and provide whale-watchers with incredible thrills. At birth, the pacific gray whale is approximately 15 feet long. As adults, their average length can be from 40 to 46 feet (about the same as a Greyhound bus!), and they can weigh up to 35 tons. They spend their summers northwest of Alaska in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas before making their way toward Mexico for the winter. The journey to Mexican waters is a lengthy trip for the gray whales that travel in pods as small as three whales and as large as sixteen members. Though they only swim at about five miles per hour, they are extremely agile. Diving as deep as 500 feet, they can stay under water for up to 30 minutes. Since they are mammals and surface to breathe, they have two blowholes near the top of their heads. You can hear them spouting from nearly a half a mile away and the stream of water shooting from their blowhole can rise 10-13 feet above the surface.
In the sheltered lagoons of the Baja, the calves learn survival skills and gain strength by swimming against the ocean currents flowing into the calmer waters. The calves weigh around 3,000 pounds and are about 19 feet long when they are ready to leave. RED’s whale tours take place in Magdalena Bay, which is one of the most famous breeding lagoons in the area and it’s not uncommon for the “friendlies,” as they’re called, to approach the small boats (“pangas”) of whale watchers. The sweet-tempered leviathans often approach the boats and welcome a gentle rub from humans… truly extraordinary. It’s an encounter with nature not easily duplicated. The Magdalena Bay area comprises the largest wetland ecosystem on the west coast of the Baja California Peninsula and is considered one of the most important in North America. The Bay not only provides a vital calving area for the Gray whale, but is also feeding grounds for several species of endangered marine turtles. There are mangrove forests, barrier beaches and sand dune islands, contributing to the incredible scenery and diverse biological makeup of the zone. The Bay harbors the continent’s northernmost breeding colony of magnificent frigate, the southernmost breeding site for threatened bald eagles, a large nesting colony of the endangered California brown pelican, and one of the largest California sea lion colonies on the Pacific coast of the peninsula.
There are a number of tour operators in the area, but RED takes a particularly unique approach to nature-based travel. According to their website, “RED Sustainable Travel was founded in 2009 upon the idea that conservation and socioeconomic well-being go hand in hand. Since its founding, the RED project has shattered paradigms, changed lives, and created natural resource stewards in rural communities throughout northwest Mexico. RED takes conservation projects – such as sea turtle monitoring – and turns them into Conservation Adventures, along the way creating sustainable economic alternatives (to poaching, for instance) to local communities along northwest México. As part of these efforts, RED fosters direct support for conservation work and community development (such as cash or volunteer time), and promotes a model of tourism for the region based on natural resource preservation.”
RED works with TourRadar (a social platform for organized group tours) to offer the upcoming GRAY WHALE AND SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION ADVENTURE. This is one not to be missed and incorporates working with the sea turtles as well. (Five species of sea turtle are at home along the Baja peninsula. This area provides both nesting habitat and vital feeding grounds for turtles from as far away as Japan and Indonesia.)
Description: This tour will start and end in La Paz. Experience the wonder of the gray whales, on this 5-day expedition in scenic Magdalena Bay on the Pacific coast of the Baja California peninsula where come to mate and give birth to their calves before returning north towards the Bering Sea. You will also take part in a sea turtle conservation project recognized around the world as a model for community based conservation. From your secluded base camp on a tiny shell island, learn about the importance of the green sea turtle’s survival and the role local fishermen play in the species’ recovery, before heading out in pangas to capture and release turtles after recording vital data.
Activities: Gray whales, Sea turtle monitoring, mangrove exploration, dune hikes, cultural interaction, bird watching, star gazing, gourmet cuisine. For more information and trip details visit: http://www.tourradar.com/t/45256
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