Day 3: Whales at San Ignacio


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The Trip

The objective of the day was to see the whales in San Ignacio lagoon.  Sadly, we learned the night before that there was a death of the "grandfather" in the local village of La Laguna (marked on the map as La Base).  Since this person was a well know figure in the local community, everybody was planning to be at his funeral service -- including our guides.  The good news is that they agreed to take us out, just after the services.  That worked fine since the concept of getting up at "Oh Dark Thirty" to see the whales was not all that appealing.  We did launch in the middle of the day, providing good, high contrast lighting and reasonable winds.  While it was still "cold", the winds had mostly abated from the night before.

There were tons of whales (pun intended); the pod was big and they were friendly.  I culled a large portion of the photos as being less interesting, the ones on this page were the best of the best.  There were so many sightings that my camera filled up with photos, requiring me to cull them on the fly in the boat.  And, as fate would have it, every time I was in cull mode, they would surface right next to the boat.  Stated differently, I missed some of the best shots.  Photographer's tip: bring plenty of high capacity storage cards so you don't have to mess with the details while in the thick of it.

The Map

Our destination for the day was the Whale Watch Zone in Laguna San Ignacio.  Fortunately, due to the good recon of the other camps, we were at a camp that was in very close proximity to the area.  The total boat ride was only 10 minutes or so before we were in the thick of the pod.  I am guessing that the biggest group was between Punta Piedra and the Boca del Sirgidero.  See the map below.

Map of the San Ignacio Lagoon area.

The Photos

Because of the planned funeral service, we got up late.  This was good as there was still "mog lag" from the mega-drive on the first day.  It felt good to sleep in, but the wind was still strong throughout the night, banging things around and making the sleeping process much less sound than it would have otherwise been.

We made "Eggs in the Hole" with leftover smoked pork chops, jowl bacon and OJ for breakfast.  Then, we chilled until the boatmen returned from the funeral service.

Preparing breakfast.  Note the coats (and the beer).

The mangroves next to the camp.  Small, but interesting.

Exploring the beach for "low tide treasures" before the boat trip.

Another view of the camp and rocky beach.

Camp biologists Shamus and Angela briefing us on the trip.

Getting photos of the whales, at first, was a very challenging task.  You had to be looking in just the right direction, at just the right time to ever see them.  Then, you had to raise the camera, frame, focus and shoot.  Only raw luck would result in a shot like below.  There were many partial shots and shots of plain ocean by all the members of the group.

Thar she blows!  One of the first sightings of the day.

This baby made the task of getting photos easy.  He kept jumping in roughly the same area allowing each of  us to "tee up" for the next shot.  This fellow liked to show off, no doubt.

A playful baby that put on a real show.

One of many, many jumps.  This one was a flyer!

He was checking us out, looking straight at us.

Eye is clearly visible on top of head.

Soon, they were "spy hopping" everywhere around us. You are looking the wrong way!

Note the proximity to the beach area and the tents in the background.

Adults as well as babies were interested in us.  Only a few boats in the area.

A mother-calf pair.

He came right up.  Note the barnacles.

Checking us out.

Another curious member of the pod.

Getting bolder and closer.

Came up for a really close look.

The other boat in our group.  Tina is cheering, arms upraised.

He got close, but would not let us touch him.

Dan is taking it all in.

Kathleen hunkered down away from the breathing spray.

Megan tries for a touch.

This one sprayed the other boat.

He went underneath us.

Shamus goes for the touch.

Kai tries for a touch.

An adult between our boats (and Mackenzie's head....).

A fluke event.

Megan going for a touch with a baby.  Note breathing holes on top of head.

Another spy hop to check us out.

Crossing behind the boat.

Back at camp, note the barren terrain.

We had a great day.  The tour was out about 2 hours (which was enough since each of us headed directly to the bathroom upon return).  The weather was reasonable, the winds moderate and enough sun to get some reasonable photos.  The plan for the evening was to eat at the cook shack, out of the wind.  The menu was fried scallops, chicken asado, beans, rice, fresh tortillas and home made salsa.  Dinner was great, we chowed down.  Below is the camp master's wife and cook, Ceci.

The inside of the cook shack was pretty nice.  While it had a shell-sand floor, it did have full walls and a roof made out of layered palm fronds.  Best of all, it had electricity from solar powered batteries so we could watch video of our photos on Mike's DVD player.  Finally, there was liquor; a necessary element in any baja camping dinner.  We ate, and drank, watched videos and generally enjoyed the company.  Being out of the wind was a welcome respite.

Ceci, the camp cook.  She is Maldo's wife.

Shamus and Bill in the cook shack getting hammered.

Our catch and release program.  Some unknown creature.

A reasonable, if cold and windy, sunset.

All in all, it was a great day.  While it could have been a little warmer, being able to eat in the cook shack took the bite out of it.  Once we got back to our camp, however, it was an early night.  The slang term in camp was "baja midnight", meaning anytime after dark.  The wind continued throughout the night with its predictable toll on the sleep quality.

Tomorrow, we would pack to head back to San Ignacio and then to the other side of the lagoon.  This would not happen as we were to be overcome by events.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2004
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.